Singapore has disclosed that it plans to suspend the construction of a major airport terminal for at least two years as global aviation struggles to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

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The Transport Minister, Khaw Boon Wan, said the government will use the time to study how the industry will change after the pandemic and to introduce new designs so the facility can meet future health and safety requirements.

Experts have suggested airlines must brace for changes more challenging than those that followed the 2001 Twin Tower attacks in the US.

Changi Airport’s Terminal 5, handling up to 50 million passengers a year in its initial phase, had been due for completion around 2030.

The airline business has been badly hit by the pandemic, with industry experts not expecting traffic to return to 2019 levels before 2023.

But Khaw said aviation, especially in Asia, was likely to recover despite uncertainty over the risk of fresh infections after countries ease restrictions.

Singapore had been studying what the aviation industry will look like in the coming years, he told an online meeting with students.

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“That’s why we have already decided that we will take a pause in the T5 project… for two years to let us complete this study of the future of aviation.”

The Minister said major changes are expected after the pandemic.

“I suspect that the T5’s current layout, the design may actually need some alterations to take into account some of these safety needs,” he said.

Singapore, a regional aviation hub, has already closed two of its four existing airport terminals after international air travel plunged due to the pandemic.