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Which Singapore terminal is best?

Goh Jun Cheng

Singapore Changi Airport operates four main passenger terminals – T1, T2, T3 and T4. But each terminal has its own distinctive features, amenities, configuration and operational focus. So how do Singapore’s four terminals compare for travelers? Which terminal provides the best overall experience?

This guide analyzes the pros and cons of each terminal to identify the top terminal.

Brief Background of Changi’s Terminals

Changi Airport opened Terminal 1 in 1981. Terminal 2 followed in 1990, Terminal 3 in 2008 and Terminal 4 in 2017.

Currently, T1 caters to specific budget airlines while T2 and T3 handle most international flights. T4 operates chiefly for narrowbody flights. Changi will open Terminal 5 in the 2030s.

Key Evaluation Criteria

To compare terminals, we will assess:

  • Number of passenger airlines and destinations served
  • Shopping and dining choices
  • Passenger lounges and amenities
  • Facilities like gym, cinema and garden
  • Design and ambience
  • Immigration clearance efficiency
  • Public transport connectivity
  • Accessibility within and across terminals

Number of Airlines Served

T3 serves the most number of international airlines at over 80 including flag carriers like British Airways and Emirates. Regional carriers like Garuda Indonesia also operate from T3. This provides the widest destination connections.

T1 hosts only budget airlines like Air Asia. T2 serves about 50 international airlines but mostly Star Alliance members like Lufthansa and United. T4 operates SilkAir and some regional carriers like Cebu Pacific.

So for airline choice, T3 takes the lead by a wide margin.

Shopping and Dining Selections

For retail and F&B choices, T3 again leads with around 140 shops and 80 cafes/restaurants. Highlights include luxury boutiques and Singapore food outlets.

T2 comes in second with around 90 stores and 50 eateries. T1 and T4 cater more to budget travelers with basic gift/convenience retail selections. Overall, T3 provides the best shopping and dining experience.

Passenger Amenities

All terminals offer baseline amenities like pay-per-use lounges, internet corners, nursing rooms and such. But T3 stands out with additional luxuries like:

  • Movie theatre
  • Indoor botanical garden
  • Free Singapore heritage trail
  • Pool and gym
  • Massage services
  • Xbox gaming consoles

These provide exclusive amenities for travelers with extra time to enjoy Changi’s offerings. T2 however also hosts a swimming pool but on the airside.

Design Ambience

Subjectively, T3 provides possibly the most grandiose sense of space with its cathedral-like vaulted glass ceilings and minimalist decor. Its lush greenery also enhances resort-like beauty.

T2 feels more functional like a modern airport terminal but incorporates tropical garden elements like waterfalls. T1 and T4 are modest in design focus and aesthetic.

Immigration and Customs

For airport formalities, T3 and T4 offer more automated immigration lanes and faster customs clearance as newer facilities.

T3 has segregated arrival hallways based on declared health clearance to streamline COVID-19 processes. T2’s setup is more dated with lower capacity for arrivals. T1 suffers some crowding as the budget airline hub.

Generally, T3 and T4 achieve quicker flow through for arriving and departing passengers owing to their newer systems and multiple banks of automated immigration gates.

Public Transport Connectivity

T2 enjoys a distinct edge with a mass rapid transit (MRT) station directly underneath, making it supremely convenient for transit connectivity.

T3 has only bus services to distant MRT stations. T1 and T4 require road transportation like taxis, private transport or airport shuttle buses.

So T2 is the clear winner if traveling onwards locally by public transport.

In-Airport Connectivity

Transiting between terminals is facile with regular free skytrains and airport shuttle buses. Transfer is easiest between T2 and T3 given their proximity.

Travelators also link T2 and T3 airsides directly allowing shorter walks for connections. Going from T1/T4 to T2/T3 is slightly more inconvenient but still straightforward with the people movers.

Conclusion

While the newer T3 and T4 have advantages in select areas, T2 emerges as the best Changi terminal overall considering its airline spread, transport links, sufficient amenities and satisfactory design. But ultimately travelers are well served regardless of terminal. Transit flexibility between terminals is a further plus at Changi Airport.

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