Opening Address by Minister for Transport Mr S Iswaran at the Changi Airline Awards

03 May 2023Speeches

Mr Lee Seow Hiang, Chief Executive Officer, Changi Airport Group, 

Friends, Colleagues, Members of the Aviation Community, 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

1.     A very good evening to all of you.  I am delighted to be here with you at this year’s Changi Airline Awards (CAA), in a decidedly more optimistic and uplifting mood. A warm welcome to all our guests, especially to those who have flown in from overseas to be with us here tonight.

2.     The Changi Airline Awards recognises our airline partners for your contribution to the growth and development of Changi Airport. Your presence here tonight affirms your commitment to the growth of our Changi air hub. 

3.     As we gather here tonight, it is appropriate for us to acknowledge not just how far we’ve come, but also to look ahead to how we can complete our recovery from the pandemic, and consider how we will grow our air hub for the future.  In other words - it is about Resilience, Recovery and Resurgence.  


4.     When we met last year after a two-year hiatus, Singapore had just re-opened our borders to all fully vaccinated travellers. Since then, passenger traffic has more than doubled from around 40% this time last year, to over 82% of pre-COVID levels in March this year. Based on the current trajectory, passenger traffic at Changi Airport should return to pre-COVID levels by next year, or possibly sooner.

5.     All of you have played a vital role in achieving this rapid recovery. When borders re-opened, airlines quickly restored services at Changi, working closely together with CAG, ground handlers, and the rest of the Changi community to ensure a smooth ramp-up. Globally, as air travel picked up, many airports struggled to restore their handling capacity, and that resulted in flight delays and cancellations, lost baggage, and long check-in lines. In Singapore, our Changi community had to work doubly hard to manage our own ramp-up and the delays from upstation airports, while rebuilding the Singapore aviation workforce and training new hires.

6.     We recognise that some of you have had to make adjustments to keep the Changi ecosystem running in good order. We appreciate your cooperation, understanding and close support on this. Together, we have managed the ramp-up relatively well.

7.      It is especially fitting that Changi Airport regained the title of the World’s Best Airport in 2023 at the SkyTrax World Airport Awards in March. Changi also won the awards for the World’s Best Airport Dining and Airport Leisure Amenities. The SkyTrax Awards is a testament to the Changi community’s resilience and shared commitment to excellence. All of us here can justifiably take pride in these accolades. I want to congratulate the CAG Group and all of you on the excellent outcome!


8.     We are now poised at the last stretch of recovery, but there is no room for complacency. As we rebuild to pre-COVID traffic volumes, we are working hard to ensure that Changi has both the physical and operational capacity to support the increase in flights and passengers.

9.     Last year, I had announced that with the reopening of the Southern wing of T2 in October, we would be able to serve up to pre-COVID passenger numbers, approximately 70 million passengers per annum. Today, I am very happy to announce that T2 North, which was previously slated to re-open in 2024, will re-open by October this year – a few months ahead of schedule. This will add another 20 million passengers per annum to Changi’s capacity, bringing Changi Airport’s total capacity to 90 million passengers per annum. This is even higher than our pre-COVID capacity of 85 million passengers per annum. Travellers can look forward to new amenities, and innovative retail and F&B offerings. These additions will further enhance the distinctive Changi travel experience.

10.    Besides investing in infrastructure, it is equally important that we have the people with the necessary capabilities, something that I think all of you in the industry keenly appreciate. Today, the aviation sector’s workforce is at about 90% of pre-pandemic levels, and we aim to get back to 100% by the end of this year.

11.    This is no small feat. Over the past few months, many airports in Europe have seen thousands of flights delayed and cancelled due to industrial action. Here in Singapore, we are fortunate to have a strong tripartite relationship between our unions, companies and the Government. This has been instrumental in enabling us to navigate the various adjustments in protocols, processes and to the pace of recovery over the past year – and that includes retraining workers during the pandemic, taking care of one another, hiring back ahead of time, and planning ahead together. We just celebrated May Day two days ago, and at this juncture, I would like to express our deep appreciation to the thousands of aviation workers who went the extra mile to ensure flights could continue throughout the pandemic, despite the unprecedented challenges and the many adjustments and sacrifices they have to make. On behalf of the Changi community – I want to say a very big thank all our airport and aviation workers, and I think they deserve a big round of applause.

12.    I hope those who have joined the sector over the past year will aspire and sustain this indomitable spirit that has been on display over the last several years.


13.    Looking further ahead, we are optimistic about the demand for air travel. The International Air Transport Association anticipates that the Asia-Pacific will be the fastest-growing region for air travel over the next two decades. Let me outline three ways in which we will grow our Singapore air hub for the future.

14.    First, we are increasing Changi’s capacity to meet the anticipated demand for air travel. We have restarted the design and planning of Terminal 5 (T5), and plan to commence construction by 2025.When ready in the mid-2030s, T5 will be able to handle about 50 million passengers per annum.

15.    Second, we are investing in our workforce, redesigning jobs and deepening their skillsets. In this regard, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) will be launching a refreshed Air Transport Industry Transformation Map (ITM) at the OneAviation Careers Fair later this year. The refreshed ITM will set out strategies for the sector to grow and transform beyond COVID-19, in areas such as automation, digitalisation and sustainability. It will complement our innovation and productivity efforts at the airport, including more automated self-service departure options, and facial recognition technology to provide a seamless experience.

16.    Third, we will transform Changi into a sustainable air hub. This is a key priority for global aviation and all of us have to do our part, working through ICAO, through bilateral and plurilateral initiatives. Last year, CAAS convened an International Advisory Panel on Sustainable Air Hub. The IAP has submitted 15 recommendations in the airline, airport and air traffic management domains. CAAS is studying these recommendations in close consultation with stakeholders, and will publish the Sustainable Air Hub Blueprint, which will lay out the targets and pathways for the decarbonisation of the Singapore aviation sector.


17.    To conclude, the past three years have been a stern test of the character and the mettle of our aviation community. Airlines were one of the hardest-hit in the sector, due to their high fixed costs and need to retain skilled manpower such as pilots and cabin crew. Yet, in the face of such unparalleled adversity, I am proud that our aviation sector has emerged more united, resilient, and ready for the future.

18.    I am confident that we can continue to work together as one Changi community – airlines, ground handlers, CAG – in this last phase of our recovery journey, so that we can uphold the distinctive Changi experience for travellers. I look forward to strengthening our partnership with each and every one of you to build a strong, skilled and sustainable air hub that will be able to seize future opportunities, and soar to greater heights.

19.    I wish all of you an enjoyable evening, and warmly congratulate all the recipients of this year’s Changi Airline Awards. Thank you.


You may also like