Falling In Love with Changi Airport

Want to know how to fall in love with Singapore’s Changi Airport? Every few months I fly from Chiang Mai, Thailand – where I live – to Australia. Flights to the southern hemisphere leave at midnight so I’ll spend the best part of a day in one of our regional hubs: Seoul, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, or Singapore. I don’t like airports any more than you so I’ve become strategic about layovers and carrier changes.

Changi Ladies Room
Changi Ladies Room

Because my travel is private I need rock-bottom fares and, since I’ll be spending many hours there, I want the most luxurious terminal I can find. The luxury offsets the budget airlines’ expensive soup-in-a-cup ‘meals’ and zero legroom. All the terminals have their charms, of course, but Singapore’s Changi has won my heart by providing both.

I can fly 4,000 miles from Singapore to Australia for $300 on Scoot Airlines – a subsidiary of #1-ranked Singapore airlines, which is owned by the people of Singapore, who also own the terminal and most of the big national businesses. No wonder the country works os well.

Inside the terminal immaculate bathrooms everywhere have touch-screens by the door that – get this – ask you to grade the quality of your bathroom experience. Hurrah! No sign of wear and tear anywhere despite the 40 million folks who streamed through last year. Signage is bright, clear, text-and-graphics along with giant, hi-def flight information screens. Baggage handling is super-slick: my bags are usually waiting for me at baggage claim. If you get into the bowels of Changi and need directions to a halal restaurant or a changing room, Changi’s staff – whether airline, terminal, or store – are unflappably knowledgeable. They speak excellent English (it’s their national language, after all) and will often walk you to your destination, chatting amiably along the way. Downtown Singapore is a 15-minute (a/c, metered) taxi ride through tree-lined avenues. One note about Singapore: ATMs are a rarity in the city so cash up at the airport’s numerous ATMs before heading into town.

The fun part? Changi has 63 restaurants, twice as many as the average big town and twice as diverse. One of the 7 (very different, regional) Chinese restaurants, Crystal Jade, is my favorite. They open at 7 am and serve the classic Cantonese breakfast, jook – rice congee with pork balls garnished with fresh ginger, scallions, white pepper and fish sauce – from in exquisite bowls with big cups of Chinese tea. Their specialties include Hong Kong-style barbeque meats and poultry, dim sum, La Mian (hand-made, hand-pulled noodles), and Xiao Long Bao (steamed buns). All their dishes must withstand the criticism of travelling Chinese foodies – so you know it’s good.
Talk about a hub! Changi has people from everywhere. Uzbekistan Airlines, for example, flies direct from Tashkent. I’ve met Slovaks, Kurds, Chileans, and Eritreans in Terminal 3. Just flew in from Central Asia with a wad of cash you’re reluctant to declare? Changi is there for you, with $230 T-shirts, $12,000 jackets and $50,000 watches. Lots of ‘em. Pay for those goodies in Hrivina – no questions asked – and you’ve nothing to declare, right? And if you’re a family on a budget making a once-in-a-lifetime trip, they’ve got cheap meals, too, 50¢ souvenirs and big sofas to sit around on. Want free, fast WiFi all day? No problem. Just give ‘em your email address (for future marketing, no doubt) and you’re automatically signed in. Give a little, get a lot. As you can tell, Changi delivers more value for my money than any terminal I’ve seen. It’s got my business, that’s for sure.

Visual Reasons to Fall in Love with Changi Airport


Flying, Airports

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