Changi Airport's eight-year reign as world's best airport comes to a halt

Singapore Changi Airport recently saw its eight-year reign as the world's best airport come to an end after dropping to third in this year's Skytrax rankings. Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar took the top spot, moving up from third place in 2020. Nonetheless, Changi Airport was ranked the World’s Best Airport Staff, Best Airport 10 to 15 million passengers, as well as Best Airport Staff in Asia.

It was also nominated as one of the 39 winners of the newly introduced COVID-19 Airport Excellence Awards, which were judged based on COVID-19 standards across key categories including COVID-19 information signage, face mask usage enforced, visibility and availability of hand sanitiser, general enforcement of social distancing and signage, hygiene procedures at security, terminal and washroom cleanliness. 

Airports in Asia and Europe dominated the list of world's best airports, with Japan’s Haneda, Narita and Kansai airport taking second, fifth and ninth place respectively. Other airports that made the top 10 list are namely South Korea’s Incheon airport, Germany’s Munich, Switzerland’s Zurich, London’s Heathrow and Hong Kong International Airport.

Meanwhile, national carrier Singapore Airlines and its sister airline Scoot were awarded a five-star rating in the Skytrax COVID-19 Airline Safety Audit. According to Scoot, it is the first low-cost carrier in the world to receive the rating from Skytrax. 

Like many industries, the commercial aviation sector was also impacted by the pandemic. From 2019 to 2020, Changi Airport saw its passenger traffic dip by more than 80%, reported Channel NewsAsia. Changi Airport also became one of Singapore’s largest COVID-19 clusters in May this year, which swelled to more than 100 infected, according to The Straits Times. Following the news, the Minister for Transport, S Iswaran, said in a Facebook post last month that he had “every confidence” that it will grow Changi Airport and “bring it into a new phase of life” as a safe and sustainable global aviation hub. 

The decimated travelling due to the COVID-19 pandemic had a severe impact on the aviation and retail industries, as Changi Airport ended FY2019/20 with a marginally lower net operating revenue on the back of 62.9 million passenger movements for the year. Changi Airport also absorbed taxes for more than 5,000 products in April 2020 to help support businesses and encourage spending. Prior to the pandemic, tourists were flocking to Jewel Changi Airport, which was launched in April 2019, to snap pictures with its rain vortex. In October 2019, six months after its launch, Jewel recorded a footfall of about 50 million from both local and foreign visitors.

Meanwhile, to encourage consumers to look ahead and embrace 2021 with hope and fervour, Changi Airport Group launched its "A New Year, Renewed Resolutions" campaign last December. The campaign video was accompanied by a social media activity where audiences are invited to share their favourite travel destinations and ended with a note of Changi Airport waiting to embrace travellers and connecting them to their dream destinations once again, hopefully in the near future.

Separately, Jewel Changi Airport was accused of "copying" Hamad International Airport's design in 2019. The latter's design was reportedly in the works for nearly six years. Qatar Airways CEO and Hamad International Airport CEO, Akbar Al Baker, previously told the media that the design was "copied by individuals from that country". Without explicitly mentioning Jewel, several media outlets quoted the CEO saying that the difference between the two was that "one is a shopping mall, and one is an international airport".

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