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Over the past week I have travelled through three of Singapore Changi Airport’s four terminals – the Budget Terminal, plus 1 and 2.
It’s a pity to have missed the best of them all – T3 – but we have reported on that facility extensively anyway in recent months.
The thing that struck me most on this visit was the simplicity of approach, something that makes being in Changi as close to a soothing experience as you’ll ever get at an airport.
Last night I arrived at the Budget Terminal from Macau on the excellent low cost service from Tiger Airways.
The terminal’s emphasis is on functionality not sophistication but it works so well. The Immigration counters offer sweets and the Immigration staff even smile and say “Welcome to Singapore” (I swear that their Heathrow counterparts are only trained in one word – “Next” – and one phrase – “Where have you just come from?”, the latter a question I am often empted to ask right back).
The Arrivals shopping offer is exactly where it should be, right by the luggage belts (contrast with Dubai International Airport T3, for example, where you have to seek out the stores) and they are highly visible as you stand in the (generally short) immigration queues.
The DFS liquor [& tobacco] store (below) has a pared-down but very representative offer and it’s a more attractive store than you’ll see in many European full-service terminals. Nuance-Watson (Singapore) is part of the fabric here in Changi and does a similarly good job – though maybe it’s time to give that slightly dated pink signage a new look?
From the Budget Terminal I needed to get to T1 with a heavy suitcase and a not much lighter briefcase containing the entire Moodie Report ‘on the road’ mobile office. Such a proposition can be a nightmare at many airports.
Here the signage was clear (take a free shuttle bus to T2 and then the Sky Train to T1) and notably a security staff member was giving reassurance to a young Asian Australian woman who was worried about missing her flight.
After I helped that same young woman lift her suitcase onto the bus (I think she had brought Australia’s entire opal supplies with her), the security woman came over to me and said (loudly) “That is so nice of you Sir.” Again, with apologies to my UK friends, Heathrow this is not.
And so to T1, the grand old lady of Changi and now the subject of a S$500 million (US$352 million) refurbishment due for completion in the third quarter of 2011.
Signs proclaiming the project (dubbed ‘Tropical City’) are everywhere but I tell you that even the dated existing facililty is still humming.
Everywhere there are examples of innovation, newness, exclusivity, diversity and customer service that make this airport such a role model for the aviation and travel retail sectors.
FITS screens are everywhere; gate signage is excellent; and retailers such as Dufry (below) are getting in on the act with their own customer reassurance notices.
So there you have it – if this is the airport’s most out-of-date terminal what will the new version be like? We don’t have long to find out.