Costs, difficulty connecting to other flights are why Jetstar refuses to move to Terminal 4, say analysts

Mr Gary Ho, senior lecturer in Aviation Management at Temasek Polytechnic said that “rebalancing” is where an airport tries to make sure that no terminal is under- or over-used, so that passengers, staff and airlines have a pleasant experience in the terminal ..

“In Changi’s case, T4 has been mainly used by smaller aircrafts and usually budget carriers due to the design and simple passenger flow of the terminal,” he said.

“With the reopening of T4, they are looking to move some airlines over to reduce the congestion at T1.”

TERMINAL 1 “TIGHT” AT PEAK HOURS

Both Mr Ho and Mr Waldron noted that Jetstar has been operating out of Terminal 1 since inception, with Mr Ho adding that it is usually costly and troublesome for an airline to change terminals.

Besides the possible inconvenience for passengers with connecting flights, there are other operational considerations.

“It also takes time for the airline staff to familiarise themselves with the new terminal and sometimes, they could be sharing the same ground handling staff with another partner airline in the terminal,” he said.

“Thus, a move to a new terminal, could mean long and costly training and even hiring of new ground handling staff which adds to costs and complexity of moving.”

The situation at Terminal 1 during peak hours is also “a bit tight”, said Mr Ho.

“As most low cost carriers, with the exception of Air Asia, operate out of T1, during peak hours, T1 was getting a bit tight on gates as the majority of T1’s gates were not designed for narrow bodied aircraft exclusively.

“Some of the gates in T1 were able to accommodate two narrowbodies instead of a widebody but not all gates have that flexibility. Thus, at peak hour, there was a bottleneck beginning to form,” he said.

He also said that as countries open up, there is huge pent-up demand from travelers.

“With T2 still undergoing refurbishment, CAG is looking forward and anticipating that they would need to keep T1 for as many widebodies as possible so as to prevent a situation where T1 is overwhelmed by traffic while T4 remains relatively quiet,” he said.

The experts said that discussions between Jetstar and CAG should eventually resolve the issue, and CNA understands that a joint study on the move is commencing.

Mr Waldron said that airports do face challenges as they gear up for a strong travel rebound.

“Even though airlines and airports complement each other so well, sometimes they can have an adversarial relationship as their interests don’t always align,” he said, pointing to other disputes such as that of AirAsia with the Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

Said Mr Ho: “There are many other solutions to this issue as long as both parties are willing to talk to one another. Many airlines have moved from terminal to terminal without a hitch since the airport opened.

“Changi has continuously been able to be one of the best airports in the world because all parties work closely to find a win-win solution for the traveling public at the airport. I hope this dispute is just a one-off situation.”

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