Anticipating passenger growth in the coming years of 3-5% per annum, the Singapore government has determined to increase passenger capacity by 15 million per year with a new Terminal 4 (T4) due to open in 2017, and to build a “mega-terminal” T5 to boost capacity by another 50 million by the mid-2020s. That will bring capacity to 132 million passengers annually.

Changi Airport currently has capacity of 66 million passengers per year, with three terminals and two runways. The plan is to convert a military runway, already at the airport, into a third commercial runway.

Construction will start before midyear on the 190,000-sq-m Terminal 4. It is being built on the site of the old Budget Terminal, which was a short-lived project that was demolished in late 2012. The new T4, which is about 2,000 m from the other three terminals, will cater to both full-service and low-cost carriers. Changi Airport Group VP for T4 Poh Li San says it will be pitched primarily at point-to-point carriers, rather than those catering to transit traffic.

One of the key differences between T4 and the other three terminals is that T4 will have a centralized area for security screening. This means once passengers clear immigration, they will need to go through a security check. Once through security, passengers are free to browse the shops and go to their gate. It also means the passenger gates can be more open.

The first three terminals have a different system whereby passengers go through immigration and can then browse the shops. Passengers only go through a security check at their gate. But that means the gates have to be enclosed areas.

Poh says having the security check at the departure gate works well for transit passengers, but for those travelling point-to-point, centralized screening works better. Passengers, however, will still be able to transit through T4 if they want. It just means as soon as they get off the plane, they will be directed to an area where the security check will take place.

Another innovation at T4 is that there will be more self-check-in kiosks and a self-service system for baggage drops. There are already self-check-in kiosks at the other three terminals, but self-service for baggage drop is something new that has yet to be implemented at the other three terminals.

The benefit of self-service is it allows passengers to check in more quickly and gives passengers another option for checking in. But Poh concedes the push for self check-in and centralized security screening is partly in response to the labor shortage in Singapore’s service sector.

T4 will be able to cater to both narrowbody and widebody aircraft – something the old budget terminal was unable to do. This is important because some low-cost carriers (LCCs), such as Scoot and AirAsia X, operate widebodies, and some narrowbody LCC operators, such as Jetstar, have interline or codeshare agreement with full-service widebody operators.

There will also be a lot of retail space at T4 and some of the shops will be two-story. All the gates at T4 will have aero-bridges, but there will be a 600-m-long airside bridge that people will use to access aircraft parked remotely. CAG is able to have additional parking stands for T4 because it is filling in an old reservoir. Once at the other end of the airside bridge, passengers can walk onto the tarmac and onto their aircraft.