After stays at the W Sentosa and Hotel 81 (how often do those two get mentioned in the same breath?), it was time to continue the staycation series by reviewing a hotel I’ve always wanted to visit- the YOTELAIR Changi Airport.
|🏖️ The Milelion’s Staycation Reviews|
During regular times, this hotel would be chock full with transit passengers, but in case you haven’t noticed, things have been a bit slower lately. This meant an opportunity to snag a cheap rate, and write a review that will hopefully be useful when we all start flying again.
Booking a staycation at the YOTELAIR Changi
First of all, people don’t really do staycations at the YOTELAIR Changi. The rooms are tiny, there’s hardly any facilities, and the entire setup is really meant for transit passengers.
Nowhere is this more evident than the check-in/check-out timings. The YOTELAIR Changi has a standard check-in time of 6 p.m, and check-out time of 9 a.m. Additional hours can be purchased at S$10++ each.
What irks me is how inflexible the hotel was about this policy. It makes perfect sense during normal times, when you want to capture passengers arriving on evening flights and connecting early the next morning.
But when Changi Airport is seeing less than 1% of its regular passenger volume, wouldn’t it make sense to adopt more traditional check-in/out windows to cater to local guests?
YOTELAIR was unwilling to budge on this, so even though their website had a relatively affordable rate of S$126 nett, it’d end up costing me much more once I factored in the extra hours.
Fortunately, there were other options:
- Fave is selling a S$152 nett package that comes with 3 p.m check-in and 12 p.m check-out
- Trip.com is selling a S$124 nett package that comes with 2 p.m check-in and 12 p.m check-out
Naturally, I didn’t find out about the Trip.com package until after I bought the Fave one. Win some, lose some.
YOTELAIR Changi: Arrival and Check-in
The YOTELAIR Changi is located in the Jewel complex, accessible directly from T1, T2 and T3. If you’re coming from T4 (currently closed), you’ll need to take a bus to T2 and then walk over.
Once you’re in Jewel, head up to the 4th floor and look out for the many YOTELAIR signs. The hotel is near the Forest Valley entrance, directly across from the Jewel VIP lounge.
The entrance is hard to miss, illuminated with a cool white archway regardless of time of day.
Before you even step inside, your temperature will be taken and you’ll have to perform the SafeEntry declaration. In-house guests will subsequently have to re-take their temperature every time they step in or out of the hotel, although it seems that one SafeEntry declaration per day is sufficient.
YOTELAIR calls the reception area “mission control”, and there are two manned desks to handle check-ins. I arrived about 40 minutes before my 3 p.m check-in time, but the staff didn’t seem to mind.
After showing them the Fave voucher, it took just four minutes to complete the check-in process. All payment is taken upfront, so there’s no need to provide a card for a security guarantee.
Alternatively, it’s also possible to do self check-in/check-out at one of three tablets. You’d think they’d be pushing this more heavily, what with the whole emphasis on minimizing face-to-face contact.
For international travelers, take note that the YOTELAIR Changi participates in DCC, so be very, very careful about what currency you pay with (always pick SGD when in Singapore!).
If you think the lobby looks sparse, you have Covid-19 to thank for that. Based on other reports I’ve read, the lobby normally has plenty of seating and lounge chairs. However, the new normal says “thou shalt not gather in groups greater than five”, so most of the furniture has been removed temporarily.
On the plus side, everyone’s newfound hypochondria means items are delivered to rooms via
killer butler robots, in this case Airabella and Yoji. I made a mental note to put them to the test later, as they stared vapidly and analyzed my body for weak spots vulnerable to instant fatalities.
The YOTELAIR Changi has 130 rooms spread over two floors. Somewhat confusingly, even though the hotel’s main lobby is on the fourth floor, rooms on this level start with “1”. The second story of the hotel is on the fifth floor, and rooms there start with “2”.
I was assigned to room 145, which meant a short walk past a key card controlled door.
There’s ample signage in the corridors, so it’s pretty much impossible to get lost. Oh, and if you spot a window in the corridor, take a moment to enjoy the view. It’s the last you’ll get for a while…
YOTELAIR Changi: Premium Queen Cabin
The entry-level room at the YOTELAIR Changi is called a “Premium Queen”. Actually, it’s not a room at all. YOTELAIR refers to them as “cabins”, probably to moderate expectations. These shoebox-sized units are the stuff of Josephine Teo’s dreams, measuring just 10 sqm in size.
|☝️ A larger-sized Family room (21 sqm) is available, which accommodates up to four adults. Those with disabilities can also request an accessible Premium Queen room, which offers 21 sqm of space|
Let’s be clear, these rooms aren’t designed for lounging or stretching out. They’re created to provide guests with a refreshing shower and a good night’s rest, and you don’t need a lot of space for either.
Cabins are completely windowless, which is great for sleeping (no tarmac noise or light pollution), but not so great for lingering. Again, this isn’t really a place to spend more than a day.
Here’s a reverse angle shot taken from inside the bathroom, to give an idea of how narrow the room is.
In making the room this small, sacrifices had to be made. There’s no wardrobe, so get used to hanging your clothes on hooks behind the door and in the bathroom. You also won’t find an ironing board, although one can be requested from reception.
The passageway between the bed and wall is so narrow there isn’t even space to place a regular chair. Instead, you’ll find a safari chair nestled into the side of the bed.
The dimensions of the room also mean there’s no space for a proper work desk. If you need to get work done, there’s a fold up tray table that pops out of the wall. This isn’t particularly large, but will be sufficient for a laptop and a few personal items.
Do note that the safari chair has no back, so it’s not really meant for prolonged periods of sitting.
Wi-Fi in the room clocks in at a healthy 29 Mbps down/ 49 Mbps up. I daresay the public Wi-Fi at Jewel is faster, but that’s no slight on the YOTELAIR- Jewel just has phenomenal internet speeds.
There are two universal power sockets and two USB charging ports at the work desk area.
Rooms come with two small bottles of mineral water, but the front desk staff were happy to provide more at no additional cost.
The hotel also provides a sanitizing wipe and a 60ml bottle of hand sanitizer.
The cabin’s thermostat can only be adjusted between 21-24°C (and it’s not the sort of model where you can use the famous “Honeywell Hack”). I hate it when the treehuggers tell me what temperature to sleep at, but it’s a comfortable enough range. Because the cabin is small, it cools down really fast.
You should have guessed by now that space in the bathroom is also at a premium. Forget the his and hers sinks; it’s hard enough for two people to squeeze past each other. Should one party decide to, er, answer the call, you can be sure the whole room will know about it.
There’s also no bidet hose for the toilet, which will annoy some people for sure.
While it’s nice that they installed a ceiling-flush rain shower (from Grohe too, no less), the water pressure could be stronger. I imagine many a jetlagged traveller would appreciate a strong blast of hot water to kick start their system.
One clever feature of the bathroom was the no-fog mirror. When you shower with hot water, the cold room causes the glass panel to get frosted up- all except in one area. There’s a heating element behind that creates a clear oval for you to use.
Toiletries in the bathroom are from the Urban Skincare Co. This is a fairly high-end brand, and I thought the shampoo and body wash had a pleasant smell. They were gentle on the skin and scalp, which is more than I can say about some other hotel toiletries (looking at you, Sheraton).
All rooms come with a hairdryer, but there’s no outlet in the bathroom to plug it in. You’ll instead have to dry your hair next to the bed (which, fortunately or not, is literally two steps away).
This really isn’t the kind of room to share with someone you’re uncomfortable being naked in front of, but should that fate befall you there’s a curtain that extends across the bathroom area, providing a modicum of privacy.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the cabin is tiny, but perspective is everything. I mean, you could view it as the world’s smallest hotel room, but you could just as well call it the world’s largest first class suite 😉.
Comparisons between the two aren’t without basis- the bed has an up/down adjustment switch that allows you to put it full flat or in a lounging position.
Plus, it even has those ubiquitous flexible reading lights, the kind you’ll find in aircraft cabins the world over.
Here’s what the bed looks like fully reclined. Be warned- the reclining process is extremely noisy. Adjust it at night, and you’re bound to wake up your partner. It’s not so much the mechanism as it is the leather sides rubbing against the bed sheets when the bed moves.
You might uncharitably call it a hospital bed, but if so, it’s one of the most comfortable hospital beds out there. Mattresses use gel memory foam, which has a pleasant firmness to it (The Milelioness disagreed, however, saying it gave her pins and needles upon waking).
There’s a small gap between the front of the bed and the wall, but be warned, this isn’t a place to stow luggage. You’ll end up jamming and possibly damaging the bed mechanism.
Perhaps having seen this happen one too many times, the YOTELAIR has placed a prominent sticker warning of a S$850 penalty for non-compliance.
It’s a much better idea to store your luggage under the bed itself. There’s roughly enough space for one large check-in bag, or two medium-sized carry-ons.
Once in snugly in bed, you can turn your attentions to the TV. Unfortunately, this wasn’t working when I arrived. No matter what channel I selected, I got a test pattern with a “no signal” error message.
Tech support was called, and after about 20 minutes they had the system up and running. I like that there’s a built in Chromecast feature which lets you stream your phone’s YouTube/Netflix etc. to the big screen.
Pairing is easy, and minutes later I was watching Kim Wexler do her thing. Please don’t die, Kim…
As you can see from that last shot, the YOTELAIR’s mood lighting game is strong. Here’s another shot with mood lighting in full effect. They call this “moon” lighting, and it supposedly helps your body’s circadian rhythm adjust to time changes.
I have to say that despite the drawbacks of the room, the YOTELAIR Changi gets lighting absolutely right. The room offers full daylight lighting, as well as subtler options that let you find your way around without wrecking your sleep clock. It may seem like a small detail, but you’ll really appreciate it when you’re able to find the bathroom at night without blinding yourself.
It wouldn’t be a Milelion review without the trusty blacklight, and I’m pleased to report that the room was indeed clean. No funny stains on the bed, desk, towels, or floor, and I felt comfortable enough to go shoeless in the room.
I quickly finished the two bottles of water they provided, and called up the front desk to request more. In reality I just wanted to see the robo-butlers in action, and assess how far we were from a machine uprising.
Yoji was duly dispatched, but here’s where I think I messed up. The robo-butler is supposed to send an automated call to your room when he’s outside. But I was so excited to see Yoji that once I heard the sound of his tracks coming down the corridor, I flung the door open to greet him.
Having been subjected to a lifetime of human abuse and contempt, Yoji had lost the ability to process love. Several minutes passed as I waited for him to disgorge his cargo. He declined to do so, displaying a reticence that suggested his processor was fried by this strange new stimulus.
So I closed the door and the automated call came. I picked it up, hung up, and opened the door again.
Still nothing. No matter how many times I opened and closed the door, or picked up the automated call, Yoji was unable to process the fact that someone was actually excited to see him. Finally, I called the front desk, and someone came to escort him back home. His face was a complex mess of emotions and divide by zero errors, and I suspect he’s now en route to the great glue factory in the sky.
So the robo-butler remains more of a gimmick for now, but sort out the bugs and they’ll be enslaving us in no time.
YOTELAIR Changi: Facilities
|Kids’ Club||Business Centre||Others|
The YOTELAIR Changi doesn’t offer much in the way of facilities.
There is a gym, but it’s temporarily closed due to Covid-19. Keep in mind that this isn’t a government restriction; gyms are perfectly at liberty to open provided they can ensure safe distancing measures. My guess is that the YOTELAIR Changi didn’t see the point in deploying a staff member to the gym full-time to monitor and enforce these measures, so they decided to close it altogether.
I asked the front desk if I could take pictures of the gym and was basically told “no”, so here’s the best shot I could get from through the glass panel.
The YOTELAir also has a “club lounge” of sorts called KOMYUNITI (say it aloud), open 24/7 with complimentary tea, coffee and water. It looked pretty good during regular times…
…but unfortunately, Covid-19 has left it a sad shadow of its former self, with most of the tables removed to meet safe distancing density requirements.
The mini-fridge is empty and the coffee machines have been decommissioned. You’ll now have to buy coffee from the front desk at S$2 a pop, although there’s little reason for you to do this given how many options there are in Jewel.
Since there’s no more food served in the lounge (including breakfast), guests will instead have to order items from an a la carte menu instead. The prices looked quite reasonable for the airport, but I can’t speak to the quality. I really hope these aren’t “heat and eat” items, but you’ll never know…
The floor of the lounge has a few scattered power outlets with USB and USB-C ports. There’d probably be a lot of competition for these when the lounge is at full capacity.
For what it’s worth, KOMYUNITI is situated on a terrace that boasts nice views of the Jewel vortex, and in regular times would be a nice place to unwind over a drink. You can catch the light show from here, although it’s an obstructed view.
Facilities for non-resident guests
If you don’t intend to stay at the YOTELAIR Changi, you can still pay to use the shower facilities. The current rate for a shower is S$21.40, and if you want to use the shower and gym (when it reopens), the combined price is S$32.10.
It’s also possible to use the rooms for shorter blocks, although there comes a point where you’re better off just buying it for the night.
- 4 hours from S$100++
- 6 hours from S$120++
- 8 hours from S$140++
What about the Crowne Plaza?
The alternative to the YOTELAIR is the Crowne Plaza Changi Airport, also located landside and directly attached to Terminal 3. This is more of a traditional hotel, boasting full facilities and rooms that you can actually turn around in.
The Crowne Plaza offers day use rates at the following cost:
- 4 hours from S$120++
- 6 hours from S$160++
- 8 hours from S$180++
These rates apply provided you stay between 8 a.m to 8 p.m. If you wish to stay outside those hours, you’ll need to pay overnight rates (usually upwards of S$200++).
Assuming that restriction works with you, it’s a no-brainer. For an extra S$20-40++, you get much more space and access to proper facilities, and it’s hard to see why anyone would squeeze himself into a YOTELAIR cabin.
The YOTELAIR sets out to do one thing and one thing only- give transit passengers a comfortable place to rest and recharge. This is clear from their policies, pricing and design ethos. It’s a good bet during regular times, but I just can’t see them surviving the next 12 months without actively courting the staycation market.
Frankly though, it’s a hard sell. If you loved the airport and wanted to take your family there, a much more natural option would be the Crowne Plaza. Even the Family Room at the YOTEL would have major space constraints, and you’d start stepping on each other’s toes soon enough.
The main draw for YOTELAIR Changi guests is probably being inside Jewel itself. With so many dining, entertainment and shopping options at your fingertips, there’s little reason to stay in the room.
|🏨 In Summary|
The YOTELAIR Changi is a great place for transit passengers to refresh and recharge. But it’s a tough sell for a staycation, given how a little extra money would land you in the Crowne Plaza.
Do say: Who needs space when you’re there for a few hours?
Don’t say: Josephine Teo says hi