Half a million free tickets offering a sneak preview of the Jewel Changi Airport will no doubt be snapped up once registration opens on Tuesday. Singaporeans will likely embrace the 10-storey development, opening on April 17, as another reason to visit the airport. Since its 1981 opening, Changi has consistently been named World's Best Airport, and snagged the title from Skytrax for six consecutive years from 2013. Beyond its appeal to travellers who vote it tops in terms of ease and comfort, Changi has also earned a place in Singaporeans' hearts. Avid travellers Singaporeans may be, but the airport is where they breathe a sigh of homecoming relief at the end of every trip.
It is not just a way-station either, but a destination unto itself. Generations here have grown up with the airport: families shopped for groceries, students mugged for examinations in its cool corners, and couples went a-courting there too. It is, arguably, the only airport in the world where citizens and travellers alike do not mind hanging out at, thanks to the varied amenities on offer. The pride and affectionate regard will likely grow once the Jewel - with its myriad food and beverage, shopping and recreational options - opens. Sceptics who grumble that it is yet another mega-mall miss the larger picture. Just because Changi Airport has won accolades does not mean it will continue to do so. Competitors have watched and learnt. Regional aspirants such as Seoul's Incheon and Tokyo's Haneda are snapping at Changi's heels with their own options, although none has yet to offer unexpected amenities like Changi's butterfly garden and movie theatre. The Jewel, with its early check-in lounge, integrated ticketing and baggage services for fly-cruise and fly-coach transfers, signals Changi's bid to stay ahead in the airport game. It is heartening that despite accolades, Changi's managers remain grounded in the realities of a competitive landscape.