Covid-19: When will Singapore’s air travel take off again?

Country/area: Singapore

Organisation: The Straits Times

Organisation size: Big

Publication date: 10/12/2021

Credit: Anton Dzeviatau, Rebecca Pazos, Stephanie Adeline, Toh Ting Wei, Zachary Tia


Anton Dzeviatau – Data visualisation developer;
Carlos Marin – Data visualisation developer;
Rebecca Pazos – Interactive graphics correspondent;
Stephanie Adeline – Digital graphics journalist/Project lead;
Toh Ting Wei – Reporter;
Zachary Tia – Data journalist intern

Project description:

This story looked at the impact of the pandemic on the aviation sector, and whether the launch of vaccinated travel lanes has brought signs of recovery to Singapore’s air travel. We visualised the number of flights departing from Changi Airport over the last two years, to help readers see the extent of the impact on the airline sector and used animated graphics to visualize the trends in air traffic. The interactive graphic also included a quick guide for vaccinated travellers who are hoping to travel.

Impact reached:

The story helped readers to evaluate the factors that need to be considered if they wanted to travel during the holiday season. It explained that while we are seeing signs of recovery, it is unlikely that air travel will return to normal anytime soon, given the new variants.

Techniques/technologies used:

For the opening scrolly, we visualised air traffic using data from flight-tracking site FlightAware. The planes were rendered in Canvas using WebGL renderer PixiJS. Their animation is done using MotionPathPlugin from GSAP.

For the second scrolly, we did a similar visualisation to the intro, but instead of a map, we used a simpler network-style graphic. This was created in illustrator and exported as SVG, then we animated the SVG using CSS and JS based on the data for each routes and each year. The animated planes on this graphic are actually 3 paths on top of each other. We tweaked the widths and dasharrays to make them look like planes. To animate it, we adjusted the dashoffset according to the data.

The boarding pass-style cards that showed the top destinations and their travel requirements were coded in HTML and CSS, and we store the data in a Google Sheets that was pushed to a Json link, which makes it easier for us to update anytime there is new information.

We also used Datawrapper and Adobe Illustrator for the other static charts in the story.

What was the hardest part of this project?

One challenge in creating this project was deciding the best visualisation for the data. We had seen a few data stories on Covid-19’s impact on the aviation industry and wanted to differentiate our graphics. We decided on the network graphic because it is a better way to compare the four popular Singapore routes better than using a geographical map, but keeping the planes theme, since it is a memorable visual metaphor.

Another challenge was gathering all the travel restrictions information for the cards, since the information keeps changing rapidly. In the final days before publishing this project, we had a few of our team members check and double-check the information, and we also worked with our aviation reporter who are on top of all the travel updates to make sure our data is up-to-date. For the Covid-19 info, we pulled the data from Our World in Data’s Covid-19 tracker, so that we didn’t have to update it manually.

What can others learn from this project?

This story was published in December, when many people are looking to travel, and many are hopeful, but it’s also important to explain the risks of traveling to our readers. We wanted to show that things are looking slightly better for the airline industry, but also explain to our readers that travel restrictions may change and for them to be aware of this as they make their travel plans. We think other journalists could also learn to take a similar approach by being cautious and deliberate with their visual cues and wording choices.

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