Government to continue supporting aviation sector amid Covid-19 hit: Ong Ye Kung

THE government will continue to support Singapore Airlines (SIA), Changi Airport Group (CAG) and other companies in the aviation sector, Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung said on Tuesday, as the Covid-19 pandemic brings the travel sector to a standstill.

This includes the Jobs Support Scheme, where the aviation sector benefits from the highest tier of support, cost relief through the Enhanced Aviation Support Package and temporary redeployment programmes for affected workers, he said in a ministerial statement in Parliament.

This comes as Changi Airport is now serving 1.5 per cent of its usual passenger volume and 6 per cent of the usual number of passenger flights, compared to pre-Covid-19 times, Mr Ong said, adding that the numbers are stark as Singapore has no domestic air travel.

If cargo flights are included, the number goes up to 17 per cent of total flight volume, as there are now two-and-a-half times more cargo flights than before.

In all, there are now direct flights to 49 cities in the world, compared to 160 previously, due to pandemic-led border closures around the world, Mr Ong said.

Singapore's national carrier had to cut about 2,000 jobs last month after recording its largest-ever quarterly loss on record in the first quarter of fiscal year 2020, he noted.

"Whichever way SIA had decided, MOT (Ministry of Transport) would always try our best to support our national carrier in times like this. But what I will not contemplate is to impose on them an environment tax at this time, as Associate Professor Jamus Lim has suggested, because that will worsen the crisis for SIA," Mr Ong said.

Meanwhile, CAG has lost its revenue streams as well, as the amount of service charges it is collecting from airlines and passengers is now "miniscule" due to the low passenger volume, he added.

Shops and restaurants at the airport are seeing fewer customers, and CAG has had to dip into its reserves while preserving cash and retaining core capabilities, he said.

In June, the government delayed the construction of Terminal 5 by two years. Mr Ong said this is so that they can have more clarity on the pace of air travel recovery before deciding how to proceed with the project.