Arriving on flight SQ401 from Delhi at 17.30hrs and departing on flight SQ856 to Hong Kong at 09.30hrs the next morning, I had a 16 hour layover.
My stay on this occasion in Delhi didn’t last long, but I got to see The Pink City of Jaipur. I was looking forward to my flight back to Singapore on Singapore Airlines and I travelled back to Delhi Airport by taxi. The airport here in Delhi (well, Terminal 3 anyway) is actually designed on Singapore Changi Airport, so much of the layout inside looks very familiar. There was thick fog in Delhi this morning, but luckily it didn’t delay my flight and boarding commenced when it should have.
The 5hr flight from Delhi to Singapore was fairly uneventful, apart from a very bumpy takeoff. I think the runway at Delhi must be in need of repair or something (or maybe the SQ aircraft was just bouncing around for some reason), but once in the air we had a calm and serene flight – as I almost always have with Singapore Airlines! I had a window seat, as I always do for the shorthaul and medium haul flights, and got some great views of the Andaman coast off of Thailand and Malaysia as we headed closer and closer to Singapore.
The pilot made a great landing at Changi – maybe the best landing I have ever experienced at Changi – and then upon disembarkation I took one final look at the magnificent B777-200 aircraft that had just flown me across the Indian Ocean. After a short refuelling, this aircraft will off somewhere else, probably somewhere like Bangkok or Jakarta, which are regional routes where SQ send their older B777s.
With a 16hr layover at Singapore Changi Airport, I had already decided to book myself a room at the Ambassador Transit Hotel. There are hotels in Terminal 1 and Terminal 3, but I like the T3 one better, as it’s larger and is more modern. However, the swimming pool is located just outside the T1 hotel, so that’s something to consider. I booked online a few weeks beforehand, as the hotel is always busy can rarely have rooms available for people who just turn up announced. You can book the room in blocks of 6hrs. I booked 2 blocks of 6hrs, which gave me 12hrs in total. You get free internet in the hotel rooms, although no WIFI – only wired internet (this means iPads are useless in the actual room). You can borrow a LAN cable for your laptop from the reception free of charge if you don’t have one.
Officially, my time in the room was scheduled for 18.00hrs to 06.00hrs the next morning, although as I had a first class flight to Hong Kong the next morning I actually was planning to check out of the hotel much earlier and go to the first class lounge to enjoy myself with a Jack Daniel’s & Coke or two!
For an aviation enthusiast like me, who loves being in airports, I was not planning to sleep much tonight. I was actually hoping to enjoy everything Changi Airport had to offer during my layover. After all, it is the best airport in the world! In fact, the hotel room in itself was just a place to go back to every now and then and have a bed for a few hours sleep in the dead of night. Most of the rest of the time, I was shopping, eating, and plane-spotting – and doing other geeky things besides!
So what are some geeky things to do to pass the time at Changi Airport?
- Finding some interesting flights on the departures board and go to watch the passengers board the aircraft
- Experience the Garden Trail throughout the terminals and enjoy the scenery
- Ride the shuttle train between terminals to save you from walking the distance yourself
- Enjoy some live music in Terminal 2 in the bars overlooking the tarmac of the airport
- Take advantage of the quietness of Changi by having a sleep in the Snooze Lounges
- Make sure you have a pint of Singapore’s national beer, Tiger Beer, in the Tiger Bar in Terminal 3
- Have a swim in the pool at Terminal 1 and watch the planes land as you are swimming (fees apply)
- Feed the koi carp in the ponds that are scattered around the airport
- Head up to the Sunflower Garden and do some plane-spotting in the open air (you will get very hot)
- See Changi in the dead of night between 02.10hrs and 05.00hrs when there are no arrivals or departures
- Watch a movie in the FREE cinema located in Terminal 3!
After midnight, the final batch of flights depart from Changi. I cannot remember exactly, but I think Terminal 1 is the first to ‘close’, followed by Terminal 2, and then the final flight departing Changi is a Qatar Airways flight to Doha, which leaves at around 02.10hrs (this was accurate when I was there, but the schedule may have changed since). Incidentally, two of the final flights from Terminal 2 are the Singapore Airlines flights to Delhi and Mumbai, both of which are now operated with the A380. They are the only A380s in SQ’s fleet that are not based at T3. The flights to Delhi and Mumbai leave at around the same time, and as well as the final flights from T2 that day, they also represent the end of normal operations for Singapore Airlines at any terminal until dawn. Another flight I always like to see leave is Singapore Airlines Flight SQ478 to Cape Town. This leaves Terminal 2 at around 01.25hrs six times a week, and is a flight that I have now taken myself! The B777 used on this route flies 10 hours over the Indian Ocean and has a short stop in Johannesburg before heading on to Cape Town. Usually you would not want such a long flight, but I always smile knowing that the people in the boarding gate here are in good hands with the renowned Singapore Girls!
As you can imagine, Changi is deserted at night time, but you can still see people sleeping the seats around the terminal buildings (or on the floor). I guess they have long layovers like I have but aren’t prepared to pay for a hotel room or a lounge. I guess if you’re really on a budget then sleeping on an airport floor may be the norm, but really I would recommend the transit hotel, as it’s very cheap, and you can pay for just 6hrs if you wanted to.
At any time of the day or night, you can spend your time during your layover EATING! This is something that Singaporeans are renowned for, and you will be pleased to know that most areas of airport now have 24hr food courts. It is very enjoyable (and geeky) to explore the airport at night during your layover and seeing what kind of edible delights you can find from one terminal to the next. I am almost ashamed to say it, but one of my most regular haunts at Changi is the Burger King on the top level of Terminal 3 – and I am also almost ashamed to say that such is the frequency of my visits there that I instantly recognise some of the staff! If Whoppers are not your thing, then as you would expect, there are culinary delights from all corners of the globe on offer here at Singapore Changi Airport, with Japanese and Korean being popular. The new Singapore Food Street has now also opened in Terminal 3, so check it out.
I am a big fast food fan and enjoy eating my way around downtown Singapore so it’s nice to have the same reputable brands here at the airport, such as Honeymoon Dessert, ThaiExpress, Toast Box, 4 Fingers Crispy Chicken, Sushi Burrito, Paris Baguette, Sakae Sushi, and Curry Times! Of course, international brands such as Starbucks, Subway, McDonald’s and Nando’s are also scattered around the airport, too. This means you will never go hungry! Click here for a full list of dining options at Changi Airport.