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Fri 10 Jan 2014 10:38 AM

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Singapore airport growth plan could rival Dubai

Asian hub’s plan to increase capacity to close to 140m passengers could pose threat to Dubai

Singapore airport growth plan could rival Dubai

Authorities at Singapore’s Changi Airport say they will double the Asian hub’s passenger capacity to almost 140m per year over the next decade, potentially challenging Dubai’s plan to position itself as the world’s largest commercial aviation centre.

The city state’s transport minister Lui Tuck Yew said that a fourth terminal at Changi, capable of handling 16m passengers, will be completed by 2017 at a cost of S$1.28bn ($1bn). This will be in addition to a further fifth terminal with capacity of 50m passengers, he said.

Changi can currently handle about 70m passengers per year and saw 48.6m visitors in the first 11 months of 2013. Once works are complete in the middle of the next decade, the airport’s total maximum capacity will be approximately 136m passengers per year.

The airport is anticipating around 5 percent passenger growth per year on the back of a raft of new budget airlines setting up in South East Asia.

Dubai International Airport, widely seen as a hub for Europe, Asia and Africa, currently handles around 65m passengers per year, out of a total capacity of close to 75m. The airport is presently undergoing $7.8bn in expansion work that would boost its total capacity to 100m by 2020. It is expected to overtake London’s Heathrow Airport as the world’s busiest international airport sometime during 2015.

The emirate’s recently opened Al Maktoum International Airport has been built with a maximum capacity of 160m, with this potentially rising to 200m, despite a dearth of full-service carriers operating from the hub.

Saj Ahmad, chief analyst at aviation consultant StrategicAero, said that he did not expect Singapore’s growth to threaten Dubai’s position as a global aviation hub.

“Singapore is not and has never been the global crossroads like Dubai has become. And now that Dubai has another mega-airport rising in Al Maktoum International, Singapore is playing catch up,” he said.

“They'd need something the size of Dubai World Central just to keep up, let alone surpass Dubai. It's all a bit late in the day for Singapore - and Asia as a whole. While there is traffic growth, it is not being realised with profitability - all very well talking about growth when there is still a lot of red ink flying around,” Ahmad added.

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