With air travel recovering at a faster-than-expected pace, Singapore’s two terminals have seen a surge in traffic. You may have experienced this yourself when flying out in recent weeks; during peak periods, the transit area looks indistinguishable from the good old days (just with more masks).
That feeling is borne out in the data, with passenger volumes having increased almost tenfold since the partial reopening of borders in September 2021 under the VTL. In April 2022, traffic was almost 40% of pre-pandemic levels.
|Sep 2021||220||VTLs commenced|
|Dec 2021||817||December school holidays|
|Feb 2022||703||Testing requirements and segregation dropped for transit passengers|
|Apr 2022||1,930||VTF replaces VTL|
Therefore, it’s little surprise that Changi Airport has confirmed it will be resuming Terminal 2 operations from 29 May 2022 after a two-year shutdown, a move that was first mooted back in March by Transport Minister S Iswaran.
It’s another significant milestone on the road to recovery, and raises some interesting questions for Singapore Airlines’ operations in particular.
Terminal 2 reopening for arrivals from 29 May
From 29 May 2022, key touchpoints in the southern wing of T2 such as arrival immigration, baggage claim belts and contact gates will reopen for flight operations.
In this first phase, T2 will be used exclusively as an arrivals terminal, hosting the peak-hour arrivals of airlines operating in T3. Passengers landing on these flights will clear immigration and reclaim their luggage at T2 from one of three collection belts (the limited belts suggests that only a small number of flights can be hosted at any time).
If you’re heading to the airport to pick someone up, information regarding which terminal an arriving flight has been assigned to will be made available on the Changi Airport website and the iChangi app at least two hours before arrival.
Are there any implications of arriving at Terminal 2? Not particularly, aside from the fact that duty-free shopping at the arrival hall is unlikely to be operational in the first phase, and it may be harder to catch a taxi given the relatively low volume of flights. There may also be a slightly longer connection time for those transiting through Changi, though nothing inordinate.
What about departures?
A small number of T3 departure flights may use boarding gates at T2, although passengers on these flights will continue to check in and clear departure immigration at T3.
T2 and T3 are directly connected via the Skytrain, which arrives every four minutes on average, and takes less than two minutes to ply the distance between the terminals.
However, it’s surely only a matter of time before departure facilities at T2 reopen as well. When that happens, which airlines will make the shift back? My bet is on the non-Star Alliance, non-oneworld carriers, since T1 and T3 have become the oneworld and Star Alliance strongholds respectively at Changi.
As a reminder, here’s the list of airlines that formerly operated from T2, and where they ended up after the closure.
|✈️ Airline Relocations from Terminal 2|
|Terminal 1||Terminal 3|
Will Singapore Airlines move back to T2?
Prior to COVID-19, Singapore Airlines operated out of T2 and T3, 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 2||Terminal 3|
When COVID struck and T2 closed, Singapore Airlines consolidated operations under one roof at T3, where it’s been ever since.
But T3 is woefully insufficient for Singapore Airlines’ needs, and so robust has been the recovery that the airline has resorted to using both T1 and T3 for arrivals since February. Check-in still takes place exclusively at T3, but some SIA flights depart from T1 boarding gates; on my recent flight to Bangkok, I had to make the long hike from the SilverKris Lounge to Gate C25 in T1.
So it’s a good bet that Singapore Airlines will move part of its operations back to T2 in due course, which then raises the question as to whether they’ll reopen the lounges there too- and if so, with what refurbishments.
I previously asked SIA about their plans for T2, but they were rather non-committal.
|SIA Statement (from March 2022) regarding T2 operations|
Terminal 2 renovations continue
Renovations at T2 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.
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.
Post-expansion, T2 will become the largest terminal in the airport until T5 opens in the mid-2030s.
Changi Airport will reopen T2 from 29 May, ending a two-year shutdown. The reopening will be muted at first with just arrivals processing, but at the rate things are going, a broader resumption of operations can’t be far behind.
It seems more likely than not that Singapore Airlines will eventually return to T2 later this year, and I’m curious to know what that means for the lounges over there. These were barely adequate prior to COVID, and will look even worse compared to the new flagship lounges in T3.
If you’re landing in T2 next week, do let us know what it looks like over there!
(Cover photo: Changi Airport Group)