SINGAPORE: Piling, excavation and structural works for the five basement levels and five above-ground levels of Jewel Changi Airport have been completed, with the S$1.7 billion mixed-use development on track to opening in 2019.
Set to host a range of shopping and dining options, Changi Airport Group (CAG) told Channel NewsAsia that to date, 65 per cent of Jewel’s overall construction has been done.
Currently, other major works taking place include the building of link bridges to connect Jewel with Terminals 2 and 3, as well as the installation of Jewel’s glass and steel façade.
Starting from the first quarter of next year, play attractions like the Sky Nets, Discovery Slides and Canopy Mazes will be installed.
Trees, ferns and other plants that will make up the 22,000 square metre Forest Valley will start being moved into the complex in the second quarter of 2018, when the building’s façade and air-conditioning system are fully fitted.
"(Jewel Changi Airport) will change a lot in terms of passenger experience, it will draw some of the local crowds as well,” said Assistant Professor Terence Fan, a transport analyst at the Singapore Management University.
“That is going to be a major shift in itself because typically we used to see airports as solely related to travel, but with Jewel being such a retail destination in itself, we can certainly even see locals going there not just for aviation-related activities."
With the development of Jewel, Changi Airport’s Terminal 1 has also been undergoing an expansion.
CAG noted that development work is about 60 per cent complete, with more spacious arrival and baggage claim halls, as well as an upgraded departure check-in hall expected.
Some manual check-in counters are also being replaced with automated systems.
When completed, the expansion will allow Terminal 1 to handle 3 million more passengers per year, bringing the annual capacity to 24 million in 2019.
TERMINAL 4 RECEIVES CLOSE TO A MILLION PASSENGERS
Jewel Changi Airport is the next major project on the horizon, following the opening of Terminal 4 on Oct 31.
So far, almost 900,000 passengers have passed through the terminal, which boasts a unique slew of self-service and automated systems from check-in to bag drop and immigration.
CAG says operations have been smooth but the organisation is mindful that passengers will need time to get familiar with the new facilities.
"Many of the latest technologies we have seen in Terminal 4 haven't quite been incorporated in most places around the world,” said Professor Fan.
“So even though other airports around the region could in time catch up, I think that would at least give Singapore a bit of time - lead time - in terms of it having a suite of advanced technologies.”
Terminal 4 – Changi Airport’s smallest terminal - is expected to handle up to 16 million passengers per year.
“That itself is not going to be a big change in terms of capacity, but what it would do is take away some of the existing operations of the terminals which are getting slightly crowded and so that will give more breathing room and room for growth for the carriers in the other terminals," said Professor Fan.
Mr Abbas Ismail, course manager of Temasek Polytechnic’s diploma in aviation management and services, added that testing out new technology at T4 could also go a long way when planning for the upcoming mega-Terminal 5.
"If it's successfully implemented in T4, then Terminal 5 would be something totally different than what we could see at terminals in the rest of the world,” said Mr Abbas.
“That's also to address some of the issues in managing our manpower for the future."
MORE THAN JUST BIGGER TERMINALS TO BE COMPETITIVE: ANALYST
Set to be ready by the late 2020s, T5 will be able to handle about 50 million passengers per year and will be bigger than Terminals 1, 2 and 3 combined – which will make it one of the largest terminals in the world.
It’s part of CAG’s Changi East project, where groundwork is ongoing.
But analysts are quick to note that having more or bigger terminals is not enough.
"The competition is not just about having big terminals, we need to continue to ensure we are providing capacity, efficient services, (and) ensure this cost is kept to a minimum for the user, especially for the airline. In order for us to attract airlines that bring in passengers, we also have to ensure airlines keep their cost low,” said Mr Abbas.
Another challenge will be attracting and training enough manpower to run an expanded airport in the future.
But experts said there is no doubt that expanding will take time and noted Singapore must continue to tap new markets to remain competitive in the nearer term.
These include the growing North Asia and China markets, as well as exploring long-haul budget travel to maintain Singapore's status as an aviation hub of choice.