SINGAPORE: The Government will provide an additional S$84 million to the aviation sector to cushion the blow of the COVID-19 pandemic on workers and businesses, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) said on Tuesday (Dec 29).
This is on top of the S$112 million Aviation Sector Assistance Package, announced in February, and the S$187 million Enhanced Aviation Support Package, announced in August.
The CAAS said the aviation sector "remains hardest hit" by the COVID-19 pandemic, with the number of passenger traffic movements at Changi Airport in November seeing a 98 per cent year-on-year decline.
"Given ongoing border restrictions and the resurgence of COVID-19 in many countries over winter, air travel will not recover soon. It is therefore critical that we maintain our support for the sector to help aviation companies and workers tide through the crisis," said the CAAS.
The authority added that aviation firms have put in place measures to enable air travel while minimising public health risks, and that these measures require additional infrastructure, equipment and manpower.
These costs cannot be recouped from passengers during this period, it said.
"To help mitigate some of these costs, the Government will provide funding to support the development, adoption and deployment of innovative technologies and measures to protect our airport workers and air crew from contracting COVID-19," added CAAS in its media release.
"These include aircraft and baggage sanitisation systems."
The Government will continue to provide rebates for fees and charges, and the CAAS will waive fees for Singapore-based airlines for their Certificates of Airworthiness. Licence fees for providing scheduled air services will also be waived.
The waiver will apply to fees payable between Apr 1 this year and Mar 31 next year.
It would also give a 50 per cent rebate for licence fees payable for ground handling and catering services at Changi and Seletar airports during that period, it added.
Such measures would cost about S$39 million in total, said CAAS.
Noting many workers in the sector have taken wage cuts due to a reduction in working hours, while others have been placed on no-pay leave, the CAAS said the Government would provide additional support for aviation workers.
Pilots, air traffic controllers and aircraft maintenance engineers who have to pay for their licence fees and medical evaluation fees would get a full rebate for fees payable between Apr 1, 2020 and Mar 31, 2021, it said.
"We will work with SkillsFuture Singapore, Workforce Singapore, NTUC LearningHub and the NTUC Aerospace and Aviation Cluster to help at-risk and under-employed aviation workers to enhance their employability and acquire skills to move to other jobs within the sector," said the CAAS.
Additional support will be provided for new programmes to be developed for such workers, and more details will be announced next month, it added.
"Pilots need years to get their licence and certification. To ensure that we have a sufficient number of pilots for the eventual recovery, we will also work with SkillsFuture Singapore to provide funding support to Singapore-based airlines to re-train their pilots and keep their skills current," said CAAS.
In a year-end Facebook video by the Ministry of Transport (MOT), Senior Minister of State for Transport Chee Hong Tat said the authorities are helping local pilots convert their licences to allow them to fly other types of aircraft in the future.
"There are also Singaporean pilots working for foreign airlines (who) hold foreign pilot licences, who got retrenched and returned to Singapore. We reviewed our rules to enable them to apply for a Singapore pilot licence so that they can work for a local airline in the future," said Mr Chee.
These measures to help workers amount to about S$20 million, said the CAAS.
MORE SUPPORT FOR PRODUCTIVITY EFFORTS
The CAAS said it is important that companies invest in projects to "improve productivity and build capabilities" to manage the immediate impact of COVID-19.
This will help the sector manage longer-term manpower constraints and be ready for the recovery.
"To encourage companies to continue with their innovation and productivity efforts, we will inject an additional S$25 million into the Aviation Development Fund (ADF)," it said.
This would provide an "enhanced level" of funding support of up to 90 per cent to companies until the end of March 2022 for companies' initiatives.
"Such productivity efforts will improve the attractiveness of the sector to Singaporeans, support the employability of older workers, and reduce the sector’s reliance on foreign workforce in the longer-term," said the CAAS.
"Through these measures, we will strengthen the resilience of our companies and workers in the aviation sector as the sector continues to weather the COVID-19 pandemic.
In his ministry's year-end video, which also marked Changi Airport's 39th anniversary, Minister for Transport Ong Ye Kung said it was clear that bringing air travel back safely and reviving Singapore's aviation hub was the "most important task".
"Together, we will tide through this arduous journey and take our place in the skies again," he said.