Flower art at Changi Airport. Picture: Andrew Baillie

Standing at the entrance to Terminal 2 at Singapore's Changi Aiport, there was only one thing I made sure I had in my hands.

It wasn't the tickets, it wasn't the passports and it wasn't the luggage. It wasn't even my youngest daughter. No, it was a stopwatch (well, the one on my phone).

A few days earlier I'd been intrigued to read, in the city state's Straits Times newspaper, that the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore requires all carriers to ensure travellers do not spend more than 10 minutes from joining the check-in queue to receiving their boarding pass.

The reason this made the news was that some low-cost airlines - which in just a decade have come to make up a third of travellers and flights at the airport - would like the "10-minute rule" relaxed so they can continue to offer low fares. The sort of fares that enticed us to head to Singapore with Scoot's new service from Perth.

"Instead of 10 minutes, why not give us 15 minutes," Logan Velaitham, head of AirAsia's Singapore office, was reported to have said. "It is a reasonable waiting time, and makes a difference to our costs. It is only by keeping costs down that we can offer our customers low fares and allow more people to travel."

Apparently, Changi Airport Group imposes fines on airlines that fail to meet the standards, while carriers also risk missing out on monetary and other incentives used by the airport to promote growth.

"We take the approach as, within each terminal, passengers enjoy the same amenities and facilities. Similarly, we believe service standards applied in a terminal should be uniform," Changi Airport Group spokesman Ivan Tan said.

Having spent many occasions shuffling along like a zombie in those zigzagging, spring-loaded canvas barrier prisons at check-in queues - some British airports come to mind, along with the KLM desk at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, where you have to first queue to print out your own ticket before then queuing to check in your luggage - I would happily wait 15 minutes for my ticket, especially if I was paying less than half of a "regular" airline's fare. After all, you don't expect the same service on board a low-cost flight.

But Changi is without doubt one of the finest airports I have been through. Clearing immigration is a breeze, both coming and going. It's not too big and chaotic (unlike the Heathrow hellhole) and you only need to go through the metal detectors when you reach your gate, which seems to speed things up.

There's a decent range of food and shops, whatever your budget, and my daughters had a ball spending the last of their Singapore dollars on Lion City T-shirts (and getting free tourist pens for good measure).

There are also orchids everywhere and one big, relaxing indoor garden has tall examples of the Dicksonia antarctica tree fern, which can only be found growing in south-eastern Australia.

Once you clear a zone, meanwhile, there are touch screens which allow you to rate the service you have just received. They even have them in the entrance to the toilets - with a sign assuring patrons that they are sanitised regularly.

It all adds up to a stress-free end to a fine holiday, and another reason why I would happily jump on a Scoot flight back to Singapore.

And the time it took to check-in? Six minutes, 20 seconds. Easy-peasy.

Andrew Baillie

The West Australian

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