Singapore opens new, high-tech airport terminal

Tuesday, Oct 31, 2017
Photo: The Straits Times

Singapore's Changi Airport opened a cutting-edge terminal Tuesday with a fully automated check-in system including facial scanning and computerised baggage drop points, but some passengers struggled with the new technology.

Terminal 4, built at a cost of S$985 million, will have an annual capacity of 16 million people and is aimed at coping with an expected increase in passenger numbers through one of Asia's top travel hubs.

It is packed with new technology, meaning passengers should in theory be able to check in and board without having to talk to airport staff.

On its first day of operations, more than 100 passengers arrived in the morning to take the inaugural service out, a Cathay Pacific flight to Hong Kong.

Source : Facebook/Changi Airport, Changi Airport Group, AFP, The Straits Times

Changi Airport's newest terminal - T4 - started its first day of operations on Oct 31, 2017, marking a critical milestone in Singapore's aviation history.

Airport operations went off without a hitch, with passengers for the first flight out to Hong Kong streaming in as early as 4am to the departure hall to use the self-check-in facilities.

Passengers from first flight Cathay CX650 waiting at the boarding gate.

Passengers from first flight Cathay CX650 getting a free luggage tag from Cathay before boarding the plane.

Airport staff were on hand to guide them through the process.

The first arriving and departing flights at T4 were operated by Cathay Pacific - CX659 from Hong Kong arrived at 5.40am and CX650 departed Singapore for Hong Kong at 6.50am.

Passengers arriving from Hong Kong on CX659 were greeted at the arrival gate by airport staff with orchids and goodie bags.

At the baggage collection area, they were entertained by an instrumental quartet, and also treated to coffee and breakfast.

Passengers said the arrival hall was spacious, adding that the walk from the arrival gate to immigration was fuss-free, with clear signage.

T4 is the newest terminal for Changi in 10 years after Terminal 3 was opened in 2007.

The new terminal features new technologies, systems and procedures, such as a facial recognition system that will capture a passenger's photo at different stations, centralised security screening, as well as start-to-end self-service options for check-in.

To ensure that the high-tech systems were up to speed to handle passengers, a total of 150 trials involving 10,000 volunteers and airport staff to test different systems and processes were carried out before the terminal's opening.

Cathay Pacific and Korean Air are the first airlines to operate out of T4. The remaining airlines, including Cebu Pacific, Spring Airlines, the AirAsia group and Vietnam Airlines, will progressively move over a week.

With T4, Changi Airport will be able to handle up to 16 million passengers a year, increasing its overall annual capacity to 82 million passengers.

This will provide the necessary capacity until the next major injection comes in about 10 to 12 years through the opening of Terminal 5.

Shilla Duty Free and DFS stores at Changi Airport Terminal 4.

The entertainment corner of Changi Airport Terminal 4.

T4 features curated art pieces, innovative kinetic art and many more to elevate the Changi Experience.

Nature and man coexist within the confines of the building.

Travellers headed to the boarding area will get a clear view of Runway 2.

With a high ceiling and no columns in the building, the view from the top is clear, and visitors will have no trouble finding their way around.

With petal-shaped skylights, the terminal is flooded with natural light.

T4 Departure Hall

Cushy chairs provide a comfortable waiting area for visitors.

The greenwall facade has 16,000 plants draped on it.

T4 Open House route

But not everyone managed to get to grips with the self check-in machines, forcing travellers to use counters manned by airport staff instead.

"I think it'll take a while for people and systems to get used to it," Loh K Ling, who tried to use two self-service machines before giving up and going to a manned counter, told AFP.

At the boarding gate, several travellers also had trouble getting used to the facial scanning technology and were redirected to manned counters.

Changi, often voted the world's best airport, is among hubs worldwide rolling out new technology as the fight intensifies for long-haul travellers.

Along with hubs such as Hong Kong and Dubai, Singapore is scrambling to attract the growing army of travellers - on trips such as Australia to Europe - who can choose the routing of their journeys.

A growing number of mainland Chinese are also visiting Southeast Asia, and there is competition between Singapore and other local hubs, such as Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur, to attract the new passengers.