Now and then: 40 years of Changi Airport


When its oldest Terminal 1 opened in 1981, Singapore Changi Airport was connected to 70 cities via 34 airlines and had a handling capacity of 30 million passengers per annum (mppa). Today, Changi is connected to 380 cities by more than 120 airlines and has a total annual handling capacity of 85 mppa across its four terminals. In 2018, the airport recorded a total of 65.6 million passenger movements, a 5.5% increase from the previous year. With this remarkable growth, comes a unique story.

From its first commercial flight landing, to opening the world’s first butterfly garden at an airport, all the way through to the recent opening of Jewel Changi Airport, this set of images provides a rare glimpse of the airport’s transformation over the past 40 years.

1979: Construction of Changi Airport commences with the laying of the foundation stone for Terminal 1

1981: Two years after the first foundations were laid, Changi Airport officially opens and sees the arrival of its very first commercial flight, Singapore Airline’s flight SQ101 from Kuala Lumpur

1988: Business Traveller UK awards Changi Airport the ‘Best Airport’ in the world – the first of many future best airport awards Changi will go on to receive. In 2019, Changi Airport picked up its seventh consecutive World’s Best Airport award at the Skytrax Awards

1990: After nearly five years of construction, Terminal 2 opens at Changi Airport, connecting Singapore to 52 countries

1995: Diving its way into history, the rooftop of Terminal 1 saw the opening of the very first swimming pool in the transit-area. The pool is still open to be enjoyed by passengers today and is part of the Aerotel Airport Transit Hotel in Changi

2007: Changi Airport made aviation history as the world’s first Airbus A380, operated by Singapore Airlines, departs from Singapore to Sydney

2008 saw the opening of Terminal 3 located at the west end of Changi Airport. This opening also revealed to the world the first ever butterfly garden in an airport

2010 saw the launch of the ‘Be a Changi Millionaire’ promotion, which gives travellers who spend a minimum sum at Changi’s retail outlets a chance to to win S$1million. 2010 also saw the creation of “The Slide@T3”, the tallest slide in Singapore and the world’s tallest airport slide, standing at four-storeys high. Changi Airport also celebrated reaching 40 million passengers in a year for the first time

2013: Changi created its first interactive installation with an almost 9m-tall “Social Tree”. The installation allows passengers to share photos and videos at the airport within its memory capsule, allowing customers to be a part of Changi’s past, present and future

2015: The famous Long Bar by Raffles comes to Changi Airport with a version of the bar serving free cocktails including Singapore Slings to passengers. The bar is situated in Terminal 3 within the world’s first DFS Duplex Store in an airport, designed by award-winning interior designer, Masamichi Katayama

2017: Terminal 4 officially opens at the south side of Changi Airport. Terminal 4 increased the airport’s capacity by another 16 mppa, bringing the total to 82 mppa

2018: Changi made more aviation history when the world’s longest non-stop flight – operated by Singapore Airlines – took off from Singapore headed for New York

2019: Jewel Changi opens as a multi-dimensional lifestyle destination with airport facilities. Designed by lead architect, Moshe Safdie, this £950 million, one-of-a-kind development features the world’s tallest indoor waterfall, an indoor forest, and a wide range of family-friendly attractions at the Canopy Park

2019: The development of Jewel also created the opportunity for capacity expansion at Terminal 1, adding another 3 mppa and bringing the total handling capacity to 85 mppa

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About Author


Ever since his first flight on a TriStar, Adam has loved air travel, and since becoming editor of the Aircraft Interiors International brand he has really enjoyed the opportunity to be involved with the latest aircraft and airline products before they are even launched. Adam co-ordinates the running of the magazine, from commissioning articles and artwork, to ensuring that high standards of quality are maintained, as well as managing online content. Adam is proud to sit on the jury of the Crystal Cabin Awards and to have laid on the bed in Etihad's Residence.

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