For 34 years, the image of a control tower, soaring 81 metres above the eastern tip of Singapore, has become synonymous with arrivals to Singapore. Be it a homecoming for a Singaporean, or the promise of an impending holiday for a visitor, it is of no surprise then that if an icon is to be chosen for Singapore today, Changi Airport immediately springs to mind.
Opened in 1981 following the closure of Paya Lebar Airport, Changi Airport is now a major air hub in Asia. More than 100 airlines operate 6,600 weekly flights connecting Singapore to some 300 cities in over 70 countries. As one of the key drivers of Singapore’s economy, the success of the civil aviation industry and the spin-offs in trade, tourism and investments have contributed significantly to the nation’s growth.
Unbeknownst to many, the airport that has secured Singapore’s place as an aviation powerhouse came close to not materialising. Back in the mid-1970s, a decision had to be made between expanding the then Paya Lebar Airport and building a new airport at Changi. Most experts had leaned towards the former in view of the relocation costs. However, the vision to create a key aviation hub at the eastern-most corner of Singapore took flight with the backing of former Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew.
Many would say that our beloved airport is more than just a gateway to Singapore. The repeated wins as ‘World’s Best Airport’ despite competition from newer entrants, earned Changi Airport – and Singapore – international recognition, and served as a visible extension of Singapore’s reputation for excellence and efficiency.
In addition to winning accolades, Changi also wins hearts, and is key to Singaporeans’ emotional links to home. For Singaporeans, the airport is a multi-faceted destination in itself – the venue of dates, wedding photography, study sessions, marriage proposals, reunion dinners and weekend staycations, sealing its place in many Singaporeans’ hearts.
For all, the myriad of amenities and facilities – from the world’s first airport butterfly garden to movie theatres, giant playgrounds and retail splendour – has made Changi Airport the most awarded airport in the world.
It is a well-known fact that Singaporeans love to shop and eat. With its 350 retail and service outlets and 160 F&B outlets, Changi airport certainly meets those needs. Locals and overseas visitors alike are known to head to the airport several hours before their flights just to do shopping. It is, after all, one of Singapore’s largest shopping malls.
But while the airport stirs the imagination and aviation dreams of many, the commitment that drives its clockwork efficiency is no less inspiring. For a glimpse, take note of the Changi Aviation Gallery at Terminal 3, which takes you through Singapore’s aviation history. Through interactive displays and informational panels, you learn fun facts such as how inflight-catering meals are prepared. If you ever wondered why it only takes about 20 minutes to clear immigration and baggage collection, the gallery offers insights into how Changi makes that happen.
34 years on, Changi Airport continues to push its limits, with exciting developments that will continue to secure Singapore as the aviation hub of Asia. Work is now ongoing for the construction of two major developments – Terminal 4 and Jewel Changi Airport.
The latest addition to its family of terminals, Terminal 4 will augment Changi’s capacity to 82 million passengers per annum, strengthening its foothold as a major aviation powerhouse. T4 will be a terminal that is conceptualized and designed for the passengers of tomorrow, especially catering to the expectations of those from the fast growing Asia Pacific region. In the aspects of design, technology and passenger experience, the terminal will be future-proofed to be one well ahead of its time, with new concepts that will allow passengers – and Singaporeans – to rethink travel.
Jewel Changi Airport, on the other hand, is a mixed-use destination featuring attractions, retail offerings and an extension of Terminal 1 with brand new facilities for airport operations. Due for completion in 2018, the highlight will most definitely be the 40m high Rain Vortex, expected to be the world’s tallest indoor waterfall. When completed, Jewel Changi Airport will likely add to the airport’s luminous reputation as a destination on its own.
What does all this mean for Singaporeans? While the control tower will still be a familiar icon in our hearts, the lustre of T4 and Jewel will ensure that the airport continues to be a beacon for all who call Singapore home.
Photo Credits: Changi Airport Group