Singapore’s Changi airport is bracing itself for a long COVID-19 recovery, with the announcement that its Terminal 2 is closing for 18 months.
While only those with a crystal ball will be able to forecast how long the impact of the pandemic will be felt by the aviation, and wider travel, industries, Changi has announced one of its four terminals will be shut down for an extended period.
At the moment, Changi’s normally bustling terminals are deserted and, for Terminal 2, at least, that situation is set to remain for months to come.
Singapore’s Minister for Transport Khaw Boon Wan told Parliament that the decision had been taken as a direct result of the dramatic fall in air traffic, following the closure of borders across the globe.
“Right now,” he said, “one terminal is enough to handle the current volume of demand. We can close down one or two terminals. But we must think about post-pandemic recovery.”
He explained that the drastic strategy would allow the airport operator as well as airlines themselves, retailers and ground handlers to be able to save on their operational costs as they try to reduce cash flow and look ahead to a recovery post-COVID-19.
Currently, measures to contain the COVID-19 pandemic by Singapore’s Multi-Ministry Taskforce mean that all Singapore citizens, permanent residents, and long-term pass holders have been told to defer all travel. No short-term visas are being issued and, for employment pass holders who have left Singapore, only those who work in essential services such as health or transport are being allowed back in.
Singapore Airlines will be consolidating its operations at Terminal 3, along with other airlines – with a full schedule of relocations set to be published nearer the closure date of May 1.
As well as reducing costs during the recovery period, the closure will also provide the opportunity to speed up planned upgrades for Terminal 2, which could be finished up to a year in advance. Currently, the schedule is to increase overall capacity at Terminal 2 by 2024 as a result of the upgrade work.
The coronavirus crisis may also have an impact on Changi’s new Terminal 5, which is set to be operational by 2030.
While Khaw says he believes a full recovery will be seen during this year, he does believe that air traffic numbers will return to pre-COVID levels by 2021.