January 19, 2024
SINGAPORE – As airlines reclaim the skies, Changi Airport – consistently lauded as one of the best globally by travel players – surged past 90 per cent of pre-pandemic traffic in October 2023.
In an exclusive interview with The Straits Times, Mr Lim Ching Kiat, executive vice-president of air hub and cargo development at Changi Airport Group (CAG), says the airport is working closely with airline partners to enhance its connectivity to the rest of South-east Asia and anchor itself as a premier hub in the region.
“Given that the aviation industry’s centre of gravity is shifting towards Asia-Pacific, due to its rising middle-class population and strong gross domestic product growth, Changi Airport is well positioned to capture this growth as a major international air hub located in the heart of South-east Asia,” he says.
The larger Asia-Pacific region is poised to become the fastest-growing zone for air travel over the next two decades, according to a December 2022 report by the International Air Transport Association.
Since the Covid-19 pandemic, Changi Airport has welcomed four new airlines from South-east Asia – Cambodia Airways, Indonesia’s Citilink, Malaysia’s Firefly and Bangkok-based Thai Vietjet Air.
It has also added a new city link, Sibu in Malaysia, operated by AirAsia.
In addition, new South-east Asian carriers are set to operate from Changi in the next few months, including Aero Dili from Timor Leste.
Mr Lim adds that Changi Airport is also the most connected South-east Asian air hub to India. The latest Indian city to be connected to Changi is Bhubaneswar, operated by IndiGo via twice-weekly services since June 2023, marking Changi Airport’s first city link to India’s eastern state of Odisha.
As for Europe and the Americas, there will be direct services to Brussels by Singapore Airlines and to Vancouver by Air Canada – both starting in April.
“CAG is also keen to pursue opportunities to establish links to Madrid, Stockholm, Oslo and Vienna. We remain hopeful to restore the link with Warsaw, which was operated by LOT Polish pre-pandemic,” says Mr Lim.
Mr Albert Lim, CAG’s group senior vice-president of airport operations planning, advises passengers departing from Singapore, especially during peak travel seasons, to complete their online check-in before heading to the airport.
They can also download the Changi App for flight information, airport guides, and booking of various travel and airport services. Once they save their flight on the app, they will receive timely updates such as changes to their flights status, boarding gate and baggage claim belt, and even stand a chance to win prizes.
Still in the planning stages for a trip in 2024? Here are some new airlines departing from Changi Airport and the destinations they fly to.
Fleet size: Five
Singapore and Tokyo are the only Asian destinations served by Aircalin, the flagship carrier of New Caledonia that was founded in 1983.
In 2022, the airline commenced operations between Singapore and Noumea, New Caledonia’s French-speaking capital known for its stunning beaches with crystal-clear waters.
Its flight frequency has been increased from five to six times a week on a seasonal basis until February. From Noumea, visitors can board a connecting flight or a high-speed passenger catamaran to go island-hopping in the archipelago of more than 140 islands.
The airline is committed to sustainable development and has managed to reduce fuel consumption and carbon emissions by 15 to 20 per cent a seat in 2020, thanks to its fleet of two new-generation Airbuses – the Airbus A330neo long-haul and Airbus A320neo.
Starting from 2024, the airline will offset carbon emissions from its global network under the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation, or Corsia.
To date, about 85 per cent of international aviation has joined this scheme to lower CO2 emissions to curb the impact of aviation on climate change.
Fleet size: 22
In March 2023, Macau’s flag carrier resumed its Macau-to-Singapore service after a 10-year hiatus.
It flies once daily to and from Singapore using the A320 narrow-body aircraft.
A subsidiary of Air China, the airline has great connectivity to mainland China, with flights between Macau and more than a dozen Chinese cities, including Hangzhou, Chengdu and Nanjing.
While Macau is known for its casinos, there are new attractions to entertain non-gamblers.
Housed within an iconic new building designed by Zaha Hadid Architects, the Studio City Water Park is an indoor water park boasting 16 thrilling rides.
And Tokyo-based art collective teamLab has a new permanent exhibition called SuperNature Macao at The Venetian Macao hotel.
Cambodia Airways, the only Cambodian airline operating in Singapore, launched weekly services between Phnom Penh and Singapore in December 2022. The frequency increased to five times weekly in 2023.
Established in September 2017, the full-service carrier provides business class services with all its related perks. It also flies from the Cambodian capital to several big cities in China, including Beijing and Shenzhen.
A subsidiary of Indonesian flagship carrier Garuda Indonesia, Citilink is a low-cost carrier that operates $88 flights twice a day between Jakarta and Singapore – a service that started in October 2022.
Since its inception in 2001, Citilink has received a number of awards and certifications, including four stars since 2018 from air travel consultancy Skytrax, which ranks airlines based on their overall quality.
Citilink has also consistently secured the title of Best Low-Cost Airline at the Travelers’ Choice Awards, an accolade presented by United States-based travel website Tripadvisor.
Sports enthusiasts can check in 20kg of sports equipment – think bikes, surfboards and golf clubs – for free by joining the airline’s LinkSport programme, which costs 450,000 rupiah (S$40) annually.
Fleet size: 14
While not new to Changi Airport, Firefly began operations from Penang to Singapore in March 2023 with a Boeing 737 aircraft. The wholly owned subsidiary of Malaysia Aviation Group also flies six times daily from Subang to Seletar Airport using an ATR 72 turboprop.
Designed for short-haul travel within Malaysia and Singapore, the airline offers services such as refreshments, 20kg of complimentary checked baggage allowance and Web check-in for flights to and from Singapore.
Fleet size: 19
This Taiwanese premium full-service carrier positions itself as a boutique airline with multiple connections from Taipei to cities in Japan, including Sapporo, Fukuoka and Okinawa.
It began services to Singapore from Taipei in 2021. With the introduction of its A350-900 aircraft in June 2023, it is the only airline operating first class cabins on the route.
One notable feature of Starlux is its in-flight meals, which are curated for business and first class passengers through collaborations with Michelin-starred chefs.
The airline also works with renowned names in the Taiwanese food and beverage industry to craft a premium array of cocktails, coffee, gelato and bubble tea for its passengers.
This Bangkok-based low-cost carrier was established in 2016 as a joint venture between Vietnamese low-cost carrier VietJet Air and Chiangmai-based Kan Air’s president Somphong Sooksanguan.
It operates once-daily flights from Singapore to Bangkok – a service that started in April 2022 – and was named one of the world’s top 10 safest low-cost airlines in 2022 by airline safety and product rating website AirlineRatings.
The airline offers an ultra-premium fare called SkyBoss, which gives passengers access to a host of VIP experiences, including priority seat selection, complimentary food and drinks and private lounge access. A return ticket on economy from Singapore to Bangkok costs US$158 (S$210) while a SkyBoss ticket on the same route costs upwards of US$540.
Fleet size: 30
Since May 2022, South Korean low-cost carrier T’way Air – with hubs in Incheon and Gimpo, the country’s secondary airport – has been operating daily flights between Incheon and Singapore using an A330-300 aircraft.
From Seoul, passengers can fly to a number of destinations in South Korea and Japan.
T’way Air also operates flights to lesser-known destinations such as Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, and the island of Guam in Micronesia.
Known as a pet-friendly airline, T’way has a t’pet service which allows carry-on pets such as dogs, cats and house birds at least eight weeks old in its economy class cabins on both domestic and international routes.
Alii Palau Airlines
Fleet size: One
The newest airline to depart from Changi Airport, Alii Palau Airlines is operated by Drukair – Royal Bhutan Airlines, the flag carrier of Bhutan. On Nov 23, 2023, it began service from Singapore to Koror, the largest city in Palau and the gateway to its neighbouring islands.
The airline started offering twice-weekly flights from Dec 21, 2023. It is pausing operations till October, when it will resume once-weekly flights on Thursdays. Advance bookings can be made at palau.co
Upon arrival, visitors are required to sign a passport pledge, signifying their commitment to being ecologically and culturally responsible on the island.