Last month, I wrote about Changi Airport’s plan to reopen Terminal 4 in September 2022, following an almost two-and-a-half years shutdown. Now, we have an official date. Changi Airport T4 will reopen on 13 September 2022, adding capacity for 16 million more passengers per annum.
That’s very much needed, given the faster-than-expected recovery in air travel. Passenger traffic through Changi Airport for the first week of June was at 48% of pre-COVID levels, and looks likely to further accelerate for the second half of 2022.
|🛫 Passenger Movements at Changi Airport|
Changi Airport Group (CAG) has also announced which airlines will be relocating to T4, and it’s largely as expected- with one key exception. In an unexpected development, Jetstar will be shifting to T4 as well, though under protest. The budget carrier has released a strongly-worded statement opposing the move, a decision it claims was made unilaterally.
Changi Airport Terminal 4 reopening 13 September
Changi Airport T4 will resume operations on 13 September 2022, following two months of operational readiness trials.
16 airlines will relocate to T4 progressively, with full-service carriers Cathay Pacific and Korean Airlines moving first, followed by a host of budget carriers and Vietnam Airlines in the following week. Jetstar is scheduled to shift one month later on 25 October, though it hasn’t taken the news well at all (more on that in a bit).
Here’s the full roster of T4 airlines, as announced by CAG.
|✈️ Airlines Relocating to T4|
|Airline||Current Terminal||Relocation Date|
|Cathay Pacific (CX)||T1||13 Sep|
|Korean Air (KE)||T1||13 Sep|
|Air Asia (AK, Z2, QZ, FD)||T1||15 Sep|
|Bamboo Airways (QH)||T1||20 Sep|
|Cebu Pacific (5J)||T1||20 Sep|
|HK Express (UO)||T1||20 Sep|
|Jeju Air (7C)||T1||20 Sep|
|Juneyao Air (HO)||T1||20 Sep|
|Thai VietJet Air (AZ)||T3||22 Sep|
|VietJet Air (VJ)||T3||22 Sep|
|Vietnam Airlines (VN)||T3||22 Sep|
|Jetstar Airways (3K, JQ)||T1||25 Oct|
Prior to COVID-19, Terminal 4 also served the following airlines, which have yet to resume flights to Singapore:
- Air Asia X
- Go Air
- GX Airlines
- Hainan Airlines
- Regent Airways
- Spring Airlines
- Urumqi Air
Jetstar relocating to T4 (or is it?)
While most of T4 relocations were expected, the announcement that Jetstar would be shifting caught everyone off guard- including Jetstar itself!
Historically speaking, T4 was primarily used for flights that didn’t require transfers, such as point-to-point services between Singapore and Hong Kong or South Korea. But Jetstar’s model relies on connections with other airlines— it currently interlines with T1 carriers like Emirates and Qantas— and relocating would present a significant inconvenience to connecting passengers. That’s because T4 is physically separated from the other three terminals, with airside buses instead of Skytrain service.
Relocation would also be bad news for Qantas elites, who currently enjoy the Qantas Business or Qantas First Lounge even when flying on Jetstar. That’s right, you could buy a cheap ticket and spend the evening feasting on some of the finest lounge food Changi has to offer.
But it’s far from a done deal. Jetstar has declared it has “no intention of moving” to T4, in a feisty statement issued just over an hour after CAG’s official announcement.
We are extremely disappointed that the Changi Airport Group (CAG) has chosen to unilaterally announce a plan to relocate the Jetstar Group to Terminal 4 at Changi International Airport, before any agreement has been reached.
A joint study was only agreed to be undertaken last week and this announcement completely disregards that agreement and the impact a move would have on our customers, our people, and our operations
While we remain committed to working with CAG, today’s announcement by the airport ignores our concerns and goes against the spirit of the long-standing partnership we have built over the years.
Until an agreement is reached, we have no intention of moving and have informed CAG of that fact.
CAG has shown no intention of backing down, however, clapping back with the most polite “deal with it” you could imagine.
In response to Jetstar’s statement, a CAG spokesman told CNA that the group’s engagement with the airline regarding the move was not recent and had begun in 2019.
The discussions had commenced before the COVID-19 crisis as Changi Airport was experiencing tight capacity during peak hours, CAG said.
“The best solution was to move Jetstar to T4 which would provide headroom to support Jetstar’s and other airlines’ growth at Changi, while at the same time ensuring that passenger experience is not compromised,” the spokesman said.
With air travel resuming, CAG said there was an urgency to “rebalance the airport’s traffic across its terminals quickly” to meet the expected air traffic demand in the upcoming end-year holiday season.
The group added that it had explained to Jetstar that relocating to Terminal 4 was the only option that would allow the airport to optimally use its aircraft gates.
“With 17 gates to support narrow body aircraft, T4 is a very good fit for Jetstar which currently operates predominately narrow-bodied aircraft,” the spokesman said.
“To facilitate the relocation, CAG has also accepted Jetstar’s suggestion to form a joint taskforce to ensure a smooth transition for Jetstar to operate in T4.”
This is popcorn stuff for sure, and no doubt we haven’t heard the last of it. Stay tuned.
What to expect at Terminal 4
Changi Terminal 4 opened in October 2017, spanning 225,000 sqm and providing handling capacity for 16 million passengers per annum. It occupies the site of the former Budget Terminal (which I think Singapore policymakers would rather forget!), and though it was originally conceptualised as a dedicated terminal for low cost carriers, eventually pivoted to host full-service carriers as well.
Terminal 4 is big on automation, with the check-in and bag drop process fully self-serve, and immigration and boarding checks handled through facial biometrics. It’s meant to serve as a test bed for these concepts, ahead of the planned Terminal 5.
Terminal 4 is also the only terminal at Changi to offer centralised security screening (as opposed to individual screening at the various boarding gates). This means you can purchase liquids and aerosols in the departure area (or sneak a bottle of water from the lounge) and bring them onto the aircraft.
In terms of airline lounges, there’s only two facilities to note. Cathay Pacific operates its second largest lounge outside of Hong Kong (Taipei takes first place) in T4, a spacious Ilse Crawford-designed facility that opened in November 2017.
Cathay Pacific has been housed in T1 ever since April 2020, but is a nailed-on candidate to return to T4. However, it’s doubtful we’ll see the lounge reopening straight away, especially since Cathay Pacific’s schedule to Singapore is rather bare bones at the moment.
Service will have increased to 3X weekly flights by the time September comes round, but that’s still too few to justify operating its own lounge. For perspective, prior to COVID Cathay Pacific operated nine daily flights from Changi.
Since there are no other oneworld carriers operating out of T4, Cathay Pacific’s lounge is exclusively for its own passengers. All others may use the Blossom Lounge, a contract facility open to Dragon Pass, Lounge Key and Priority Pass members (it’s one of the few Plaza Premium facilities that has retained ties with Lounge Key and Priority Pass, following their break-up in 2021).
CAG has indicated that at least one lounge will be operating when T4 reopens, which will no doubt be the Blossom.
CAG is also working with the lounge operator at T4 on suitable arrangements to cater to the needs of passengers.
CAG has locked in 13 September for T4’s reopening, which will bring Changi back to four terminal operations for the first time since the pandemic began. With T2 further resuming departure operations in October, there’ll be a very familiar vibe around the airport come year end.
It remains to be seen if Jetstar actually moves to T4, however. Both airline and airport have put their foot down, so there’ll have to be a face-losing climbdown from one party eventually. That’s worth keeping an eye on, especially if you’re a Qantas elite, or someone who regularly transits through Changi between Jetstar and Emirates/Qantas.
Do you reckon Jetstar will end up moving?