New Singapore Air Terminal Takes Off

After months of systems testing and anticipation, Changi Airport's third air passenger terminal officially began operations Wednesday

After months of systems testing and anticipation, Changi Airport's third air passenger terminal officially began operations Wednesday, handling a total of 64 scheduled flights—37 incoming and 27 outgoing.

Terminal 3, built at a cost of S$1.75 billion (US$1.22 billion), is the airport's largest terminal spanning a floor area of 380,000 square meters and has the capacity to handle some 22 million customers a year.

Terminal 2, which opened in 1990, cost S$838 million (US$584.7 million) and occupies an area of 358,000 square meters, while the 27-year-old Terminal 1 cost S$585 million (US$408.2 million) and is spread over 280,000 square meters.

From early last year, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) began testing integrated airport systems such as passenger check-in, baggage handling and immigration clearance. Over 50 trial flights, of which 20 involved actual passenger flights operated by national carrier Singapore Airlines (SIA), were carried out at Terminal 3 over the past months to ensure the new terminal would be ready in time for its official opening day.

According to the CAAS, the underground airport baggage tunnels linking terminals 1 and 2 were modified and a new tunnel was built to link terminals 2 and 3. To ensure the baggage of passengers with connecting flights at a different terminal are transported promptly, a high-speed inter-terminal baggage transfer system was implemented. It runs at a speed of 7 meters per second in underground tunnels, allowing the transport of a piece of baggage between Terminal 2 and Terminal 3, for example, to be completed in about 3 minutes.

Apart from shopping and dining, passengers in the new transit terminal can enjoy free Internet access and watch movies for free. There are 198 Internet kiosks in Terminal 3, compared with some 300 in Terminals 1 and 2 combined.

With the launch of Terminal 3, some SIA flights will move over from Terminal 2 to the new terminal. Previously, all SIA passenger traffic were managed at Terminal 2.

Most long-haul SIA flights will be operated out of Terminal 3, said the CAAS, while shorter regional flights will continue to utilize Terminal 2. Other carriers such as China Eastern Airlines, Jet Airways, Qatar Airways and United Airlines will commence operations at the new terminal in March.

Terminal 3 welcomed its first arriving flight Wednesday at around noon. Passengers who arrived on SIA flight SQ001 from San Francisco were greeted by Singapore's Minister for Transport and Second Minister for Foreign Affairs Raymond Lim, and were treated to a traditional lion dance performance.

Lim said: "The opening of Terminal 3 marks a significant milestone for Changi Airport as it will increase Changi Airport's total annual capability to about 70 million passenger movements, enhancing its position as the regional aviation hub."