Changi Airport's Terminal 4 opens: It's all automated from check-in to boarding

Passengers from Cathay Pacific CX650, the inaugural flight to depart from Terminal 4, using the automated bag drop yesterday. Passengers from Cathay Pacific CX659 from Hong Kong, the first flight to arrive at Terminal 4, were greeted by airport staff
Passengers from Cathay Pacific CX650, the inaugural flight to depart from Terminal 4, using the automated bag drop yesterday. ST PHOTOS: LIM YAOHUI
Passengers from Cathay Pacific CX650, the inaugural flight to depart from Terminal 4, using the automated bag drop yesterday. Passengers from Cathay Pacific CX659 from Hong Kong, the first flight to arrive at Terminal 4, were greeted by airport staff
Passengers from Cathay Pacific CX659 from Hong Kong, the first flight to arrive at Terminal 4, were greeted by airport staff with orchids and goodie bags yesterday.ST PHOTOS: LIM YAOHUI

Most travellers give start-to-end automation at Changi's new Terminal 4 the thumbs up

Operations at Terminal 4 rolled ahead smoothly on opening day yesterday, with passengers taking to the start-to-end automated processes, from checking in to baggage tagging and aircraft boarding.

But not all could sail through the do-it-yourself systems - a first for Changi Airport - which uses facial recognition to ensure the same traveller moves from the first to last step.

Some passengers who attempted to board the inaugural departing flight, Cathay Pacific CX650 to Hong Kong at 6.50am, by scanning their boarding passes at the boarding gate found themselves redirected to manual counters.

Changi Airport Group's managing director (airport operations management) Jayson Goh told The Straits Times that this was because they did not use the automated immigration lanes which means their biometric details were not captured.

Without the details, the auto-boarding system is not able to verify that the person trying to board is the same person who cleared immigration. For security reasons, the traveller is then directed to the manual counters.

Nevertheless, most travellers gave the new terminal and automated systems the thumbs up.

Nurse Minee Moh, 29, said: "The check-in and baggage-drop experience was very good and very smooth. Other airports and Terminal 1 also have the self-check-in system. It saves time."

Mr C.S. Tan, an IT professional in his 40s, and his family, who were heading to Hong Kong for a week-long holiday, were similarly impressed by the airport facilities and self-check-in services.

"Everything is automated and very intuitive. We didn't know we were the first passengers, but it's nice," said Mr Tan.

His wife, Madam Angela Tan, also an IT professional in her 40s, said of the immigration clearance and security systems: "It's definitely higher security, but it wasn't a hassle. The full-body scanning machines are quite cool, like you're in a Mission Impossible movie."

Meanwhile, passengers arriving from Hong Kong on CX659 - which touched down at 5.27am and was the first passenger flight to land at T4 - were greeted at the arrival gate by airport staff with orchids and goodie bags.

At the baggage collection area, they were entertained by an instrumental quartet, and treated to coffee and breakfast.

Passengers said the arrival hall was spacious, adding that the walk from the arrival gate to immigration was fuss-free, with clear signage.

 
 
 

Mr Zhao Chuan Xin, 65, a retiree who hails from Henan, China, said: "At other airport terminals, we have to walk around to find our way. But at T4, it's a simple and direct walk from the airplane to arrivals. I'm very pleased."

At Changi Airport's other three terminals, passengers fresh off the plane often mingle with departing travellers, who are on their way to their gatehold rooms. As T4 has a centralised security screening system - a first for Changi - the two groups do not mix for security reasons.

As at 5pm yesterday, T4 had served 11 flights and about 2,400 passengers. In total, T4 is expected to have handled 19 flights, carrying about 4,200 passengers, on its first day.

When operations are in full swing, T4 will be able to handle up to 16 million passengers a year, increasing Changi Airport's overall annual capacity to 82 million passengers.

For travellers like Mr Mohamad Hossenbux, 51, managing director of an aerospace company, it is the little touches which make the difference. Mr Hossenbux, who is from Canada, said: "The ergonomics, in terms of the lighting and decor, is very subtle and pleasing."

"After a long trip, it feels relaxing and peaceful. T4 is very impressive, and its world-class features will bring travellers back to Singapore," he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 01, 2017, with the headline 'It's all automated from check-in to boarding'. Print Edition | Subscribe