Clarified: Singapore Changi Airport Terminal Access Rules

Filed Under: Singapore

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the absurd situation I faced when trying to access a terminal at Singapore Changi Airport.

What Happened To Me At Changi Airport?

I suggest checking out the previous post, but essentially I was traveling out of Terminal 4 on Cathay Pacific, but wanted to go to Terminal 1 to check out the new Qantas First Lounge.

This whole mess was worth it to visit the Qantas First Lounge

Long story short:

  • I tried to use my mobile boarding pass to clear security at Terminal 1, but was told I needed a physical boarding pass (which to me seems like a silly rule, but fair enough)
  • I then went to Terminal 4 to get a physical boarding pass, and then went to Terminal 2 to try to clear security, only to be told that I couldn’t clear security at a different terminal
  • Then I returned to Terminal 1, where the same agent who initially told me I needed a physical boarding pass now informed me that my boarding pass didn’t qualify because it didn’t have a stamp (even though I was never told the boarding pass needed to be stamped)

Of course they’re within their rights to have frustrating policies, though what annoyed me was the misinformation I was given by the security agent. Fortunately in the end I made it to the Qantas First Lounge, though the process literally took over two hours.

Changi Terminal 4 check-in

Airport Terminal Access Clarified

While I shared how I ended up finally making it to Terminal 1, a representative from Changi Airport reached out to clarify the actual policy for accessing terminals. I think it’s more important than ever to understand this, especially with the number of passengers departing the airport who wish to visit the Jewel, which is landside.

The Jewel at Changi Airport

So here’s the explanation of terminal access from a Changi representative, which is extremely helpful in managing expectations:

Boarding Pass Rules: Passengers may enter the transit zone (post-immigration) within 24hrs of their upcoming flight with a passport and a validated boarding pass from the airlines. As a security control measure, all non-agent issued boarding passes (kiosk printed/home printed/mobile printed) must be authenticated by the airline either manually (a stamp by the airline’s check-in counter agent), or via an electronic reconciliation system which the airlines must be subscribed to. As Cathay Pacific is not subscribed to this latter service outside of T4, our security staff had directed you to obtain a stamp on the boarding pass. We have since briefed our security staff to ensure that they communicate clearly to passengers on the required steps to validate a non-agent printed boarding pass.

We recognise that your readers who travel with Cathay Pacific out of Changi Airport Terminal 4 may wish, as oneworld elite members, to use the Qantas or British Airways lounges in Terminal 1. Our advice to them is to proceed to the Early Check-In desk at Level 1 of Jewel Changi Airport, either to check in or to have their boarding pass endorsed. Once this is done, they can proceed to Immigration in Terminal 1.

Travel between T4 and T1-3: Passengers departing from T4 can access T1 to T3 to use the facilities. Typically, T4 passengers access T1 to T3 via the airside after entering T4 transit. We note the feedback regarding the frequency of the airside shuttle service and will look at how we can improve the service.

This is helpful, so hopefully anyone in a similar situation in the future can benefit from this info. If you’re departing from Terminal 4 but want to access different terminals (which is the only problematic scenario, since Terminal 4 isn’t easily connected to the other terminals), either:

  • Go to the early check-in desk in the Jewel and make sure you get a printed boarding pass with a stamp on it, and then you can clear security at T1-T3
  • Go to T4 and clear security there, and then take the airside bus, which will allow you to access other terminals

Early check-in desk at the Jewel

The option of going to the early check-in desk is definitely going to be the most efficient option, given that the shuttle between T4 and T1-T3 doesn’t run that often. Just make sure you get your boarding pass stamped, so don’t use a mobile kiosk.

Bottom Line

I’m happy that once and for all I know the rules when it comes to accessing the terminals at Changi Airport. More than ever before I feel like people will be trying to access different terminals at Changi, given the location of the Jewel, which has been popular with visitors.

Up until now the issue has been the lack of clear rules and information, so hopefully this settles it once and for all. While I don’t fully understand the logic of these rules, ultimately I’m grateful just to understand what they are.

  1. Thanks for the update Ben, but since you voiced frustration with their process, the airport should ban you and deny you entry instead of going out of their way to clarify the procedure to your readers and take the unnecessary effort to improve their service.

  2. Rubbish authoritarian regime propaganda.
    You have been Changied.
    So if my airline is not staffed throughout the day like CX?
    They can come up with any rule (real and fake) to justify your experience.

    Why don’t SIN just force (like what any authoritarian government does) every airline to subscribe to the whatever system and just scan it before immigration, just like TSA scanners. Enforce fake tickets that will land you absurd jail time like chewing gums.

    Singapore is small enough to execute a complete propaganda and just silence opposition or journalist like their other agendas, business as usual for them.

    Problem solved. No more robotic response.

  3. The rep didn’t clarify whether you can access T4 if you have a valid boarding pass from T1-3

    Afaik, this isn’t possible (you can’t enter T4 directly from landside with that boarding pass, and you get denied when trying to use airside T4 bus)

    Granted that few people would do this, lounges at T4 isn’t that much better than the 10+ lounges at T1-3, besides the CX lounge

  4. Ben, I went through a similar fiasco as you did at the airport. When I tried to use the Early Check-In desk with an agent they told me I had to use the kiosk. The ticket printed at the kiosk gave a scan error when attempting to go through security anywhere but Terminal 4.

    I don’t see how they’ve resolved anything. Per their directions and my experience, I would have to go back and forth to the Early Check-In desk after discovering at Terminal 1 I needed my ticket endorsed?

  5. Sorry but it’s almost 2020 and to put more weight on a rubber stamp than a printed or mobile boarding pass with a valid QR code? This one is #singaporefail

  6. @Charles Tep

    I have tried this a few months ago to try out the cx lounge but I couldn’t enter t4 with a t1-3 boarding pass

  7. At Heathrow and many other airports , scanners before security are linked to numerous check in systems. Shocking why at changi they are not
    So if you have hand baggage only , checked in online and have a mobile boarding pass , you still have to check in

  8. This situation at SIN is ridiculous. Singapore Airlines issue mobile boarding passes which are perfectly good for transit but if you start your journey at SIN they are useless. Basically there’s no point in printing or obtaining a boarding pass if you have to stand in a queue to have it validated or if mobile printed anyway.

    Equally awful are their DIY immigration exit gates which require you while holding everything to give two thumb prints.

    Just like Singapore Airlines, for me the shine is wearing off Changi quickly and while the experience may be good, there are just too many petty niggles creeping in to make it as smooth as it used to be so now there are other places that are just as good to transit and some that are better.

  9. This was what I was thinking in reading the original post: wondering if there was a kiosk in T1 that would allow you to get a local boarding pass on Cathay. Either the local printed version would be essentially stamped, or if there was someone there who could validate with Cathay and stamp it at that terminal.

  10. Lucky or others, please clarify….

    If you go to the airport and print a boarding pass from the kiosk, you need to get it stamped by the airline???? Or no need to be stamped if you get it from the kiosk around 2-3 hours before the flight?

  11. Yes that is correct Singapore Airport does not offer on line checkin, its technology is stuck in the 1970’s. Everyone must check-in at a desk.

    Yes you can use a kiosk or print a BP at home but it’s worthless, you still have to line up to check-in at a desk and get it stamped.

  12. @Derek

    It depends on the airline and whether they are subscribed to the electronic reconciliation system. On some airlines you can use the kiosk and proceed straight to immigration.

  13. I had a 23 hour layover, looking forward to a free day or night your. Went to the baggage storage to store my carry on for approx 12 sing dollars, asked do you have a laptop, my answer, Yes, sorry sir we can’t store your bag. Same company and rules in all terminals. iPad ok.

    I was pissed lugging a heavy bag for 23 hours, no free trip. Wrote to management latter to find this a police rule. Such a stupid rule.

  14. Err it’s basically telling you folks, if you don’t like the way Singapore does things, don’t come. At least that’s how I interpret the words used. Well get used to it, the government is beyond god there, whatever they say, goes. Period.

  15. There’s a policy. It’s an odd (arguably dumb) one. But it exists. Ben’s experience was frustrating and confusing, he shared it. The airport informed Ben what the policy is, and Ben shared it. So now everyone knows what the policy is, and how to avoid the issues Ben faced. That seems like an incredibly helpful series of posts for anyone traveling to SIN, and a great “you don’t know what you don’t know” cautionary tale for people traveling somewhere new. Kuddos to Ben for following up, and his fact-based non-judgmental approach to these posts.

  16. > Cathay Pacific is not subscribed to this latter service outside of T4

    This makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. The airport is *not* running separate siloed reconciliation systems per terminal.

  17. Major cultural difference to note : in Singapore, we still believe in the concept of ‘service’, we expect it to be flawless, like no wait at all, and we don’t even need to be particularly nice to get it. Why would you by-pass this awesome check-in experience and use a mobile boarding pass? You’re really the odd one here

  18. I think here we have many royal highness passengers able to run a 70 million passenger airport with the highest perception around the world….
    Like loreal said ‘I do the fxxk I want because I’m worth it….’

  19. Beware, getting out of Changi can be just as silly. I bought duty free in T2 airside but was told to collect it at T3. Took the train there and after collecting my duty free goods, I exited there only to be told that I can only exit at the terminal I landed. Surely their computers are all linked and it would not make any difference?

  20. Mobile kiosk/non-agent issued boarding passes are accepted, without endorsement, if you clear security in the SAME terminal as your departing airline. 99.9% of travellers do this and therefore face no issues.

    Once airside, you can move freely within terminals, EXCEPT T4 which restricts access to passengers departing from T4 only (for now).

  21. As a frequent Jetstar traveller, I’m facing issues to enter the departure hall from T3 for the past 3-4 years, the worst part is the officer dare to tell you that only SQ passengers can enter from there… I have never encounter issue to go in from T2, more than 40+ times when flying out in T1. I’m wondering how Changi handle this especially it has been outsourced to Certis CISCO Security…

  22. The early check in is not available for passenger travelling with Cathay pacific. CX did not participate with the early in so don’t be misled that you could get your boarding pass at T1. You still need to travel to T4 to get your boarding pass from CX counter.

  23. First world problems. I’ve never been inclined to check in from a terminal I am not flying out from. Why on earth would I want to do that? For my own convenience? If I insist on having things done my way to convenience myself, how is that any different from workers insisting you follow protocol at their convenience? It’s your convenience against theirs. I’m actually a person who used to pick fights (I actually threw a chair once) with other customers if I see them not behaving because it irks me that I am following rules and others have the audacity to try and play punk. Yet at the end of the day, how does one determine whose rights get priority? My right to insist others follow rules as I have? Or their right to behave as they please? Even though I have mellowed, I still get pissed by people trying to test the system and have no qualms shaming them on social media. Again, whose rights gets priority? Mine or yours? If you don’t like the rules then don’t come.

  24. Hi Ben

    From your posts, you seemed like a seasoned traveller. Changi’s explanation makes sense. It’s also similar at airports immigration controls in Europe and China. Transit terminals doesn’t mean no security controls. EU based SQ passenger attendants have also given me wrong info at times. Wish other commenters wouldn’t politicise the matter. Airports are pretty neutral places although processes are increasingly computerised. They won’t be able to cope the avalanche of passengers otherwise. Bon Voyage on your future travels.

  25. Well, all airports around the world have their different sets of rules and regulations to follow. If you guys are seasoned travelers you should know better to read up on the rules or procedures you have to follow at the airport, even more so if you already know beforehand that you need to or have the intention to travel between different terminals. I once had to transit in Narita airport from an international to a domestic flight, did my research, read up on the procedures and rules I had to take note off and it was a smooth transit for me considering that the 2 terminals are not linked. I believe Changi wouldn’t be the last airport you guys are gonna be complaining about. So instead of looking like “whiny kids”, just do your research like adults and you wouldn’t have much of a problem at airports in future. Merry Christmas everyone! 😛

  26. Hi Ben,

    Changi Airport is quite amazing and well deserving of its praise. Rightly so Singaporeans should be proud. It is rare that I can go from the gate to a taxi in less than 15 minutes at any other airport when flying international, but that is the norm from my extensive travels through Singapore. Terminals 1, 2, and especially 3 are marvels of travel convenience and services .

    But Terminal 4 is an unmitigated disaster of traveler experience.

    I read all the comments here and the previous post and all I can say is it seems pride of nation has blinded people of their rational senses and logic. That there is no efficient transit other than (a rather infrequent) bus to the other terminals and MRT is a blunder. I fly CX quite often, but I avoid flying CX in or out of Terminal 4 if possible.

    The negative comments from Singaporeans are to be expected, but there are some that are at least honest about the failings of Terminal 4. Here is one blogger’s take, a native Singaporean who shares the frustrations you wrote about, as well as other design flaws:

    It is telling that many of the negative comments on his post are similar to the juvenile and poorly thought out comments you received. Here is one rational comment (of many other supportive comments) from a Singaporean however that I think sums up the terminal experience from a frequent traveler’s perspective:

    “Both departure ans arrival experience were extremely disappointing, comparing to the bar set by T2 and T3 – and I agree with you that Changi is still one of the best airports in the world, and there’s no need to compare with the US or UK – yet the comparison was about comsistency of the experience, where T4 suddenly departs from the other terminals for no good reason. 80% of my future travel will be done through T4, and i wish this terminal was never built.”

    Ben, you are awesome at what you do and so glad to have your blog as a go-to resource. Cheers!


  27. I was at Changi airport last week to visit the jewel. As part of this visit, my wife decided it would be good to take a free shuttle from Changi to Sengkong in order to get home. I mention this because we ended up visiting every terminal and used all the sky trains and shuttles looking for this free shuttle. I did the back and forth you mention about the bus between terminal 2 and 4. Changi is certainly a big airport when you are trying to move from one terminal to another, but it is not nearly as bad as you made out. The bus between terminal 2 and 4 is not sad. It just tends to be rather full because there are a lot of people going between these terminals. That said, it is not nearly as full as the SMRT bus that takes you into town. In my experience, everything at Changi runs very smoothly. Whatever confusion you experienced could not be worse than an average day at ORD.

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