To All Of Those Who hate Airports. This One Might Just Change Your Mind.
As a travel writer I get to travel a lot, (funny that!) meaning I spend quite a bit of my life hanging around in airport terminals. In many cases this is the downside of getting from point A to Point B as, on the whole, airports really, really suck! However there is one, where even a twelve – hour layover is something to be enjoyed.
I am referring here to Singapore’s mighty Changi Airport, a place where passengers are referred to as guests and treated as such.
Now, I know the likes of Dean Owen might chide me for not mentioning Japan’s and now China’s great hubs, but for me, Changi stands head and shoulders above the rest.
To those of you unfamiliar with this monolithic temple to international travel, sit back and let me regale you with a little history and fill you in what this airport has to offer the weary traveller.
Changi Airport serves more than 100 airlines flying to some 380 cities in over 90 countries worldwide through its existing 3 terminals (a 4th is due to open in in late 2017) Each week, about 7,000 flights land or depart or about one every 90 seconds, carrying a staggering 58.7 million passengers passing through the airport in 2016. It is the sixth busiest airport in the world and the second busiest in Asia.
In December 2016, it registered a total of 5.68 million monthly passenger movements alone, the highest ever traffic the airport has achieved in a month since it opened in 1981. In addition to being an important passenger terminal, the airport is one of the busiest cargo hubs in the world, handling in excess of 1.97 million tons per annum.
The Airport has three main passenger terminals, arranged in an elongated inverted ‘U’ shape designed to eventually cater for a total of 70 million passengers annually.
Changi has won over 533 awards since 1981, including 26 “Best Airport” awards. It has an outstanding reputation for innovation hence its ability to scoop up the World’s Best Airport award year after year. This world-beating standing is about to continue following the announcement that the airport grounds will soon house a futuristic attraction called ‘Jewel.’
It will be a 134,000sq meter mixed-use complex open both to passengers and locals, and will feature vast public gardens complete with walking trails, a ‘Rain Vortex,’ a 40-metre tall waterfall plunging into a pool from a crevice in the building’s ceiling;
When it opens in 2018 it will include such ‘over the top’ features including fantastic synchronized light and sound shows positioned throughout Jewel and naturally there will be a host of dining, drinking and shopping options.
Even though the opening is more than a year away, there is still much to keep transit passengers entertained and, believe me, there is a mountain of things to do.
Changi has an astonishing butterfly garden housing in excess of 1,000 species of butterflies all in an enclosure that features an abundance of flowering plants and a six-meter-high waterfall.
If you do feel the need to escape the confines of the airport and, if time permits, use the time productively by joining one of the airport’s two free city tours. These two-hour trips will take you through Singapore’s most famous historical sights and a lot of the new ones such as the Colonial District, Chinatown and Marina Bay Sands; to do this, passengers will simply need to ensure they have adequate time between flights; Changi takes care of the rest.
There are two cinemas in terminals 2 and 3 and, best of all they are completely free to visit. New releases and specialist releases are shown at both venues 24 hours a day.
Feeling jetlagged? Go ahead take a refreshing swim in the Balinese swimming pool as a way to unwind. It’s free to passengers staying at the Ambassador Transit Hotel, but costs about $13 for others –however the cost of entry also entitles the swimmer to a complimentary non-alcoholic drink from the bar.
Feel the need to be connected? Fast and free Wi-Fi is available throughout the airport in addition to the 550 free Internet and charging stations available in all three terminals.
Changi excels when it comes to its art installations and features modern dynamic artworks alongside ancient ceramics, traditional Asian additions as well as Singaporean pieces.
If you are passing through, be sure not to miss the two Kinetic Rain sculptures in Terminal 1.
Made of 1,216 bronze droplets and measuring 9.8 metres by 4 metres, each sculpture can form 16 different shapes ranging from abstract art forms to recognizable patterns including an aeroplane, a hot air balloon, a kite and even a dragon. The design element in each shape shows the movement of flight through slow, fluid movements.
Changi has some of the best entertainment facilities you’re likely to find at an airport anywhere. Away from the cinemas, there is an ‘entertainment deck’ complete with various computer consoles available for public use and again its free. There are ‘MTV booths’, where guests can watch their favourite music videos on individual 50-inch plasma screens.
Throughout all of the terminals there are entertainment lounges screening popular TV shows suitable for all ages as well as family zones complete with children’s toys and play areas.
The airport has always prided itself on its array of multiple gardens and green spaces for those needing to reconnect with something close to a natural setting between flights.
I could go on and on but this piece would itself run on and on. But, did I mention the sleeping pods scattered around all three terminals, the sports bars that carry every sport imaginable, the short stay hotels that rent rooms by the hour, the driverless trains that whisk you from terminal to terminal in no time flat, the miles of travelators to take you to your gate and the vast array of shops and duty free outlets that would put any high street to shame?
Finally, everywhere you look you will see blue suited men and woman just waiting to help you make your stay at this city within a city as comfortable as possible.
The only trouble with a layover at Changi is that eventually you will have to board that connecting flight which means leaving this wonderland behind.
Paul v Walters is the best selling author of several novels and when not cocooned in sloth and procrastination in his house in Bali he scribbles for various international travel and vox pop journals. His latest novel, Scimitar was released in late 2016 and his latest offering Asset, will be released in late 2017.