Changi Airport: History, Timeline and Bright Future

Singapore changi airport, jewel changi airport

Singapore Changi Airport, often known as Changi Airport, is a major civilian international airport serving Singapore and one of Asia’s busiest transit hubs. As one of the world’s busiest airports in terms of international passenger and cargo traffic, it has been named the ‘World’s Best Airport’ multiple times by Skytrax, and is the first airport in the world to hold the title for eight years in a row.


History and timeline of Changi Airport

A flying airplane in a cloudy day

Making the switch to Changi

The airport relocates from Paya Lebar to Changi on June 30, 1981.

The next day, Terminal 1 formally opens its doors with the arrival of its first flight, SQ101 from KL, at 0700 hours. The first flight, SQ192, departs for Penang at 0800 hours the following day.

In only two weeks, the airport receives 250,000 visitors, or one out of every ten Singaporeans. After immigration, paid trips to the restricted area are available for $0.50 per person.

The new airport further solidifies the airport’s status for world firsts.

Changi Airport was the first to pioneer the concept of airport gardens in the 1980s, as well as the first to allow passengers to make free local phone calls while in transit.


Terminal 2’s construction gets underway


Construction on Terminal 2 starts as Changi Airport surpasses the 10 million passenger threshold in 1986.


The inaugural ‘Best Airport’ award


Changi Airport earns its first “Best Airport” award from Business Traveller UK in 1988. It is also the year when a quality service management program is implemented to improve airport service standards.

SIA becomes the first airline to fly a B747-400 across the Pacific on a commercial route. 52 airlines provide 1,900 weekly flights from Changi to 111 cities in 52 different countries. Arrivals of tourists reached 5.3 million.


Opening of Terminal 2


In the first decade of the 1990s, Changi Airport is home to 52 airlines that offer 1,900 weekly flights to 111 destinations across 52 nations. Arrivals of tourists reached 5.3 million.


In order to serve the steadily increasing number of travelers, Terminal 2 opens formally in 1991. The Changi Airport Skytrains are introduced the same year to provide travelers with a quick, pleasant link between the two terminals.


Visit by Princess Diana to Singapore


The late Princess Diana awards Mr. Tjong Yik Min, Singapore’s Permanent Secretary (Transport), with the 1993 Business Traveller UK Award.


The first transit-area swimming pool in the world

A rooftop swimming pool opens at the Terminal 1 transport area in 1995. The pool, which provides customers with a new option to unwind after lengthy trips, is a big favorite.


The first Open Skies Agreement has been inked


Singapore becomes the first Asian country to sign an Open Skies Agreement with the United States of America in 1997. Changi Airport also breaks the 20 million passenger threshold in the same year and celebrates its 10th straight year as the ‘Best Airport in the World,’ according to Business Traveller UK.


Contemporary technological era

New Millenia of Technology‎
New Millenia of Technology‎ [picture from]
A new generation of tech-savvy travelers are being catered to by facilities and services that Changi Airport has introduced with the start of the new millennium.


64 airlines provide 3,400 weekly flights from Changi Airport to 145 locations in 50 different countries. Construction on Terminal 3 starts in October 2000.


‘What’s Your Range?’

'What's Your Range?'‎
‘What’s Your Range?’‎ gameshow [picture from]
‘What’s Your Range?’ was the world’s first airport game show, organized by Changi Airport. to coincide with the World Cup


Broadband Internet access is centralized at Changi Airport’s E-Hub, and by 2004, the airport had 200 Internet terminals, a global record for airports.


Opens Changi Airport MRT


An additional means of transportation to the airport is now available with the formal opening of the Changi Airport MRT Station by SMRT, which links Changi Airport to Tanah Merah on the East-West (EW) line.


Flight notifications are also sent to passengers through SMS, and flight information became available on mobile devices in 2002 to ease the travel process.


Spiderman and self-service check-in systems

Spiderman and Automated Check-in Systems‎
Spiderman and Automated Check-in Systems‎ [picture from]
Spiderman descends Changi’s 80-meter-high Control Tower to commemorate the premiere of the Spiderman film in Singapore.


Changi Airport conducts a six-month trial of the world’s first automated check-in system, which merges the check-in and immigration operations for exiting passengers, in 2004.


First Skytrax title for Changi Airport


Changi Airport is named the “World’s Best Airport” in the first-ever Skytrax World Airport Awards in 2006.


The brand-new Budget Terminal debuts on March 26.


Terminal 2 upgrades its infrastructure and operating systems for S$240 million later in the year.

The Changi Airport marks its 25th anniversary on July 1.

The first butterfly garden in the world debuts


The grand opening of Terminal 3 is July 1, 2008. The brand-new terminal has an unusual “butterfly” canopy that fills the terminal structure with daylight.


The ground-breaking roof not only gives travelers a novel, soothing experience, but it also produces the first in-airport Butterfly Garden in the world. The Terminal is a tropical nature sanctuary where more than 1,000 free-roaming butterflies currently call home.

The $500 million in-depth renovations to Terminal 1 are finished in May 2008.

The Singapore-Kuala Lumpur route has now been completely liberalized, allowing Malaysian and Singaporean airlines to operate an unlimited number of flights between the two capitals.


Changi Airport has been corporatized


Changi Airport becomes a corporation on July 1, 2009, and the Changi Airport Group (CAG) is founded. The Minister for Finance, incorporated in Singapore, is the Company’s immediate and ultimate owning entity. CAG performs critical duties related to airport operations and administration, airhub development, commercial activities, and airport emergency services. It effectively takes over from Singapore’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAAS).


Changi Airport reaches a new milestone in 2010, surpassing the 40 million passenger threshold. With the start of thrice-weekly services between Singapore and Vientiane, ASEAN’s intra-regional connectivity is complete. Singapore currently has direct flights to all nine ASEAN member countries.

‘Be A Changi Millionaire,’ a retail promotion, was introduced. This campaign gave the most money in Singapore.

[email protected], Singapore’s highest slide at 10 meters, launches in May 2010.


Improving the Shopping Experience


The Changi Rewards card program is created in 2011 to boost retail and eating spending at the airport.


Changi Airport introduces Changi Experience Ambassadors (CEAs), roaming customer service personnel that assist tourists and travelers throughout the airport.


Changi Airport became directly connected to Brazil in March of that year, with the debut of SIA flights to Sao Paolo.


Unveiling of Kinetic Rain in Terminal 1

Kinetic Rain Unveiled in Terminal 1‎
Kinetic Rain Unveiled in Terminal 1‎ [Picture from]
The Terminal 1 refurbishment will be finished by June 2012. In the Departure Hall, Kinetic Rain, the biggest moving sculpture in the world, is presented. The artwork, which measures 9.8 by 4 meters and is made up of 1,216 bronze droplets, can take on 16 distinct shapes and abstract patterns.


Budget Terminal closes the same year to make room for Terminal 4.

With the release of the iChangi HD app, travelers will have immediate access to flight information, terminal maps, and data on everything the airport has to offer.

Business Traveller UK has awarded Changi Airport with the title of “Best Airport” for 25 years running.


Plans for new construction and e-commerce


The three-runway system, Changi East, Jewel Changi Airport, and Terminal 5 development proposals are presented in 2013.


To provide travelers with more convenience, comfort, and value, a new online shopping platform called iShopChangi is launched.


The first day of Terminal 4’s construction is in November of that year.


Beginning of Jewel construction

Iconic Jewel Changi Airport
Jewel Changi Airport iconic artificial waterfall. [Picture from:]
The Jewel Changi Airport’s development gets under way in December 2014.


In order to promote and implement seamless connection for travelers, the Fast and Seamless Travel (FAST) initiative is introduced at the same time. It will be put into place across the airport, including the brand-new Terminal 4, in stages.


Marking the 500th time we’ve won Best Airport


Changi Airport once again wins the title of “World’s Best Airport” from Skytrax in March 2015. The airport has earned this exceptional distinction for the third straight year and a total of six times.


With its 500th Best Airport award since its debut in 1981, Changi Airport becomes the most-awarded airport in history in June of that year.


Opening of Terminal 4

Nine foundation carriers—AirAsia Group (of four airlines), Cathay Pacific, Cebu Pacific, Korean Air, Spring Airlines, and Vietnam Airlines—begin operations at Terminal 4.


The entire capacity of Changi will increase to 82 mppa with the ability to accommodate 16 mppa of passengers annually.


Again the greatest airport in the world


Air travelers selected Changi Airport as the World’s Best Airport for 2018. This is the first time in Skytrax awards history that an airport has earned the honor six years in a row.


Jewel Changi Airport opens on 17 April 2019.


Safer Travel During COVID-19


Contactless and cleaning solutions for a safer passenger journey are being used airport-wide during the Covid-19 outbreak. The advances include biometric face and iris recognition technologies at immigration as well as touch-free automated kiosks for check-in and luggage drop-offs. At the terminals, autonomous cleaning robots are also in use.


F&B is changing thanks to Changi Eats


Changi Eats, a new meal delivery service, debuts in August at Changi Airport.


The service offers the novel option of combining orders from up to five different locations in Changi Airport and Jewel, pre-ordering in advance, and free service charges, allowing local customers to take advantage of Changi’s enormous food selections delivered straight to their doorsteps.


Jurassic Mile and the Changi Airport Connector Open


The 3.5-kilometer cycling and jogging trail known as the Changi Airport Connector (CAC), which connects Changi Airport to East Coast Park and the Park Connector Network (PCN), is formally launched on October 11.


The Changi Jurassic Mile, an outdoor exhibition including more than 30 life-sized dinosaur exhibits, is located at the CAC. Also inaugurated is the HUB & SPOKE pit stop location at Terminal 2, where guests may take a shower, hire bicycles, and eat.


Covid-19 Safety Measures Increased


With the introduction of the more transmissible Covid-19 Delta form in May, Changi Airport takes many precautions to keep passengers and the airport community safe. The implementation of a zoning concept for operations to ring-fence personnel in high-risk zones, routine testing for frontline staff, temporary closures of Terminals 1 and 3 as well as Jewel to the public, and increased personal protective equipment (PPE) measures are among these. All of this is in addition to the airport’s existing safe management practices. The measures are gradually changed depending on a risk assessment.


Best Airport Staff in the World


Changi Airport’s love for service comes through despite the difficulties caused by the Covid-19 epidemic, and Changi is recognized by Skytrax as having the top airport employees in the world in 2021.


The award recognizes the overall level of service provided by all customer-facing employees, including their disposition, friendliness, and effectiveness, including those working at help desks, immigration and security, retail, and food and beverage.


Changi Pay: The First Digital Wallet from Changi


Changi Pay, the airport’s first digital wallet, debuts in October.


Shoppers and diners may use Changi Pay to make contactless QR payments at Jewel Changi Airport and Changi Airport retailers, collect discount coupons at the register, and easily accrue CapitaStar points and Changi Rewards with just one scan. Changi’s online duty-free retail platform, iShopChangi, accepts Changi Pay as well.

Changi Airport’s Future

Changi Airport future plan
Changi Airport future plan concept picture from



Changi Airport is currently known for providing unrivaled passenger experiences that have become synonymous with global connection, precision efficiency, and one-of-a-kind, considerate services.


As the number of travelers we welcome increases and their requirements become more complex, our challenge is to improve our standards even higher.

It’s a problem we’re already taking on, with innovative solutions and unique experiences that will alter air travel for future generations.


Changi East runway

3rd Runway
3rd runway for Changi Airport. Image from official website.

Over the next 20 years, Changi Airport’s passenger volume is anticipated to increase by 3-4% annually. Current airport capacity will be surpassed by the late 2020s if this trend continues.


This anticipated increase is addressed with the Changi East development. The long-term preservation of Changi Airport’s and Singapore’s competitive advantage calls for a bold approach.

Changi East will guarantee Changi Airport is able to handle and thrill increasingly more passengers and their ever-increasing expectations by adding a third runway, one of the largest mega terminals in the world, and a variety of exciting new facilities.


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