Travellers will eventually be able to fly to an airport in Singapore where robots check-in bags, self-driving vehicles ferry luggage to aircraft and future pandemics pose little disruption.
Regularly voted among the world’s best airports, Singapore Changi Airport's new Terminal 5 is designed to be "pandemic proof".
Revised designs created during Covid-19 lockdowns will allow airport authorities to easily adjust passenger capacity, isolate individuals and employ other safety measures during any future crisis.
Expected to open in the next decade, the new terminal building could serve as a model for others in the future.
With a surplus of autonomous technology including robots, eye scanners and artificial intelligence-powered turnstiles, T5 will have the functionality to operate as smaller sub-terminals when needed, with convertible spaces for use during contingencies, such as for testing operations or the segregation of high-risk passengers.
Construction is expected to begin in two years. When complete, T5 will be able to handle about 50 million passengers per year — more than the existing T1 and T3 terminals combined.
The terminal will reduce its carbon footprint using solar panels and smart building management systems. It will also be set up for viable fuel alternatives such as sustainable aviation fuel, which is the future of green flying and can reduce the life-cycle carbon footprint of aviation fuel by up to 80 per cent.
But it’s not all functional.
Inspired by Changi’s Jewel — which is home to the world’s largest indoor waterfall — T5 is also set to become a landmark attraction filled with greenery and nature where families and friends can enjoy shared experiences. The existing terminals at Changi Airport are filled with passenger-friendly facilities, exhibitions, attractions and luxury shopping and the new terminal will follow suit.
A third runway and 40 kilometres of new taxiway in the heart of Singapore
Changi Airport’s fifth terminal is part of the Changi East expansion project, which spans 1,080 hectares and introduces a three-runway system to the city-state.
Initially announced in 2013, the project by the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore, Changi Airport Group and the Ministry of Transport was paused during Covid-19. The health emergency crushed the travel industry with flights grounded at airports around the world.
Now as travel resumes, work is under way to extend an existing third runway at the site of Changi East. Previously used only by military aircraft, the tarmac is being stretched from 2.75 kilometres to 4km so that the little-used strip can accommodate large commercial jets.
Under the extension plans, nearly 40km of new taxiways are also being built to connect the runway with the rest of Changi Airport. As one of the first parts of Changi East to open, the runway is scheduled to begin operations in the next few years.
Last month, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the new airport would be “more resilient, in particular to operate more safely and flexibly during a pandemic".
“In the longer term, air travel will keep growing because of the fast expanding middle-class in our region,” said Lee.
The International Air Transport Association has projected that the Asia-Pacific would be the fastest-growing region for air travel over the next two decades.