Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung to deliver ministerial statement on strategies for Singapore's aviation sector

Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung to deliver ministerial statement on strategies for Singapore's aviation sector

oyk parl sep 1
Ong Ye Kung speaking in Parliament on Sep 1, 2020.

SINGAPORE: Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung will deliver a ministerial statement in Parliament on Tuesday (Oct 6) on the Government's strategies for the aviation sector, which has been battered by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Calling the aviation sector a "key lifeline for Singapore", Mr Ong said in a Facebook post on Monday he will address several questions filed by Members of Parliament (MPs) Saktiandi Supaat, Gan Thiam Poh, Melvin Yong and Liang Eng Hwa "on plans to aid recovery of our air hub and our flag carrier".

The four People's Action Party (PAP) MPs have submitted Parliamentary questions ahead of the ministerial statement. 

Mr Saktiandi asked the minister about plans to revive the aviation industry and promote safe air travel through Singapore, and how these plans will address medium- to long-term risks to the country's air hub status.

The MP for Bishan-Toa Payoh also asked if the Singapore Airlines' retrenchment exercise will affect revival plans and if so, what is the subsequent impact on the industry.

READ: The Big Read – Floored by COVID-19, can SIA soar again? Fate of Singapore’s aviation hub rests on it

Mr Gan, MP for Ang Mo Kio, asked for the number of passengers who have transited through Changi Airport since its reopening to transit passengers. 

He also asked if there is a plan to further open for business travellers and leisure tourists without the need for stay-home notices, "if effective and reliable measures such as the swab test can be relied on and faster clearances at designated areas in the airport".

Mr Yong, MP for Radin Mas, asked if there are any reciprocal travel arrangements expected to be finalised in the next three months, and if there are plans to help Singapore Airlines recover in the event of a "prolonged COVID-19 pandemic".

Mr Liang asked how the Government plans to help the aviation industry and Singapore Airlines "preserve their capabilities and pivot in the post-COVID-19 pandemic landscape".

The Bukit Panjang MP also asked whether the medium- to long-term plans for the industry need to be revised, including the building of Changi Airport Terminal 5.

"FLIGHTS TO NOWHERE"

Mr Ong also said he will speak on the topic of whether to impose tax on "flights to nowhere"

READ: Commentary – Flights to nowhere raise bigger questions about Singapore Airlines’ future

"While Singapore Airlines (SIA) has already announced it will not go ahead with flights to nowhere, I will also address concerns raised by Members Mr Dennis Tan and Assoc Prof Jamus Lim on this, including whether a tax should be imposed on such flights," said Mr Ong.

Mr Tan from the Workers' Party (WP) has submitted a Parliamentary question asking the minister what factors will be considered before approving no-destination flights. The MP for Hougang also asked if carbon emissions from such flights will be a factor for approval. 

Dr Lim, also from the WP, has asked if the Ministry of Transport (MOT) has considered imposing a per-flight environmental tax for these "flights to nowhere".

In addition, the Sengkang GRC MP asked if MOT has considered suggesting to SIA to have pilots retain skills via simulators and have flight crew members' salaries be further supplemented by the estimated additional environmental costs through a Government subsidy, instead of operating the no-destination flights.

READ: COVID-19: Singapore to pilot business travel pass for senior executives with regional, international responsibilities

The global aviation sector has been severely crippled by the COVID-19 pandemic with strict border restrictions limiting travel, causing a plunge in revenue and an increase in layoffs by airlines and related businesses.

SIA Group reported the first annual net loss in its 48-year history in May and has said it will cut about 4,300 positions, affecting around 2,400 staff. Industry watchers expect more job losses to come.

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Source: CNA/jt(ta)

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