Aviation sector hit hard by virus outbreak, airport retail sales down
Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan says impact is worse than that of Sars in 2003
Retail sales at Changi Airport have dropped by about a third, and local airlines have been hit hard, following the virus outbreak originating in Wuhan.
Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the aviation sector is worse than that of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) in 2003.
"The companies are suffering," he said. "The impact this time round versus Sars is more because China is now a much larger market."
Speaking to the media during a visit to Terminal 3 yesterday, Mr Khaw said air and foot traffic had decreased significantly.
Airlines have been hit hard, with local carriers Singapore Airlines, Scoot and SilkAir suffering significantly reduced traffic to and from China.
Mr Khaw said: "The traffic between China and Singapore has come down significantly because flights have shrunk 70 to 80 per cent, traffic volume has come down by 60 to 70 per cent. The loading of our own carriers to China has come down a lot. Some flights are below 20 to 30 per cent."
The shops at Changi Airport have also been badly affected.
Mr Khaw said that while travellers from China accounted for just 5 per cent of traffic at Changi Airport in 2003, they now account for 11 per cent, and a third of retail sales.
He said: "One third (of sales) has evaporated. This is a crisis, we do not know how long this will last. But we can assure the companies and their workers that we are with them, we are in it together."
Some 7,000 to 8,000 staff are employed in retail at Changi Airport, and Mr Khaw said companies may have to retrench and cut back on their workforce if they are not doing well.
His ministry is working with the Ministry of Finance on a package to assist companies, and this is expected to be announced during the upcoming Budget 2020.
He encouraged companies to turn this into an opportunity to help workers upgrade themselves and gain new skills, preparing themselves for recovery.
He also cautioned that while aviation is one of the first industries to feel the impact, other sectors will be affected as well.
Mr Khaw said that people should take a common-sense approach in deciding when to wear a mask.
"People who are working, in contact with large crowds... for example healthcare workers, that is straightforward, because they deal with patients so of course they mask up," he said.
"I don't wear a mask. But if I visit hospitals... then I think it will be sensible for me to put on a mask.
"But for ordinary people who are not in the front-line, if what you face is your computer, then there's no need to."