SM Teo Chee Hean at the Terminal 2 Expansion Opening Ceremony

SM Teo Chee Hean | 1 November 2023

Speech by Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean at the Terminal 2 Expansion opening ceremony on 1 November 2023.


Mr Chee Hong Tat, Acting Minister for Transport,
Mr Tan Gee Paw, Chairman, Changi Airport Group (CAG),
Mr Lee Seow Hiang, CEO, CAG,
Ladies and Gentlemen, Partners,

Good morning.


I am happy to join all of you to celebrate the completion of Changi Airport Terminal 2’s expansion and its full reopening.

Construction for the T2 expansion project started in January 2020, two months before Singapore closed its borders because of the COVID-19 pandemic. At that time, no one knew how severe the pandemic would be, or how long it would last. But Changi Airport Group (CAG) pushed ahead with the T2 expansion, driven by the conviction that our Changi air hub would not only recover from the pandemic, but emerge stronger.

Today, passenger traffic at Changi has recovered to 90% of pre-COVID levels. Changi’s passenger traffic in the first eight months of this year was the highest in the Asia-Pacific region. We expect Changi’s passenger volumes to recover fully by 2024 and then, continue to grow.

Looking Back

This spirit of daring and drive has been the hallmark of Changi since its beginnings.

In the 1970s, Mr Lee Kuan Yew contemplated shifting Singapore’s international airport from Paya Lebar to Changi, contrary to recommendations from external consultants to simply expand Paya Lebar. The decision was further complicated by the 1973 Oil Crisis and its impact on our air traffic volumes. But Mr Lee was convinced of the case for Changi, and moved decisively to complete the construction of Changi in just six years. I still vividly remember my first orientation visit to see the then state-of-the-art facilities at the brand-new Changi airport. It was quite an experience. I remember after visiting Changi Airport, I drove home along the ECP with bougainvillea in full bloom. It was such a beautiful sight. And as I drove up the Benjamin Sheares Bridge that evening, our city emerged into view. The total experience from brand-new modern airport, connected along a floral highway, to our bustling city. Wow! I recall my chest bursting with with emotion and pride. Today, we cannot imagine a Singapore without Changi Airport.

During the planning and construction of Changi Airport Terminal 3 in the early 2000s, Singapore again experienced a number of shocks, including 9/11 and the SARS outbreak. It was with the same conviction that we pushed ahead with construction, and opened T3 six years later, on the 9th of January, 2008. 

Over the decades, Changi has cemented its position as a leading air hub in the region and the world. Changi’s growth is closely intertwined with Singapore’s economic success and growth.

As an open and connected economy, we rely on international connectivity to sustain our trade links, and ensure the flow of essential supplies.

Visitors from around the world are drawn to Singapore for business and for leisure, in no small part due to the excellent connectivity. Many of them just want to see and experience Changi Airport. This has fostered an environment conducive to investment, events, tourism and most importantly, job opportunities.

Looking Ahead

The aviation sector has also become a key pillar of our economy. Pre-COVID, the Changi air hub and its adjacent industries contributed over 5% of Singapore’s GDP and supported almost 200,000 jobs.

We must continue to look ahead with ambition so that we can anchor Changi’s place in the world.

First, we must be ready to capture future growth in air travel. The expansion of T2 increases annual passenger capacity by 5 million. With its full reopening, T2 can now handle 28 million passengers a year. This brings Changi’s operating capacity to 90 million passengers annually across its four terminals, and positions Changi to capture the anticipated growth in air travel in our region in the coming years. And then, there is T5 on the horizon. We have also resumed work on T5. When ready in the mid-2030s, T5 will add approximately 50 million passengers to Changi’s annual capacity. This will strengthen Singapore’s position as a premier air hub. 

Second, we must innovate to stay ahead. Changi is trialing innovative solutions, such as autonomous baggage tractors, to improve efficiency and productivity. New digital solutions are being rolled out to make the passenger experience more seamless and secure. The new, highly advanced Baggage Handling System at T2 can track individual bags in real-time, minimising mishandling. Human capital is also key. Through close partnerships with the industry and our unions, we will equip our aviation workforce with the skills to support a future-ready air hub.

Third, we must reduce our carbon footprint even as we grow. Singapore is committed to putting our carbon emissions on a downward trajectory by 2030, and achieving net zero emissions by 2050. This means that all sectors of the economy will need to decarbonise. As an example of this, CAAS aims to transition all airside vehicles to cleaner energy options by 2040. CAAS is working closely with airport stakeholders to achieve this goal. It will convert all new airside light vehicles, forklifts, and tractors to fully electric models from 2025, and expand the airside charging infrastructure. I look forward to the release of CAAS’ Sustainable Air Hub Blueprint in the coming months. The Blueprint will outline the full suite of initiatives to support our aviation decarbonisation efforts.       


It is a pleasure to celebrate this important milestone for the Changi air hub with all of you. A big thank you to you, to all our partners and stakeholders for contributing to, and sharing in Changi’s achievements. Changi will always be an integral part of the Singapore story, not only because of its economic importance, but also for the spirit of daring and drive that it represents. Congratulations to CAG and to the entire Changi aviation community for a strong, decisive recovery, and the successful completion of the Terminal 2 expansion project. I am confident that Changi will remain a place of pride and joy for all Singaporeans. 

Thank you to one and all.