Changi Terminal 4 Preview!

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This is not going to be like any other report.

This post is about Changi Airport Terminal 4…. a sneak preview!!!!!!

I have been fortunate enough over the years to fly through Changi airport on many occasions. In fact the last time I flew through Changi was for my recent weekend trip to Bangkok (Mini Trip Report: Bangkok July 2017).

In July, Changi made tickets available for people to go and look around the new Terminal 4 from Aug 7 to 20. I only figured this was happening late in the day, so there was only an afternoon slot during a week day. Ideally I would have chosen a weekend so I wouldn’t feel so rushed, but I guess it’s like my normal weekend trips away. To be honest, I was really fortunate to get any ticket. I read the news the next day and they said that 75,000 tickets had already been allocated.

The new terminal 4 at Changi International Airport is supposed to keep Changi at the top of regional and global airport game.

I took the MRT to Terminal 3 and we were bussed to Terminal 4 from the coach stop.

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Things about Changi Terminal 4

Do more with less

Some would say that size matters, but Changi Terminal 4 really stands for the riposte “it’s what you do with it”. Terminal 4 is about half the size of Terminal 3 and yet can carry around 70% of the passenger numbers.

I think part of the reason that they are able to do more with less is that centralised security area, which I talk about more later.

State-of-the-art technology

When you build a fresh terminal, you have an opportunity to fill it with the latest gadgets, and Terminal 4 is no exception.

Terminal 4 will have so-called FAST (Fast and Seamless Travel) in operation. This means that you can do check-in, luggage drop, immigration and boarding using technology rather than having people do it for you. I’m not exactly sure the science behind it but apparently when you check in, facial recognition technology tags itself to you for the rest of your journey through Terminal 4. 

There isn’t a video of the demonstration, but here are some photos.

This is one of the rows of the check in desks and the bag drop area.

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The presenter and team – look at the enthusiasm from the guy on the right!

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You can check in here. It will print out your boarding pass and your luggage tag.

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Put the luggage tag on the side of the luggage.

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You have to put your luggage on the conveyor, it gets scanned. You also scan your boarding pass as well.

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The automated check-in is not new. Checking-in is not a problem. What I always struggle with is the luggage tagging. I just hope that if I do use this, there won’t be too long a queue behind me which would drive crazy all those waiting for me.

The good news is that there will also be normal staffed check-in counters.

After you go through check-in, then you need to go through immigration.

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I know this is similar to the gates used in other terminals. But what I don’t know is how people who can’t clear through this method, are able to get through this. I tried to find out, but no one could answer it.

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Another fun bit of technology was the cleaning robots. They had some of them roaming around, but below are the three musketeers.

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Security will be centralised

Unlike Terminals 1, 2 and 3, where security is screened at the gates, security screening will take place in a centralised fashion like nearly every other airport. How effectively they deal with this, will determine for many passengers how they remember their experience at the airport. Given it’s generally an appalling experience at most other airports, I wonder how Changi will try to improve on it.

Changi clearly expects longer queues as a result; after all this happens in nearly all airport. However, to try and reduce the tensions involved in waiting for the person in front to remove their shoes, belts etc, there will be 70 metre long screen that is supposed to entertain you as you wait for your flight, supposed.

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I think they mentioned the running time is 50 mins. The show they presented to us was only 5 minutes, so they probably shortened it for us. They also had calming music, which probably is to help lower the blood pressure. I guess if you have to wait longer than the 50 minutes running time, you will go mad!!!!!!!

One of the ways they will make life easier, is that you will no longer need to take out your electronic devices and put them on a separate tray – believe they are using MRI scanners.

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While this is a good development, there are always going to be those people who still pack stuff that you can’t take as hand carry, which will still slow down the flow. What they need to do is make sure that there are plenty of staff on hand to man the security screening when it gets really busy.

One advantage of the centralised screening is that there is quite a lot of space to move around in the airside areas. The removal of the secured gate areas as they have in Terminals 1, 2 and 3 means that they have more space. The departure gates are replaced by a “Boulevard of Trees”, and yes, they’re real!

One thing to remember is that if you have water in your bottles when you reach this point, you will either need to throw the bottle away or drink it up!

You won’t be bored inside

Changi has made every effort to ensure people aren’t bored when they use this terminal.

Art works and nature

Singapore is described, among other names, as the Garden City and Changi has made this part of their philosophy when you look at the othr Terminals. Terminal 4 is no exception, as I mentioned previously, they have the “Boulevard of Trees”.  Which looks pretty fabulous. Brings nature to you.

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What I noticed was that there weren’t a whole lot of seats. It appears there are a decent number, but if you think of the number of seats in the normal gate areas, this is nowhere enough for the all the flights that are going to end up departing from terminal.

Some random figurines in the main concourse … again … not enough seats 🙂

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Petalclouds

When I first heard about this, I did think it was a bit a crass, but having actually seen them in action, my mind was blown.

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My photos and amateur video don’t really do it justice, so I’ll leave it with Changi to show it themselves.

They call it a grand-scale kinetic sculpture. Whatever that means!!!  

All I know is that it’s pretty clever and mesmerizing. There are lot of descriptions that have been banded about, but really you just have to watch it to understand how great it is.

Perankan themed heritage zone

One of the things that has been really sold is the Perakanan-themed heritage zone. There is a big LED screen that basically shows a 6 minute love story between two people (and supporting cast) on a facade of shophouses. I’m not entirely convinced about this. I guess if you only see it once it’s fine, but if you are stuck at the airport for a couple of hours, I’m pretty sure it’ll drive you mental. At least it’s supposed to be silent so you don’t have to hear the same script on and on.

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Here’s a rather wobbly video of the show

After you have watched the movie you can then purchase food/goods that are traditional such as Bee Cheng Hiang, Bengawan Solo, Eu Yan Sang and Old Chang Kee. As there is a lot of small eats from these shops, I think they airport will need to add more bins as there weren’t many that were that obvious.

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Since I didn’t use the toilets, I didn’t get a chance to see it but apparently they have been designed in the British colonial-style – I don’t what this is, so if anyone can explain it to me?

Shop/eat ’til you drop  

Of course what would an airport be without restaurants and shops!? I’ve already mentioned the Bee Cheng Hiang, Bengawan Solo, Eu Yan Sang and Old Chang Kee which are located in the Peranakan zone, but there is plenty more choice.

In the public space – that is to say, available to people even if they are not travelling.

Public F&B

Source: Changi airport

In the transit area

Transit F&B

Source: Changi airport

One very interesting observation is that to get from the centralised security to the gates, you are funnelled through this narrow corridor of shops. And yes, it really is this narrow.  I hope that when they remove the hoardings, there will be a bit more space, as it does feel a bit claustrophobic.

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As you walk through there are plenty more shops for your credit card to meet. For those looking for lounges, they are on the second floor along with the rest of the food outlets.

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More photos of cheap shops….

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You connect to other terminals by bus 

Unlike Terminals 1, 2 and 3 there will be complimentary shuttle bus service.

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I’m not sure how this will work out when it’s very very busy. This seems like a mistake in my view. They will probably have to build a skytrain to integrate into the future projects of Terminal 5.

When I asked about this, they said that most of the airlines travelling out of Terminal 4 will not have many automatic connection. For example, Cathay will fly in from HK and Bangkok, but would be unlikely to connect with other Oneworld carriers from Singapore. This also explains why AirAsia has grouped all it’s flights together. However, speaking of AirAsia, I think they are missing something here – if you are flying AirAsia, you are most likely a budget traveller so will probably want to transfer within the same Terminal (similar to the Budget Terminal).

Also, if you look into the actual transfer area (mea culpa: I didn’t take a photo), it is quite small so I don’t know how they will cope if they get more than 100 people at one time.

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Which airlines will be flying?

There are technically 9 airlines flying from the new terminal. However, 4 of them are part of AirAsia, so actually only 5 airlines will be flying from it:

AirAsia (Indonesia AirAsia; Thai AirAsia; Philippines AirAsia)
Cathay Pacific
Korean Air
Vietnam Airlines
Cebu Pacific
Spring Airlines

And they had stands for each one.

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As you can imagine, Air Asia was the most fun. They had a competition for those who took a photo with their balloon crew and posted it to social media.

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Cathay had a pair of their business class seats on show. I started queuing but their were many families in front of me and since I’ve already travelled them in A350 I didn’t feel the need to actually go and sit in the seat [I’ve reviewed these in my Mini Trip Report: Bangkok May 2017 if you are interested].

I fly Cathay at least once a year, so at least I’ll have a chance to use the airport once.

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Korean Airlines had some bears you could pose with.

For the other airlines, Vietnam Airlines, Cebu Pacific and Spring Airlines, I never saw anyone manning those booths, which was a bit of a let down.

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The terminal has already had its first passengers

Although it is still undergoing trails, there was a service test on 23 June, with an AirAsia flight from Kuala Lumpur (and subsequent return flight) using Terminal 4 for the first time.

 Terminal 4 will be joined by Terminal 5 in the 2020s

Changi will get an additional Terminal sometime in latter part of the next decade.

The massive Changi East project will increase passenger capacity at the airport by an additional 50 million when it’s completed – that’s more than 3 times as much as Terminal 4 is expected to have.

It’s due for live operations in November/December 2017

I will eventually get to use it, but not until next year:(

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