Dubai overtakes Singapore Changi in passenger volume

This is a tale of two airport hubs – Singapore Changi versus Dubai International. Both are strategically situated on the kangaroo route. Changi – which is home to Singapore Airlines (SIA) – has long been reputed as a leading hub, serving the wider region where it is situated, while in recent years Dubai has been striving to promote its hub status, particularly with Emirates stretching its wings far and wide.

The use of long range aircraft also means airlines now have more options of connecting points and the hub competition is extended over a wider geographical expanse.

Changi ended 2011 with a record passenger throughput of 46.5 million passengers on 302,000 aircraft movements. However, those numbers were surpassed by Dubai`s 51 million passengers on 326,000 aircraft movements. The difference was about 10% higher in favour of Dubai.

While both airports continued to register growth in passenger traffic, the margin also continued to widen. Changi handled 4.24 million passengers in January or an increase of 12% year-on-year. There were 27,600 landings and take-offs, up by 15%. Dubai handled 14% more passengers than Changi, recording 4.85 million passengers or an increase of 14%. Aircraft movements were up from 27,400 for the same month last year to 29,700, registering a growth of 8.4%.

In the case of Changi, low-cost carriers contributed to the higher growth for flights handled than passenger volume. Almost a third of the traffic was carried on flights to and from Hong Kong and the Southeast Asian capitals of Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Manila – routes that are operated by several budget carriers. This region and other Asian regions including the Middle East were the major contributors of traffic growth through the Singapore airport.

Dubai attracted most traffic from fellow member countries of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (namely Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia), Africa, Western Europe and the Indian subcontinent. However, there a downward trend for other Middle Eastern routes largely because of the region`s political unrest.

Both Changi and Dubai suffered a decline in airfreight in January – a reflection of the still sluggish global economy. Changi handled 136,800 tons of cargo, down 7.1%, while Dubai handled 174,000 tons, down 2.6%.

The competition between Changi and Dubai will continue to escalate – more so today because of the poor economic climate – as airlines increase their focus on operating cost-efficiency. A factor that is playing to Changi`s advantage is the continuing political turmoil in the Middle-East. But just as SIA has played a significant role in connecting Changi to the rest of the world, so is Emirates with its spokes into Western Europe and one-stop propositions to Australia contributing to the growth of Dubai. However, Changi – flanked by growing Asian economies – may have already recognized a bigger game at play. It has to be more than just a transit stop, but also as the airport serving a region whose boundary it can help define by its own and Singapore`s affinity to the region, not necessarily confined strictly to matters of aviation.

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About David Leo
David Leo has more than 30 years of aviation experience, having served in senior management in one of the world's best airlines and airports. He continues to maintain a keen interest in the business, writes freelance and provides consultancy services in the field.

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