My relaxing 15 hour layover…

Some people go to spas to relax. I go to airports (well, ideally airlines’ free spas at airports, though that’s neither here nor there). As a matter of fact, I’m spending 15 hours at one today. Yeah, I’m crazy, let me explain.

You see, I landed in Singapore this morning at 3AM, and my connection to Kuala Lumpur isn’t until 5PM (due to award availability). Originally I was going to go into the city, though I have carry-ons, have a bunch of work I need to get done, it’s over 90 degrees outside, and I’ll be visiting Singapore for a full day on my return journey in a few days (not to mention I’ve been there several times before).

So instead I decided to spend the day at the airport getting all of my work done so that I can spend the next few days exploring Kuala Lumpur with rather limited interruptions.

And while I’m as tired as humanly possible (keep in mind, I left Los Angeles yesterday afternoon after waking up at 7AM, had a 20 hour flight, and have now been in Singapore for 11 hours), I’m incredibly relaxed and getting a ton of work done. Usually my “office” is Starbucks or Panera, since all I need to work is my laptop. So this is my office for today.

When I got here at 3AM I had the massive lounge all to myself. It began to fill up eventually, and now it’s once again very quiet.

Anyway, that’s really not the point of this post. In addition to having a cup of coffee every six minutes, I’ve roamed the airport periodically in an effort to stay awake and get a bit of movement. What I’ve come to realize is that Singapore Changi really is, by far, the world’s best airport (I previously rated it as one of the best airports in this TravelSort article). While Hong Kong Airport is perhaps slightly more architecturally impressive, the features of Singapore Changi are second to none.

For one, Terminal 3 is about as classy of a shopping mall as any.

Terminal 3

But lots of airports have great duty free shopping. It’s the other amenities that set them apart.

Some of the amenities

While it’s not in anyway useful, there’s a very cool open air butterfly garden in the airport. Butterflies are a lot more interesting when there’s a 777-300ER in the background.

Butterfly garden

Beyond that, the airport has a legitimate free movie theater. When I had a look, they were playing the new “Wall Street” movie (my point being, they’re not playing Wiggles reruns).

Free movie theater

Free movie theater

For whatever reason the airport never seems to be crowded, with plenty of comfortable seating.

Seating areas

I consider it a treat when an airport has free wifi. Not only does Changi have free wifi, but it even has free computer terminals for anyone to use.

And lastly, check out the immigration lines when I walked past them a few minutes ago:

Non-existent immigration lines

Seriously, Changi is an airport I’d actually love to transit as a passenger without lounge access. Hell, I have lounge access, and I’ve found myself sitting outside the lounge just as much as inside the lounge so far today.


  1. I love our airports (Terminal 1 to Terminal 3 but obviously Terminal 3 is the best as it is very new). On weekdays, students go there to study or adults go there to have a relaxing coffee as it can be pretty quiet in the afternoons. But on weekends… Singaporeans even go to the airport for meals and shopping. There are great discounts and cheap parking at times 🙂

  2. I was last in Changi about 18 months ago. Had a lovely swim to get rid out of the kinks from a long flight (Y from the UK), a little light shopping, and then dinner and a cocktail. A five jour layover, and I really wish it had been longer.

  3. I’d also like to point out the outdoor pool, indoor gyms, and transit hotels behind immigration. On the public side there are markets, dry cleaners, and more. T2 even has a place where those in the secure area can meet face to face (separated by glass) with those in the public area, a la jail visitation.

  4. Immigration lines during evening arrivals can be quite lengthy. But I suppose the fact that they give out free candy at the immigration counters somewhat mitigates that.

  5. Years ago when I was a kid (80s), Changi was my home airport, and I was lucky enough to travel the world. I knew then that it was the best airport, but golly it’s even more impressive now! I hope to finally go back to see it someday soon.

  6. very glad u were able to get work done Ben (especially finalizing our fall award itinerary from ATL to BCN, DXB to ATL) Another “clearly way Above & beyond” award service as usual..thank you

  7. Now if only America could learn from the example of airports like Changi, then US travel would be way better.

  8. Absolutely love Changi. I came in on a flight from Thailand in the afternoon and didn’t have my connection to LHR till midday the following day so just hung around and slept in terminal 3. The free wifi, free gaming PCs, cinema and comfortable chairs made the whole experience easy and when morning came round, I paid $8 SGD for a shower and was good to go. I reckon Schipol only comes a close second in terms of facilities.

  9. @chitownflyer. If our local governments wouldn’t be so parochial about letting private capital in to our airports, this would have been done in the US many years ago. Indeed, all of the same type of private capital that invests in airports outside the US is poised and ready to move to the US…but cities, which typically control airports, are extremely reluctant to let private firms invest capital. The FAA even has a framework in place. Write to your new mayor Rahm and his CFO Lois Scott and ask them to put privatizing ORD at the top of their agenda. I know many private investors that would bid in the billions for the asset…and deliver an entirely different experience to the pax. The only reason this doesn’t kick off in 2012 is because of our elected officials.

  10. Last time I was at Changi with a 6 hour layover I was able to drop my bags at a bag check station and took a free shuttle into the city which stopped at a couple of different locations.

    I spent a couple hours at SunTec visiting with some old colleagues and traipsing through the mall. It was a decent way to waste a few hours between flights.

  11. Until the remodels are done at SIN, HKG is still the best airport in the world. SIN’s Terminal 1 has to be a step below NRT currently.

  12. The transit hotel in T3 is excellent for those annoying 3:05am arrivals (basic but very clean and comfortable) and if you request a room with a window you can watch the planes coming in. Changi is the BEST!!!

  13. The one thing I love about Changi is that if you check luggage – it’ll be there waiting for you when you pass the generally non-existent immigration lines. Always able to get gate to home in about 30-45 minutes (amazing!)

  14. T3 is great and the best terminal on the planet and T3 SilverKris one of the best lounges. T1 and T2 are a different matter. T1 is rundown and awfful and T2 is looking neglected. It seems like SQ has abandoned them. The SIA Premium and SilverKris lounge in T2 are mediocre. Immigration at T2 can be a grind. I had a 20 minute wait recently.

  15. I agree the butterfly garden is very cool.

    But, no airport is fun to spend an overnight in. Changi is no exception to that. I got stuck spending an overnight there during the whole BKK airport shutdown. I managed to escape to HKT for a flight to SIN where I had been rebooked by UA (I had a C award ticket). Unfortunately the a-holes at UA do not allow BPs to be issued for their flight before about 4AM. So I was stuck with no lounge access and had to spend the night in the terminal because the dragons at the KF lounge refused to allow me in without a BP. The transit hotel was full. The stores and restaurants all close and the place basically empties out except for some cops who wander around checking passports from time to time. But the giant TVs run with their volume at full blast through the night.

    It was not a great experience.

  16. If you were able to get through the entire post with no complaints…well, it must be an AWESOME airport. Kudos.

  17. @nybanker, although that sounds great in theory, I can tell you that Chicagoans would be very gunshy about something like that in light of the revelations regarding the “forfeited” revenue through the sales of the skyway and parking meters. For instance, the parking rights were sold for about $1.2B and it has been reported that the total revenue over the life of the deal is $11+ billion, or almost $150M/year. Parking fees have also been steadily rising since privatization, a fact which will not be lost on Chicago residents.

  18. Perhaps something out there DOES beat Munich – which I love for its’ complimentary hot beverages and newspapers. Nice airport to transfer at as well.

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