Singapore to reopen Changi Airport Terminal 2 in 2022

Changi Airport Terminal 2 will reopen its doors this year, as air travel picks up again. Solari Boards, anyone?

On 1 May 2020, Changi Airport suspended operations at Terminal 2 due to the downturn in travel sparked by COVID-19.

In a way, this was simply making the best of a bad situation. Closing the terminal would not only save on operating costs, but allow the expedition of planned renovations by up to a year. Still, it marked the first time in Changi’s history that an entire terminal was shut down; even during previous renovation stints, terminals continued operations with work done in sections. 

The plan was to close Terminal 2 for 18 months initially, and now there’s confirmation that it will indeed be reopening this year. 

Changi Terminal 2 to reopen in 2022

Changi Terminal 2, pre-COVID

Transport Minister S Iswaran has confirmed that Changi Airport will “progressively open” Terminal 2 over the course of 2022. 

Even though Terminal 1 and 3 have been the “mainstay of our operations” throughout the pandemic and will continue being the “central channel” to manage passenger flow, Changi Airport is also preparing for the next phase, Mr Iswaran said.

As such, Terminal 2 will be “progressively opened” in the course of this year. 

“I think that will help add to the capacity. And Terminal 4 is, I think if we need to activate it, Changi is able to do so at relatively short notice,” he added. 

-CNA

Traffic volumes through Changi have been slowly recovering thanks to vaccination rollouts and border reopenings, with the past 12 months seeing an average month-on-month growth of 13%.

MonthPassengers
(‘000s)
Remarks
Mar 2021166 
Apr 2021173 
May 2021171 
Jun 2021178 
Jul 2021204 
Aug 2021211 
Sep 2021220VTLs commenced
Oct 2021255 
Nov 2021395 
Dec 2021817December school holidays
Jan 2022720 
Feb 2022703Testing requirements and segregation dropped for transit passengers

In fact, December 2021 saw the highest traffic volumes since COVID began, and while it’s well shy of the 5+ million passengers per month we were seeing in 2019, things will only get better as Singapore reopens its borders via the Vaccinated Travel Framework (VTF). 

No definite timeline was offered, although Iswaran alluded to a “quantum leap” that needed to happen before a decision was made to reopen. 

“I think as we ramp up volumes … this is a decision that must be a function of the broader circumstances, because opening up a terminal incurs significant overheads and in terms of manpower. So it’s not something where you can just open one gate or two gates at a time.”

Mr Iswaran noted that what needs to be done is “make sure that we are now at that next quantum leap” in the flow of passengers before deciding to move to the next step. 

“But in terms of preparedness and readiness, the plans are there and I think they can be activated,” he said. 

The way I see it, that may happen when the rest of our South East Asian neighbours reopen, and inter-ASEAN air travel resumes in earnest. I can’t see that quantum leap being China, however, given that they’re unlikely to reopen in 2022 at all. 

Terminal 2 renovations continue

Artist’s impression of New Terminal 2 | Photo Credit: Changi Airport Group

Renovations at Terminal 2 will continue even as operations resume, with a targeted completion date by the end of 2023 or early 2024. 

The renovated terminal will feature a new layout for the departures hall and immigration, 20% more floorspace for retail and F&B, as well as better runway views. There will be more self-service check-in counters, new baggage belts, and new dining concepts as well. 

Artist’s impression of New Terminal 2 | Photo Credit: Changi Airport Group
Artist’s impression of New Terminal 2 | Photo Credit: Changi Airport Group

All in all, 15,500 square metres will be added, increasing Changi Airport’s capacity by 5 million passengers per year for a total of 90 million passengers per year.

The early reopening of Terminal 2 means we might not have seen the last of the famous Solari Boards after all. You might not be familiar with the name, but you’ll know their signature clack-clack-clack sounds, as 2,000 individual modules spin at five flaps per second, updating passengers on flight departures, delays and cancellations.

Photo: Changi Airport Group

One board (located between rows 9 and 10) was decommissioned in February and donated to the National Heritage Board, while the other (between rows 3 and 4) was set to be retired within two years. 

So it’s still living on borrowed time, but we just might catch a few final glimpses of it this year, and hopefully give the grand old dame the send off she deserves. 

Singapore Airlines to move back to two terminal operations?

SIA flights currently land at Terminals 1 & 3

Prior to COVID-19, Singapore Airlines operated out of Terminals 2 and 3, with South East Asia and selected South Asia destinations served from T2, and all other destinations from T3. Arriving flights would land at either T2 or T3, depending on operational requirements. 

✈️ SIA Departures by Terminal (Pre-COVID)
Terminal 2Terminal 3
  • Bangladesh
  • Brunei
  • Indonesia
  • Malaysia
  • Maldives
  • Myanmar
  • Philippines
  • Sri Lanka
  • Thailand
  • Vietnam
  • All other destinations

When COVID struck, Singapore Airlines consolidated operations under one roof at Terminal 3, where it’s been ever since. That’s not a bad thing from a passenger experience perspective, mind you, since Terminal 2 was the oldest terminal and the SilverKris Lounge there was beyond underwhelming.

So the question is whether Singapore Airlines will outgrow Terminal 3 and require the use of Terminal 2 again. In fact, it’s already operating out of two terminals…sort of. Ever since the end of Feburary, SIA flights have been landing at Terminals 1 & 3, although check-in still takes place from Terminal 3 exclusively. 

I’ve dropped Singapore Airlines a question about this, and will update the article when I get a response. 

Update: An SIA spokesperson has shared the following

  • The SIA Group strongly supports all efforts to reopen Singapore to quarantine-free international travel, and restoring Changi Airport’s position as a major air hub.
  • We remain guided by the local authorities on the re-opening of Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2, and will continue to review our operations so as to provide our customers with a seamless travel experience.
  • At present, Singapore Airlines flights may arrive at either Terminal 1 or Terminal 3 of Singapore Changi Airport. This supports the increase in SIA’s services, in tandem with the higher demand for air travel as travel restrictions ease.

There was some other airline musical chairs when Terminal 2 closed, so it remains to see which of these will move back when operations resume. My bet is on the non-Star Alliance, non-oneworld carriers, since Terminals 1 and 3 have become the oneworld and Star Alliance strongholds respectively. 

✈️ Airline Relocations from Terminal 2
Terminal 1Terminal 3
  • Air India
  • Air India Express
  • ANA
  • Indigo
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Royal Brunei
  • Sichuan Airlines
  • Ethiopian Airlines
  • Etihad Airways
  • LOT Polish
  • Lufthansa
  • SWISS
  • United Airlines

Conclusion

Changi Airport Terminal 2 will be reopening this year, another sign of the expected recovery in air travel. 

Elsewhere around Changi, more glimpses of pre-COVID life are reappearing. 65% of shops in the transit areas have reopened, friends and family can meet arriving passengers immediately after luggage collection, and passengers can take any mode of transport they wish home (unless they’re serving an SHN of course). Things are looking up indeed. 

In April 2020 I wrote a little piece about the things I was going to miss when Terminal 2 closed, and who knows, we may see some of them back before the year’s out!

5 things I’ll miss when Changi Terminal 2 closes

Aaron Wong
Aaron Wong
Aaron founded The Milelion to help people travel better for less and impress chiobu. He was 50% successful.

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David Fu

Any idea why there is talk of re-opening T2 which is still renovating but no talk of re-opening of T4 which is much more ready to end its hibernation?

ithh

Airlines would prefer not to use T4 given the lack of connection to the MRT station. The only one remotely keen might be CX which has a lounge at T4 but given the awful state of affairs in Hong Kong, it will be a while before the airline resumes its pre-Covid frequency and loads.

ithh

The Solari Board is long gone. RIP.

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