Changi Airport has opened a new passenger terminal, sending a strong signal to rival hubs that Singapore is prepared to invest to stay ahead in the aviation race.
After four years of construction and many months of testing, Terminal 4 was off to a good start on the first day of operations yesterday, although it handled only about 25 per cent to 30 per cent of its eventual load.
The first flights in and out were operated by Cathay Pacific - CX659 from Hong Kong arrived at 5.27am, and the return flight left at 6.50am.
Departing passengers were the first to experience T4's start-to-end automated do-it-yourself processes for check-in, bag tagging, immigration clearance and boarding.
Most breezed through the process, with some help from staff.
T4 is a key piece in Changi's plans to stay ahead of its rivals. For one thing, it will help the airport handle 16 million more passengers a year - a vital holding operation until the giant T5 comes on board in the late 2020s. It is also a test bed for technology that will be used in T5.
To allow operations to stabilise, only Cathay Pacific and Korean Air moved to T4 on day one. The other seven carriers to operate there will shift progressively, with the AirAsia group comprising four carriers the last to move next Tuesday.
By the end of the first day, T4 had handled 19 arrival and departure flights, and processed close to 4,200 passengers.
Changi Airport Group's executive vice-president (airport management) Tan Lye Teck said: "We are thankful that everything has been smooth so far today."