Sunday, November 1, 2009

Chillin' in Changi Airport on a Passage to India

SINGAPORE - Changi International Airport is routinely voted at or very near the top of world's best airports list every year by experienced world travelers, and you can see why. It took me all of 10 minutes this morning to whisk through check-in and security, ending in Singapore Airlines' Silverkris Lounge. Of course, it was only 5 a.m., but, still...this is an airport that works.

Changi, the home base of Singapore Airlines, recently opened a state of the art terminal 3; I flew into that terminal almost exactly a year ago when I traveled from my home in California to Singapore for an airline wine event hosted by the carrier's trio of wine consultants. I flew this year into and out of terminal 2 from my previous stopover in Auckland.

Terminal 2 is older but scrupulously maintained. It is graced by a marvelous indoor tropical garden, complete with a wooden walkway through the ferns, oversized flowers and other flora, and is enlivened by a sizable koi pond. Showers, a swimming pool and clusters of stand-up PCs for free Internet use are scattered through the smartly carpeted terminal.

In the Silverkris Lounge, where I waited for my flight to Mumbai on my first-ever passage to India, were dozens more free PCs, a good coffee-making machine, sumptuous Asian and Western food, and an array of free alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. Large video monitors blinked overhead with flight information, and muted television screens showed BBC and CNN news.

How tuned-in to customers is Singapore Airlines? When I arrived early this ay-em, before the airport check-in desks were formally open, rather than make me wait, a reservation agent opened her station 7 or 8 minutes early to check me in. I can't think of many airlines that would do that, or many airports where it would happen.

Now, onto Mumbai, next stop on my round the world journey with Star Alliance member airlines.

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