Why Changi – and Singapore – Needs Terminal 5

It was only just over one and a half year ago (October 2017) when Changi’s Terminal 4 opened. Jewel has open its doors recently this year, expanding capacity at T1. Both of those projects however are going to be eclipsed by the so called “Mega Terminal” T5. So just how big will T5 be, does Singapore really need it, and if so why?


Jewel Changi Airport
Jewel Changi Airport

We’ll start with some figures. Changi is currently the 6th biggest airport in the world in terms of passenger numbers. Its two existing runways handle around a thousand flights a day equating to more than 62 million passengers a year. Passenger numbers have been growing at around 6% a year and that is expected to continue at more or less the same rate for the foreseeable future.

If Terminal 4 had not been opened, the airport would have reached full capacity already. Today, the capacity is 82 million. With those growth rates it does not need much working out to realise that it won’t be long before the airport does reaches full capacity. That is why there is a need for not just more growth, but specifically another runway.

Terminal 5 is indeed a huge project in every respect. Scheduled to be completed by 2030, it will comprise of a new runway (which in itself will cost more than S$1bn), 40km of connecting taxiways and the vast terminal building itself. Not to mention the associated buildings. Initially, it will boost Changi’s capacity by an extra 50 million passengers a year. If needed, and the expectations are that it will be, that extra capacity can be increased to 70 million. That will make Changi capable of handling 150 million passengers a year.

So how does that compare with competing nations?
In less than a decade, China will become the largest aviation market on the globe. It is forecast that by 2035 passenger numbers for flights within, to and from China will number 1.3 billion. India is expected to reach 442 million by that time. Indonesia is rapidly growing in aviation terms, and will likely reach figures of over 240 million by then.

This should be seen not just as a threat, but as an opportunity. Singapore Airlines certainly is. At the moment it is struggling to add extra flight and routes due to capacity problems. T5 will change that, and the company has already ordered around S$50bn worth of aircraft to take advantage. This part of the world is becoming a major player in terms of aviation, and Singapore needs to ensure it is at the hub of that.

Connectivity, particularly air travel, is vital for a country like Singapore with very few natural resources. Today the aviation industry is directly responsible for 3% of Singapore’s economy, and that will grow. It is also crucial for the tourist, retail and hospitality industries, and alongside that, the finance and business sectors are massively dependent on easy access to and from the island nation.

Terminal 5 will have a positive effect on the whole country, and in todays marketplace where there are more and more nations and cities opening their doors to opportunities, by not doing everything you possibly can to embrace that, you are putting yourself at a very real risk of being left behind.