A Look At Singapore Changi’s Incredible New Terminal 4

Filed Under: Singapore

Singapore Changi is already the world’s best airport, though they’ve just raised the bar even more, with the introduction of their new Terminal 4. Terminal 4 is opening this year, and will be home to Cathay Pacific, Korean Air, Vietnam Airlines, AirAsia, and a few more airlines.

The existing terminals at Changi Airport are already gorgeous, though this looks even more impressive. The airport has just shared an animated video providing a tour of the new terminal, and it looks stunning. If you have a few minutes, check it out, as it walks you through the entire experience, from check-in to the gate:

For Cathay Pacific flyers this new terminal is especially exciting, as the airline is opening a new lounge here, which should be modeled after The Pier in Hong Kong.

I addition to the terminal as such being beautiful, one interesting thing I noticed is that the terminal will now have a centralized security checkpoint. Other terminals at Changi Airport have security at the individual gates, so which system is better is a function of personal preference.

However presumably this means there will be no sterile airside transit possible between the rest of the airport and Terminal 4.

And as if this terminal isn’t impressive enough, keep in mind that Changi Airport has something even greater in the works.

The airport is in the process of constructing a mixed-use complex that won’t just be cool for those traveling, but will even be a destination for locals. It’s called The Jewel, and is scheduled to open in 2019. It will be connected directly to Terminal 1, and will have bridges connecting it to the other terminals as well.

Singapore, keep doing what you’re doing, and setting the global standard for airports. No other airport can even come close to competing with Changi, in my opinion.

(Tip of the hat to SINJim)

  1. Good question about the transfers between T4 sterile airside and the rest of the terminals at Changi sterile airside areas.

    Most of the airlines in Terminal 4 though will have little to no connecting passengers from those airlines to others from my understanding (part of the draw for the airlines to move there are heavily O&D or through connections from the same airline to same airline, as rarely as it happens).

    Sidenote: Anyone remember what was there before T4? The good ol’ budget terminal? That was such a bare bones facility and it only lasted a few years. And only Tiger Air, Firefly and Cebu Pacific used it.

  2. The only minor negative about this airport is the lack of a direct airport train to city centre. There is one subway/local train, but you need to change trains to go the city.
    It feels like the government was hamstrung by the taxi mafia – i cannot imagine any other reason why they decided to use reclaimed land at the edge of the island but could not come up with a plan for an airport express.
    Even the proposed super fast train to Malaysia will start from the other end of the island.

  3. Just flew CX in F recently and felt like the inflight amenity kit has really gone down hill. I have seen nicer kits from business class on other airlines. Also visited SIN. When this terminal opens will you be able to visit most of these features if you are flying out of another terminal? I know in the terminal I went through they didn’t have security until you were right in the boarding area. Not sure if that is consistent throughout the entire airport. Also it was a bit weird having to go through security when arriving at the airport.

  4. Terminal fly-through really does make it look like a place in which I would want to linger. The trees are a remarkable feature.

  5. @spk – I believe they did study direct train service to the city center and the cost/value was deemed to not be good. In other words, it would have provided nothing cost effective or significant benefit as the city can be reached from the airport on the MRT in about 35 minutes. A direct train (ala Hong Kong) would offer negligible time savings to the MRT and cabs.

    Also, transferring at Tanah Merah station is super easy, you walk 5 feet across the platform and wait for the next train to the city. I don’t think that could be any easier.

    Future rail links to the airport will likely be MRT lines from Changi to the northern parts of Singapore. There’s already an extension to the downtown line at Expo (1 stop from airport) opening soonish which should make the airport more accessible on public transport.

  6. @spk – also to answer your question as to why Changi is where it is, we have the wisdom of Lee Kuan Yew and Boston Logan Airport to thank for that (not joking, Changi is inspired by BOS).


    In a nutshell, the old international airport at Paya Lebar needed expanding but was space constrained as it was inland and surrounded by developments. So they built Changi from scratch. No telling what Singapore would look like today had that not happened.

  7. @Bill – security at the gates is consistent throughout T1-T3 at Changi (though there’s a random security check and X-ray upon passing into the departures area for Immigration clearance).

    You can go through departure immigration in any of the T1-T3 terminals regardless of where your flight is in Changi at present, though not sure how that would be affected with T4 coming online soon and how intra-terminal airside but unscreened passenger transfers would go. I’m gonna guess it’s by bus and if you’ve cleared immigration but not security yet in T1-T3 then perhaps it’s a bus and you go through a security checkpoint on arrival at T4. Just speculating but they think these things through at Changi so they’ll sort it out.

  8. I hate airport shopping malls. The best airport has enough seats at gates to accommodate each and everyone and not leave 2/3 of a larger plane standing and waiting around.

  9. @spk – granted there is a change – but it only takes five minutes and the train to the city centre only costs SGD1.71 (about USD1.25) – which is insanely cheap for a first world city.

  10. It is easy to be “the best airport in the world” when money is no object.

    Changi is, and has always been, a vanity project of the Singaporean government. Which airport in the world could get away with building a “budget terminal” and then tearing it down a few years later to be replaced with this Taj Mahal of a terminal, still supposedly serving low-cost carriers, which are by far the fastest-growing segment of traffic at Changi? all the while when the airport is pretty much over-capacity (they had no problem absorbing the budget terminal operations in T2 when it was shut down). Then there is the wildly extravagant “Project Jewel”, with pretty much zero airport/transportation value. Why would any airport invest in a project like that?

    Look, it’s all great for travellers, and certainly locals love it too. But comparing Changi to any other airport – save for the other vanity airport projects in the Middle East – is ridiculously unfair. Others airports are generally cash-strapped and accountable to local governments and the public. Changi has has free reign in that respect since the days of LKY.

  11. Changi is one of my favorite airports. Every time I fly through there I am impressed at the new additions.

  12. @Tom
    That’s like saying people should be happy with Piccadilly line from Heathrow. What am talking about is the lack of a Heathrow express or even a Heathrow Connect.

    Through the Jewel they might attract more of the transit crowd, those transiting to Malaysia and Indonesia, but that’s not a big deal anymore.

    Also I wonder what’ll happen to shops in malls on Orchard road etc if tourists will end up doing more of their shopping at Changi.

  13. OT,

    Agreed but what does it say about some of these city-state principalities that they are willing to invest and build something like this?

    While the US continues with its “private affluence; public squalor” approach which gives is rat-holes like Newark and LAX, which would be a national embarrassment any place else.

  14. @spk

    I don’t think that is a fair comparison. In London there is a good need for a ‘middle ground’ between the tube and taxi – you have the tube at £6(USD8) and a taxi at £60 (USD80) – the heathrow express at £20(USD35) fills this gap nicely.

    In singapore, given a taxi only costs SGD20(USD14) there is no real need to provide a ‘quicker’ train than the MTR.

  15. At the risk of sounding like a crabby old git, am I the only one who’s perfectly happy with an airport that’s just, well, an airport? A port for airplanes? Not a shopping mall, not a park, just a place you go to and get on airplanes to go places with a minimum of angst, annoyance, and expense, and spending as little time there as possible.

    I’m not suggesting every airport be as miserable as LaGuardia, but I like relatively simple efficiency. A few nice restaurants and a few shops for connecting passengers with a little time to kill are nice, but that’s about it. Something like TPA for a domestic airport, with a little more for a hub.

    And who pays for all that extravagance? The Singaporean government, or the airlines?

  16. Ben- per your comment re. this having a centralized security checkpoint vs. the other terminals where security is at the individual gates, can you speak as to why airport such as this, Amsterdam, etc. do this? The main thing I don’t like about it being at the gate is the fact that it limits one from bringing on liquids purchased in the terminal or brought out from a lounge. 🙂 It also throws off the timing of when to arrive at the airport/leave a lounge as you don’t know how much extra time to allot to get through…and then you are ‘stuck’ in there after clearing. Any insights as to why airports/cities choose a system like this? And do you ever see Singapore changing terminals 1-3 into a centralized location? Thanks much.

  17. @CR, yes it was built in the location of the old budget terminal – which did “not meet passenger needs” any longer – as in, people expected more from Changi airport than a bus terminal waiting room…
    @OT, Changi is not a “vanity project” – it’s a sound business decision, money drives all/most government decisions in Singapore! A lot of businesses have their regional headquarters in Asia and Changi is a key factor in making that decision. If you travel every week on business, it makes a huge difference in terms of reliability, time and comfort.
    Changi also gives SQ a leg up – a carrier with minimal “home market” that is solely competing on it’s ability to connect people to other places.
    @Tom, agree – there is no need for a faster train – taxis are relatively cheap and the train is fast enough if you want to save money!
    @Ben, agree on the loud carpets – the Changi folks are also managing the new Yangon airport – and it has the exact same carpet!!

  18. Martin: I agree that the level of under-investment in many US airports is appalling. But just pouring money unaccountably into an airport to make it “the best”, regardless of its actual needs, strikes me as vain and wasteful, even in the case of a government (Singapore) which generally invests in many other, worthwhile and non-wasteful infrastructure projects. T4 and Jewel are nothing by the way – wait for the mammoth (and largely unnecessary) T5.

    Rupert, I think businesses gravitate to Singapore for many reasons. Yes, a good airport is one of them, but you don’t need all those bells and whistles and acreage of empty space which you see all over Changi. HKG achieves that much more cost-effectively.

  19. To all the people bemoaning Changi as a government vanity project – I post the alternative question – why not?

    In contrast to most western economies Singapore is far from broke – in fact it is one of the only countries in the world with no external government debt.

    Coupled with around 300 billion in a sovereign wealth fund Singapore can clearly afford to invest in a fantastic airport – even if it isn’t commercial.

    Given Singapore’s position as a hub for business in the south-east asian region I can absoulutely see the advantage of a fantastic airport, particularly if you travel for work extensively like so many Singaporeans do.

    I broke my own record last week, from my desk at work (in the CBD) to the Krisflyer lounge in 27 minutes. 1 minute to go down in the lift, 20 minutes taxi to airport and 7 minutes to check in at the self-check in terminals, clear immigration (e-gates) and walk to the lounge.

    As far as I’m concerned convenience like that is worth every penny the Government spends on their airport.

  20. I used Changi for the first time recently, and I was left a bit underwhelmed, to be honest. I think the VAT refund might have been the most impressive bit.

    It took an hour to get through immigration as the computers crashed. We decided to give the butterflies a miss and head straight to the Singapore Airlines lounge on the return flight – my wife and I might have been the first and second people to ever ask for champagne; it took three people and about fifteen minutes for my request to be understood.

  21. Thomson-east coast line and cross island line. Thats the potential city direct service from changi.

  22. @Spk, Taxi from the airport to city centre in Singapore costs less than the Heathrow Express does, and only takes 20 mins. In addition you could take the MRT train in little over a half hour. Why would the Singaporean government need to build a dedicated express train at a cost of potentially billions? London and Singapore are radically different cases in terms of airport access.

    FWIW please also note that in Hong Kong the Airport Express train has never once met its ridership targets or turned a profit since most people still use road transport (and HKG is farther by road from the city centre than SIN is), so I can’t imagine an express train to SIN being feasible.

  23. The train from the airport to the city was direct around 2002-03, however it was changed (back?) to a shuttle between Tanah Merah and the airport due to there being many more passengers on the branch to Pasir Ris than the one to the airport.

    It’s a shame that Terminal 4 is not connected to the internal SkyTrain. Perhaps it’s not that necessary in terms of passengers transferring to T123, but means Terminal 4 passengers probably won’t bother visiting Jewel.

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