How To Build A Good Airport

By | August 4, 2005

I just want to sing the praises of Singapore’s Changi airport. I was upset to see a year or so back that they had discontinued free Wi-Fi —  now you have to pay, although many GSM operators have roaming agreements that give you a free access code to one of the airport’s Wi-Fi operators — but to me far more important is the availability of decent working desks with working power outlets and Ethernet cable slots.

Changi has recently upgraded these facilities but has yet to update its airport maps, so I was aggrieved to find that in my usual spot the number of tables had shrunk, and each was occupied with folk who looked like they were camping there for the summer. There was no one at the information desk but I did spot a feedback terminal, so fired off my complaint, saying folk like me try to transit via Changi because it’s a great place to get work done without having to shell out extra money, and that if I am in Singapore for any reason I try to get to the airport early knowing I can work there. (Offhand I can’t think of another airport that offers desks for people to sit at outside a business centre or business class lounge.)  I signed off with the usual threats about losing customers like me if they scaled back these facilities etc etc. (It had been a long day and I was facing blog withdrawal. )

Of course, immediately after doing that I stumbled upon a cluster of other desks — most of them unoccupied — so I felt slightly bad about it, but assumed no one would read my complaint anyway. So imagine my surprise when I heard back this morning from the Civilian Aviation Authority of Singapore:

We apologize for the inconvenience you have encountered while using the Laptop Access corners. We wish to clarify that we do have other Laptop Access corners located behind Giordano shop and Nexus Lounge at Terminal 1(21 workstations), near the GST Refund Counter at Terminal 2 (8 workstations), behind Sports Bar (16 workstations) and the iConnect at Level 3, Terminal 2 (15 workstations).

That’s good service in my view. Singapore really gets it right with Changi. It’s not too noisy, realising that travellers just want somewhere quiet they can shop, rest, and eat without noisy music and loud announcements. It’s got good facilities you don’t have to pay extra for, including quiet rooms with chaises longues, realising that transit and airport facilities should be built into the price of the ticket. And finally they realise that an airport reflects the country it’s in. It’s a gateway not just out but in, and through. If you make people feel they’re having a good experience they’ll leave impressed and come back. If you use an airport just to fleece people and make them feel harried, hustled and hassled, they’ll do their best not to pass through again.

4 thoughts on “How To Build A Good Airport

  1. Jim

    To illustrate the digital divide, being “plugged in” in an African airport is having a power outlet and electricity to charge the mobile, laptop and iPod. Being “hot wired” is being able to get a drinkable and warm cup of coffee. “Connectivity” is speaking a language that will get you served and “software” is hot “toasta mista” or ham and cheese jaffle. Getting something edible can be a challenge. “Hardware”? That’s what you’re probably sitting on.

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  3. Vivek

    Couldnt agree with you more. I am writing this message to you from Changi. After I found that they have shutdown free Wifi I was a bit upset but I found clusters of free Internet access points adn writing this entry from one such a cluster. Also the airport’s facilitiesare a definite joy.

  4. Serge

    Changi airport is simply the best. There is a sense of calm when you arrive. No hustle you move at your own pace. Your absolutely right about being able to do some work there.


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