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Singapore Airshow to shrink amid strict health controls

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* Expecting 360 exhibitors from Feb. 15-18, down from 930 in 2020

* Bombardier, Gulfstream among those not attending

* Daily rapid antigen tests required for attendees

By Jamie Freed

Jan 25 (Reuters) - Asia's biggest aviation event, the Singapore Airshow, is set to shrink for the second time since the pandemic hit, with strict health controls for trade visitors and a lack of public days for locals dampening potential attendance.

The Feb. 15-18 show will require daily rapid antigen tests for attendees at a time when cases of the fast-spreading Omicron variant of COVID-19 are rising in the city-state and dining out remains limited to groups of five.

The challenges of holding the biennial air show mirror global travel difficulties that have left the Asian aviation industry struggling to rebound two years into the pandemic.

About 360 companies, including major industry players such as Airbus, Boeing and Lockheed Martin, are expected as exhibitors at the Singapore Airshow, down from 930 in 2020, according to the show's website.

Association of Asia Pacific Airlines Director General Subhas Menon said a planned pre-show summit for regulators and airline bosses had been postponed indefinitely, a further setback to the industry's recovery prospects.

"Streamlining policies and approaches and all these things are ever more significant now and badly needed," he said.

Business jet makers Bombardier and Gulfstream confirmed they would not participate this year, as first reported https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/transport/fewer-exhibitors-at-singapore-airshow-as-covid-19-concerns-and-restrictions-bite by Singapore's Straits Times newspaper.

A Bombardier spokesperson said it cancelled because of health and travel restrictions and safety guidelines as Omicron continues to spread.

At the show, daily rapid antigen for overseas visitors will be supervised and those testing positive will be required to isolate in their hotel rooms for three to seven days.

Air show organisers in October reached out informally to major exhibitors about the prospect of postponing the show until September 2022, four industry sources told Reuters, but ultimately decided against doing so as travel rules in countries such as Australia, Thailand and Malaysia began to ease.

Show organisers did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

The Dubai Airshow was held successfully in mid-November just before the more vaccine-resistant Omicron variant emerged and spread rapidly around the world.

The 2020 Singapore Airshow, held at the start of the pandemic, had late cancellations from 70 exhibitors and trade attendance was about 30,000, down 44% from 2018.

Commercial Aircraft Corp of China (COMAC), which cancelled attendance in 2020, is not listed as an exhibitor this year at a time of tight quarantine rules in China. COMAC did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

Attendance at Airshow China 2021 in Zhuhai last year was nearly all domestic. (Reporting by Jamie Freed in Sydney; additional reporting by Stella Qiu in Beijing. Editing by Gerry Doyle)

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