The new member of Changi Airport opened its doors to flying passengers in October 2017, but the official opening only took place in 2018. Many stores set up shop and facilities were installed in the meantime. So if you have already passed through the Terminal 4, it is worth exploring it again.
Just how good is the terminal?
Although T4 was built on the site of former Budget Terminal, it was by no means “budget”; it has all the amenities that its older, bigger siblings had (and perhaps much more). The Budget Terminal used to house only a few meagre stores (mainly convenience stores), but in T4, the range has widened to include big and high-end names. You can even just pop by for meals, because not only does it have a proper food court in the public area, it also has one in transit! That is on top of other popular eateries like London Fat Duck and McDonald’s.
Function-wise, T4 is more advanced than the other terminals. The whole terminal has been designed for self-service, right from check-in, to bag drop, to immigration and all the way to boarding. Only those who had issues clearing the automated services need to look for manned counters, which could be found at the end of the bag drop rows. Even then, there are also roaming staff to help out those who had difficulties navigating these high-tech machines.
The terminal also made news for their automated cleaning services. One can find such big robots cleaning the floors of the terminals. While they are still generally “supervised” by a janitor, the employment of such robots meant that older janitors who might not have the strength and stamina to carry out the full scale of cleaning activities can still be employed just to monitor and oversee the robots’ operations. Talk about keeping employment while increasing automation!
Like the older terminals, T4 also engaged a range of natural and sculptural effects to boost the ambience of the terminals. Plenty of greenery could be found in all corners of the terminal to soften the “edge” of modern glass-and-concrete building interiors, while beautiful sculptures like the wired bird or dancing petals elevate the mood of passengers. So, yes, walking through the terminal is in itself a therapeutic experience!
Art in T4 was not only presented in these sculpture, but also in the form of cultural visual arts.
After clearing the immigration and security clearance, walk through the DFS shops and then proceed to Level 2 for the Peranakan Gallery. Over there, an interior of a pre-war shophouse was replicated (both in real size and in a model positioned at the entrance of the mock up). One can even find out about the Peranakan heritage in Singapore from the exhibits inside the mock up!
And yes, you can see our world-renowned Singapore Girls donned in the 4 hues of Kerbaya, designed by Pierre Balmain. In fact, 2018 is the 50th year the first version of the iconic uniform was launched!
You can’t really miss the Peranakan Gallery, because it overlooked the Heritage Area where the massive wall replicating the facade of pre-war houses was situated. Over there, you can find famous local food, as well as a multimedia wall playing 6 minutes of music video depicting life in colonial Singapore through the love story of a couple.
I myself passed through T4 twice this year, while catching my Cathay Pacific flights; while the terminal caters mainly to budget carriers, there is infrastructure built to cater to the needs of full-service carriers like Cathay Pacific and Korean Air. In fact, there are airline lounges catered to the premium passengers of these airlines, though if you are willing to part a few tens of dollars, you can still rest your legs at the Blossom Lounge (the Cathay Pacific’s lounge is exclusive for its passengers only).
That being said, the terminal has plenty of eating, resting and shopping options that can keep one occupied in the hour or so after clearing security screening. Considering that the terminal is still new and foot traffic is low, the huge variety of seats dotted around the terminal is sufficient to cater to tired passengers who just need to catch some sleep before their next flight.
Another difference between T4 and the older terminals was the infrastructure design to segregate arriving and departing passengers. In other words, arriving passengers will walk through a dedicated walkway at Level 2 to reach the immigration counters, so that there will be no mixing with departing passengers at Level 3. The concept is similar to that found in Hong Kong International Airport; passengers looking to transfer flights (either within T4 or to T1/T2/T3) will have to keep a lookout for the signs to “transfer” to the departing level.
Initially, I thought the idea of keeping these 2 groups of passengers to be a great idea of maintaining security, though I had my reservations about making arriving passengers pass through boring walkways. I mean, compare that with the other terminals, where arriving passengers will pass through the myriad of shopping sights between the aerobridge and immigration counters, having passengers walk through such sterile walkways like those found in Hong Kong or Oslo didn’t seem like a good first impression I would like for visitors to Singapore.
Imagine my surprise when I walked through the passageway for the first time!
For one, the passageway not only allowed passengers to see the apron (and thus the view of the runway), but also adopted the design principle of Changi Airport: indoor greenery. There were plenty of travellators along the way to help those whose legs need to “warm up” after being cooped up in a tin can for hours. For myself, I found that the lack of distractions found in other terminals helped me find my way to immigration more easily, and of course, faster. For that, I must say I had to eat my words about initial scepticism about this design.
The greatest surprise lay in the smallest details. When you are walking towards the immigration, remember to look up. The designers had found a low-cost, but interesting way to make the lights “interact” with passengers, leading them onwards to the immigration counters. That was no high-tech wonder, yet it was a great easter egg to be found, especially for seasoned travellers like me!
Watch the following videos to see the visual effects for yourself!
I must say my blog entry for Changi Airport’s T4 isn’t that focused; I was more spurred to describe my excitement in exploring the terminal than introducing the “new and unique” features found in the terminal, so pardon my half-heartedness in writing about those self-service check-ins, for example 😛
To end this article, I strongly recommend one to try and book a flight that flies through T4 to experience the new terminal. For those who had, check in early to give yourselves more time to explore the eateries and facilities. Even for me, despite having passed through the terminal twice, I still had not finished exploring the transit area!
The pictures of this post were taken using Google Pixel XL and Olympus TG870. The video, also posted on Youtube, was edited using Flimora.