Aviation industry will weather coronavirus outbreak: DPM Heng, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Aviation industry will weather coronavirus outbreak: DPM Heng

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DPM says that while passenger numbers have fallen and airlines are cutting costs, sector will prevail

Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat is confident the global aviation sector will weather the current coronavirus outbreak, just as it prevailed in previous crises.

He noted that the sector "recovered and emerged stronger from September 11, the Global Financial Crisis, Sars and Mers".

In a speech at the opening of this year's Singapore Airshow at Marina Bay Sands last night, Mr Heng said he was glad countries are working together to contain the virus "in this period of great uncertainty".

Mr Heng, who is also Finance Minister, noted that passenger numbers have fallen and airlines are adopting cost-cutting measures, placing staff on unpaid leave and even laying off workers. "There could be a knock-on impact on the wider aviation sector in terms of aircraft orders, and also maintenance, repair and overhaul activities."

He added that the virus outbreak has brought uncertainty to the global economy, with consumer confidence dampened and supply chains temporarily disrupted.

While its full impact is difficult to gauge now, Mr Heng warned that "it will be many months before the situation returns to normal", going by the Sars episode in 2003.

He highlighted that in the current outbreak, China, Singapore and other countries have taken measures to safeguard their people against the coronavirus, and are working with the World Health Organisation to battle it.

"We live in a highly inter-connected world, with integrated global supply chains and good people mobility which has been accelerated by air travel," he said.

Countries had to step up safeguards based on "data and scientific evidence", and their specific contexts, he added.

But it is not all doom and gloom, he noted, "for the future of the aviation sector remains bright".

The number of air travellers globally is set to double in the next 20 years, from four billion to eight billion, and half of this growth will come from the Asia-Pacific region.

Mr Heng called on the sector to set its sights on the long term, by investing in innovation, skills and infrastructure, in order to realise its growth potential.

He also thanked the foreign aerial display teams that will be performing at the airshow at Changi Exhibition Centre over the next few days.

He said: "I am glad that the US and China have answered our invitation to perform at this airshow, and have remained committed, despite the current coronavirus situation."

Airshow organiser Experia Events had said on Sunday that the event would be scaled down, with lower public day visitors allowed and a reduced number of aircraft in the static display.