Opening Address by Minister for Transport and Second Minister for Finance, Mr Chee Hong Tat, at the Changi Airline Awards 2024

25 Apr 2024Speeches
Mr Tan Gee Paw, Chairman, Changi Airport Group;
Mr Lee Seow Hiang, CEO, Changi Airport Group; 
Distinguished Guests; 
Friends and Colleagues of the Aviation Community, 

1.     Good evening everyone. I am delighted to join you at this year’s Changi Airline Awards, and to see many familiar faces here tonight.  To our guests from overseas, a very warm welcome to Singapore.  

2.     Each year, the Changi Airline Awards recognises the important role that Changi’s airline partners play in the growth and development of Singapore’s air hub. Tonight, we have 80 airlines from 38 countries and regions in attendance – each airline here has chosen to fly through Changi Airport as part of its global network. You are an integral part of the Changi community.

3.     Compared to two years ago, the industry is now on a firmer footing. In February, IATA reported that the global airline industry achieved full recovery in total passenger traffic, surpassing the 2019 pre-COVID threshold by 5.7%. Closer to home, with the strong support of all the workers and the unions from the OneAviation community, Changi’s passenger traffic levels reached 101% of pre-COVID levels in the first quarter of 2024, marking the first quarter that we have surpassed pre-COVID passenger traffic since Singapore reopened its borders two years ago in April 2022. This is a significant milestone for all of us in the OneAviation community. We look forward to the continued growth of passenger traffic at Changi, and my colleagues and I will work towards our goal of exceeding pre-COVID passenger traffic levels for the full year.  

4.     We have seen through the worst of the Covid-19 pandemic and emerged stronger together. But we must look further ahead, to make sure that we are ready for the future. Tonight, I will speak about three areas that we are investing in to ensure Changi remains future-ready: Building for the future; Equipping our workers; and Sustainable growth.

Building for the future (Capacity)

5.     First, building for the future. Global travel demand will continue to grow, with the Asia-Pacific region experiencing the most rapid rate of growth in passenger traffic over the next two decades. We are planning and building ahead to ensure that the Changi Air Hub is able to meet this growing demand. 

6.     Last November, we completed the expansion of Changi Airport Terminal 2, which increased Changi’s annual capacity to 90 million passengers across all four terminals. 
7.     Changi’s Terminal 5 is also on track to commence construction in 2025. Last month, CAG launched the first major construction tender for T5, the building’s substructure, which will comprise the foundation and basement works for the new terminal. We have also started work on other aspects of T5, such as the underground connection linking T2 and T5, also known as the T2 Connection or T2C. T2C will provide baggage and inter-terminal links to ensure a seamless connection between T5 and the existing terminals at Changi. 

8.     When ready in the mid-2030s, Terminal 5 will be able to handle up to an additional 50 million passengers per annum, strengthening Singapore’s aviation connectivity and our position as an air hub for the region and beyond.

Equipping our workers (Capability) 

9.     Next, equipping our workers. Besides infrastructure, we will also continue to invest in our aviation workforce. 

10.    The OneAviation community continues to drive the distinctive world-class Changi experience for our customers. This extends not just to our airlines, pilots, and cabin crew, but the entire ecosystem at our air hub, that comes together to ensure the continuity of end-to-end processes, from check-in, to in-flight, and baggage collection.

11.    It is therefore crucial that we work collectively as an ecosystem to tackle the challenges of Changi’s operating environment, which will grow more complex as it serves more passengers. Coupled with the tightening of our labour market, the role of digitalisation and automation must grow, to continue to provide the excellent Changi experience we are known for. Today, we are already harnessing the power of technology through the use of automation and assistive tools, to augment human workers and improve the productivity of labour-intensive jobs at the airport.

a.     One such example is the roll-out of more automated lanes to provide a seamless immigration clearance experience for travellers. By the second half of this year, all travellers going through Changi will be able to use these automated lanes, which are currently only available to Sinagapore residents and travellers from certain jurisdictions.

b.     At the airside, we are also actively trialling the deployment of autonomous vehicles, and have launched the 5G Aviation Testbed with Singtel to allow companies to trial and adopt new digital solutions.

c.     SIA, CAG and SATS are also looking into how Artificial Intelligence can augment decision making and resource optimisation, to further enhance passenger experiences. The Government will continue to support and amplify these ground-up efforts, by providing co-funding and where necessary, reviewing our policies and rules to facilitate the scaled-up deployment of these new solutions.

12.    As the working environment changes, our workers will need to acquire new and relevant skills, and there will also be opportunities for job redesign. We must ensure that our workforce is ready for this, and leverage our strong tripartite partnership between the Government, unions, and employers to embark on this journey together. This tripartite approach is the most effective way to achieve a win-win outcome for both companies and workers, and to ensure that our training resources can achieve good outcomes. 

a.     I have been engaging our unions regularly to hear feedback across different areas, and am glad to see that our aviation stakeholders have followed up on the many suggestions raised. For example, Changi Airport Group was quick to act on a suggestion submitted by one of our union leaders for courtesy messages to be placed at every check-in counter, to encourage passengers to treat our workers with respect. This has now been implemented.

13.    Alongside near-term efforts, we are also preparing for the longer term. CAAS is working on a sector-wide manpower study that will provide us with insights to understand the impact of trends such as digitalisation, automation, and sustainability on our workforce, ensuring that our workers have the skills that they need to continue thriving in this growing and fast-changing aviation industry. The Government will work with the unions and the industry to implement these plans, tapping on our national SkillsFuture movement, the Company Training Committees under NTUC, and additional initiatives from the Changi community. We do not mind where the initiatives come from: whether they are from the Government, NTUC or the ONE Changi community. As long as the initiatives can help our workers, we will pursue all options.

Investing in Sustainable growth (Sustainability)

14.    Finally, investing in sustainable growth. As a key enabler for the global economy, the future of aviation must be one that is environmentally sustainable, so that future generations can continue to enjoy the benefits of flying. 

15.    We launched our Sustainable Air Hub Blueprint earlier this year, to signal our commitment to the long-term sustainable growth of the Singapore aviation sector. Under the Blueprint, we shared our medium and longer-term goals for reducing domestic and international emissions.

16.    On the domestic front, our target by 2030 is to reduce 20% of emissions that arise from airport operations, compared to 2019 levels. And by 2050, to achieve net zero domestic emissions. 

17.    On the international front, we aim to achieve net zero international emissions by 2050. To achieve this, Sustainable Aviation Fuel, or SAF, is a key lever. 

18.    We have decided to implement a SAF levy to support a targeted 1% SAF uplift for all flights departing Singapore from 2026. A key consideration is to ensure that the price volatility of SAF would not hurt Changi’s competitiveness. We therefore decided to set a SAF levy, which would provide cost certainty to airlines and passengers, while providing sufficient assurance to SAF suppliers to invest in new production capacity. CAAS is working out the details of the levy and will share them with airlines and the industry when ready.


19.    As I was walking in, an urban drum crew played an unbeat tune. It was a wonderful performance that was full of energy. I think that is similar to what all of us in the ONE Changi community feel. We have been through difficult times during the COVID-19 pandemic, but we are full of passion and energy, and united in our aim to bring Changi back to pre-Covid levels, and be ready for the future. And the future of aviation is bright and exciting. We are taking steps to prepare Changi to seize the opportunities ahead by building for the future, equipping our workers, and investing in sustainable growth. We hope to work with each and every one of you to bring Changi to greater heights, and to attract more people to join the aviation industry in Singapore.

20.    I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to Mr Lee Seow Hiang for spearheading Changi’s growth and development over the past 15 years. Seow Hiang’s vision and steadfast leadership has transformed Changi into a leading global air hub, taken the airport through the darkest days of COVID-19, and seen through Changi’s recovery after the pandemic. Thank you Seow Hiang! We have a lot to be grateful to Seow Hiang for, and I wish him all the best in his future endeavours.  

21.    His successor Mr Yam Kum Weng is no stranger to the Changi community, having spent many years at CAAS and CAG before taking on this role. My colleagues and Ilook forward to working closely with Kum Weng and his team, to build on what Seow Hiang has achieved and bring Changi to the next higher level. 

22.    Finally, I would like to extend my warmest congratulations to all our award winners tonight. It is only through the hard work of the aviation community, day-in, day-out, that together, we can deliver a seamless, enjoyable experience for travellers coming in from all over the world.
23.    I wish everyone an enjoyable evening ahead. Thank you.

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