Changi Terminal 3 – a traveller’s haven

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Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.

Every time The Moodie Blog visits an airport (incognito) during 2010 we’ll try to record our impressions from a consumer’s (rather than journalist’s) perspective.

Our first stop for the New Year – and the new decade – was Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3. Is there a better, more consumer-friendly terminal in the world than this (answers by e-mail please)? We think not.

From the vast, bright, green departures check-in zone to the friendly immigration staff (clearly they have not received training in either the UK or the US) to the outstanding commercial mix, there are pleasant experiences and nice touches everywhere.

There’s the quirky ‘post van’ for sending those last-minute letters and buying related items…

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There’s a free gadget charger, for everything from laptops to digtal cameras to cell phones…

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There are great seasonal decorations…

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And of course outstanding shopping…

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Valiram_SmallI find a profound contrast between Changi T3 and another impressive modern terminal – London Heathrow Airport T5. T5 is sleek, the shopping and food & beverage offer is diverse and generally very good, and some of the internal and external panoramas are memorable. But the whole place lacks soul – arrivals in particular gives little hint that the traveller has just arrived in ‘Great’ Britain. You could be just about anywhere.

The other critical difference is in attitude. At T5 immigration (if you’re spoken to) you are usually met with “Where have you just come from?” (I am so often tempted to ask the same question in return). At Changi T3 you get ‘Welcome to Singapore” and a free mint. At T5 the security staff seem to delight in barking at you – as if speaking loudly and condescendingly will speed up the line – whereas in Changi there’s always recognition of the need to assist the customer, often as not accompanied by a smile.

I didn’t do much for the average retail transaction value at Changi – an American adaptor from the excellent Dufry electronics shop (I think I now have over 20…) to use with my laptop on the Singapore Airlines A380 inflight power system; and a book from the equally good Relay outlet.

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But even those brief experiences were positive. The first Dufry sales assistant was quick to show me two versions of the item I wanted; the second, noting my destination, checked that I really wanted a US and not a European adaptor. 

At the elegantly merchandised Relay store – full of a great mix of books, games and magazines, the two staff members on duty at the cash point were enthusiastic and friendly.

When I arrived back in the UK it was at Heathrow Airport Terminal 3. From a traveller’s point of view I don’ get the World Duty Free Arrivals stores. They seem to be just token shops as opposed to a concerted effort to encourage last-minute guilt and gift purchases.

With no security constraints, why not have really nice gift bags (they needn’t even identify the store in case the recipient feels they were an afterthought)? Why not extend the mediocre children’s range to appeal to guilty, homesick returning parents? Why not take an almost entrepreneurial corner-store or boutique retailer’s approach rather than simply having a pared-down version of the Departures store?

I don’t know how good the results are at these stores but I frequent them more than most and don’t see many people stopping. 

What if World Duty Free put some of its best, brightest, youngest talents to work and said “This is your store for six month; forget traditional preconceptions about Arrivals shopping, make your offer and merchandising stop returning travellers in their tracks.”  I wonder what might happen?

Many airports – and many shops and food & beverage outlets – await The Moodie Blog in 2010. But with 359 days still to go in the year, we already think that Changi Terminal 3 will be hard to surpass.

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