SINGAPORE — Shopping and dining are returning to Changi Airport, while families and friends can again meet and greet passengers at the arrival halls, as the airport gears up to the reopening of Singapore's borders to fully-vaccinated travellers on Friday (1 April).
With plans to gradually relax the protocols in place since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the airport said in a media release on Wednesday that it is aiming to bring back its renowned "Changi experience" to passengers and visitors, while being ready to re-implement safety measures when necessary.
Some administrative hassles may remain – for instance, departing passengers are advised to reach the airport at least 2.5 hours before their flights to allow enough time for checks on documents such as vaccination and pre-departure test certificates.
However, Minister of Transport S. Iswaran urged Singaporeans to take such inconveniences in their stride as the city-state tries to resume normal air travelling and revive its aviation industry amid the pandemic.
"It’s always about finding the balance between safety and the traveller experience...and it's a dynamic balance because you have to respond to the evolving situation,” Iswaran said during a doorstop interview following a media tour of the airport on Wednesday.
“The pandemic has clearly introduced a new set of challenges. So I would urge all travellers to take it in their stride.”
Easier access in airport
Arrival procedures at Changi Airport will be eased, with passengers able to roam freely among its operational terminals, Terminals 1 and 3, as well as its Changi Jewel entertainment and retail complex.
As there is no need for arriving passengers to do on-arrival testing from Friday, fully-vaccinated passengers can now meet their family and friends at the arrival halls after collecting their luggage.
Previously, the arrival halls were restricted to passengers and professional meet-and-greet service personnel to minimise interaction. Barricades at Terminals 1 and 3 have now been removed.
Passengers can also take public buses or the MRT from the airport, in addition to taxis, private-hire cars and personal transport.
Fully-vaccinated passengers can also shop and dine at any of the outlets in the terminals and Changi Jewel before leaving the airport. Currently, about 65 per cent of the shops at the transit areas of Terminals 1 and 3 are open.
As passenger capacity is gradually ramped up, Iswaran said that Terminal 2 will be “progressively opened” in the course of this year, while Terminal 4 can be activated on short notice if needed.
"This is a decision that must be a function of the broader circumstances, because opening up a terminal incurs significant overheads and in terms of manpower," he said. "So it's not something where you can just open one gate or two gates at a time.”
Changi Airport said in its media release that it stands ready to implement additional safety measures when necessary.
For example, gates C1 to C3 in Terminal 1 can be activated as a Transit Holding Area within two hours, if there are countries or regions placed under the Ministry of Health's restricted category.
Also, the on-arrival testing facilities at the terminals are being maintained as standby facilities, should on-arrival testing be resumed.
Passenger arrivals recovering
The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore announced last Thursday (24 March) that Singapore will remove all existing vaccinated travel lanes and unilateral opening arrangements from Friday.
Under its new simplified travel framework, countries and regions will be classified into either the general travel or the restricted category. For a start, all countries and regions will come under the general travel category, but may be re-classified in the event of a new variant with "potentially significant" public health risk, according to the Ministry of Health.
Changi Airport said that it handled 3 million passenger movements in 2021, compared to 68 million passenger movements registered in 2019, before the pandemic. For the first two months of this year, 1.42 million passenger movements were registered – 13 per cent of pre-COVID levels for the same period.
As of March 2022, 81 airlines operate over 2,800 weekly flights – including both passenger and cargo services – with connections from Changi Airport to 116 cities across 46 countries/regions. This compares to 91 airlines operating about 7,480 weekly flights in March 2019 to 164 cities across 48 countries/regions.
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