Remarks by Permanent Secretary for Transport Mr Loh Ngai Seng at the G20 Aviation Dialogue, Session 1 On Progress on Global Action for Aviation Recovery

Mr. Salvatore Sciacchitano, President of the ICAO Council,
Mr. Conrad Clifford, Deputy Director General and Senior Vice President of IATA,
Mr. Novie Riyanto Rahardjo, Secretary General of the Ministry of Transport of the Republic of Indonesia,
Mr. Mohamed Khalifa Rahma, Director of ICAO Air Transport Bureau,
Mr. Ma Tao, Regional Director of ICAO APAC,
guests of honor
Ladies and gentlemen,

1. Thank you for inviting us to today’s G20 Aviation Dialogue and thank you to our Indonesian friends for their warm hospitality over the past few days. Returning from Bali yesterday at midnight after a series of ASEAN Transport Ministers meetings, I would like to thank Secretary-General Novie once again for his warm hospitality and for hosting this useful platform for exchange of views this morning. It is a good time for us to take stock of what has gone well and what we need to do individually and collectively as nations, global aviation organizations and industry to ensure air travel recovery and a strong runway for build the future growth.

Cooperation for the restoration of aviation

2. Air travel has steadily recovered in the six months since Singapore reopened its borders to all fully vaccinated travelers since April this year. Flight numbers at Changi Airport have recovered to nearly two-thirds of pre-COVID-19 levels, and we expect a further recovery to over 80% of pre-pandemic flight volume by the end of the year. Passenger traffic has also grown healthily, to around 60% of pre-COVID volume in September, just in the last month.

3. This strong rebound was possible because other countries in our region, including Indonesia, Malaysia and South Korea, had eliminated testing and quarantine regulations around the same time as Singapore. More recently, Hong Kong, Japan and Taiwan have eased their border restrictions, particularly for vaccinated travelers. This will further fuel the recovery of air travel in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly during the upcoming northern winter travel season.

4. Notwithstanding, we must be prepared that the COVID-19 situation may suddenly change. The past two years have increased the need for bilateral and multilateral platforms to facilitate information sharing and coordinate our response to the pandemic. We should continue to maintain platforms such as ASEAN Health Ministers and Transport Ministers meetings amid the evolving COVID-19 situation. We should also continue to set up mechanisms for sharing health-related information to facilitate safe cross-border travel and allow for better harmonization of our respective border measures. An example is the digital documentation of COVID-19 certificates, which is being developed by the World Health Organization with the support of the G20 countries. This will pave the way for a globally interoperable digital verification system for the various COVID-19 certificate standards available today.

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capacity and confidence

5. As air travel recovers, we must also restore traveler confidence by rebuilding the capacity and capabilities for safe and seamless travel.

6. Many airports around the world are struggling to increase operations and staff to meet demand for travel once borders reopen. As many of us can appreciate, such capacity issues can have a serious impact on the entire aviation ecosystem. For example, mishandled baggage will have a downstream impact on destination airports, which will then have to devote more resources to sorting baggage for passengers. Delayed flights in turn lead to terminal overload at the destination airports due to flight bundling. Sudden flight cancellations or missing bags disrupt the passenger experience and undermine travelers’ confidence in flying.

7. This is not a problem that can only be solved individually by the airports, the airlines or the ground handlers. To prepare for the upturn, all stakeholders across the aviation value chain must work hand-in-hand to build their respective capacities and capabilities. In this way, we can create positive travel experiences and restore people’s confidence in travel.

8. Well, beyond the immediate recovery, there is good reason to be optimistic about the longer-term prospects for Asia-Pacific air travel growth, driven by economic growth and a rapidly expanding middle class in Southeast Asia and South Asia.

9. In order to realize the full potential of air transport in the region, and also to maximize the economic benefits for our respective peoples, it is important that we focus on three key priorities – first, to ensure safety as air transport continues to grow; second, to enable our airlines to strengthen flight connections; and third, to decarbonize air travel.

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Maintaining the safety and efficiency of aviation

10. Let me address each of these key priorities.

11. Firstly, as the demand for air travel increases and the skies in our region become increasingly crowded, flight safety must remain our top priority. COVID-19 has presented unprecedented challenges to aviation safety, such as: B. Unfamiliarity with protocols and airworthiness of stored aircraft. In general, we should strengthen the safety regime and raise the general standards in order to fly safely together.

12. One of those areas where we need to work closely together to ensure safety as air traffic grows is air traffic management and air navigation regimes that cross borders. We must work together to ensure that regional air navigation regulations continue to uphold the safety and efficiency of civil aviation. It is this joint and shared commitment that underpins efforts between Singapore and our regional partners to enable more harmonized and interoperable procedures and operations, such as those under the ASEAN Air Navigation Services Master Plan and the ICAO Asia Pacific Seamless Air Navigation Services Plan . Such regional cooperation in air traffic management will improve safety and efficiency and help reduce CO2 emissions in our increasingly crowded airspace.

keep the sky open

13. Second, to enable our airlines to improve connectivity inside and outside the region, we should continue to pursue liberal air transport policies through bilateral and multilateral Open Skies Agreements (OSA) to give airlines the flexibility to respond to market opportunities. In this regard, the signing of the ASEAN-EU Comprehensive Aviation Agreement, the world’s first block-to-block aviation agreement, is an important milestone in strengthening connectivity and boosting economic development between ASEAN and the EU.

Decarbonization of air travel

14. Third, we must act decisively to decarbonize air travel. Each of us must continue to invest in global and regional efforts towards sustainable air travel. Singapore has been trying to do this on several fronts. Recently, on the fringes of the 41st ICAO Assembly, we signed a Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC) on Sustainable Aviation with the United States of America and a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the UK to extend our Open Skies Agreement update and reaffirm both countries’ commitment to sustainable aviation. In April of this year, we also signed a Memorandum of Arrangement on this subject with New Zealand.

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15. And of course, at the recently concluded meetings of ASEAN Transport Ministers over the last few days, I have also tasked, together with my Minister, with our ASEAN fellow ministers to ensure that sustainable aviation remains a top priority on the ASEAN agenda for years to come .

16. I would like to thank ICAO for its leadership in building a global consensus on the importance of sustainable aviation, particularly given the successful results of the CORSIA Periodic Review and Long-Term Target (LTAG) at the ICAO Assembly. In particular, the setting of the long-term ambitious goal of “Net Zero 2050” is a historic moment for the aviation sector that will set an important direction and provide certainty for the industry and investors. I am also very pleased that key stakeholders such as IATA and Airports Council International (ACI) have committed to their own targets to reduce the sector’s carbon footprint.

Growing personnel capacities


17. Finally, we need to create not only the capacity for recovery and growth, but also the capabilities to do so. Therefore, it is equally important that we grow our aviation workforce and equip it with the knowledge and skills to innovate, seize new opportunities and adapt to disruptions. These are the very people, our people, who will help rebuild air travel, keep our airspace safe, improve and expand our flight connections, and make our quest to decarbonize air travel a reality. Only and only by investing in and expanding our pool of aviation professionals can we realize our shared vision of a more efficient, sustainable and resilient aviation ecosystem.

18. Thank you for your kind attention.

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