SINGAPORE - Changi's upcoming Terminal 4 will be a do-it-yourself haven with everything from check-in to bag tagging, immigration clearance and pre-boarding checks made available on self-service machines.
The only human contact for those who pick the DIY track will be at security.
Unlike at Terminals 1, 2 and 3 where checks are done twice - once before immigration and again just before boarding - T4 will have centralised security screening when it opens in 2017.
Once travellers enter the restricted area, there will be no further inspections.
The push for automation, widely used in airports in Europe and the United States but less in Asia, is to reduce reliance on manpower in a tight labour market, said Changi Airport Group (CAG), which broke ground on the new facility on Tuesday.
Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew told the gathering: "We should envisage a large number of passengers being able to get easily and efficiently from check- in all the way to the airplane without having to queue for service or checks by service personnel, but always having someone readily at hand to assist if necessary."
It will take time for travellers to get used to the DIY mode but Ms Poh Li San, CAG's vice-president in charge of the T4 project, is confident it will happen.
The T4 automation project will serve as a test bed for T5, the next big terminal due to be built by the middle of the next decade, she said.
Another major challenge for the team is how to integrate T4 with the other terminals. Unlike Terminals 1, 2 and 3, which are linked physically, the T4 site - where the Budget Terminal was located - is 2km from the main airport complex.
An airside shuttle will be provided for T4 travellers with connecting flights at the other terminals, so they will not have to exit and re-enter restricted areas.
Airports across the region, including those in Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, South Korea and Jakarta, are increasing capacity in anticipation of strong growth in the Asia-Pacific air travel market in the coming decades.
Mr Lui said: "Airports require sufficient capacity to attract new airlines, add new city links and increase frequencies.
"Without this, airlines would turn to other airports that can better facilitate their growth and, if this happens to Changi, it would risk losing connectivity and, consequently, its mantle of being Asia's premier hub."
T4 will be able to handle up to 16 million passengers a year, taking Changi's total to 82 million.
It has not been decided which airlines will move to the new terminal but it is being designed primarily for carriers that operate single-aisle aircraft.
Tigerair, which used to operate at the Budget Terminal and now flies from T2, has been talking to CAG about plans for T4, chief operating officer Ho Yuen Sang told The Straits Times.
"Whether or not we relocate will depend on several factors, including the cost of operating from this new terminal," he said.
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