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First flight touches down at refurbished Changi Airport T2

A Singapore Airlines flight from Munich, the first to arrive at the refurbished Changi Airport Terminal 2 (T2), touched down on Sunday morning (May 29).

Passengers on flight SQ327, which landed at 7.12am, welcomed the spacious layout of the renovated terminal and swift automated immigration clearance.

The terminal was reopening after it was closed in May 2020 for renovations.

First to exit the glass doors separating immigration and baggage claim from the public area of the arrival hall was Mr Kaushik Mohan, who was returning to Singapore after a five-day work trip to the German city.

The 38-year-old private equity investor said: "I didn't need to wait for anything... (and) there are new automatic immigration machines."

There are 34 automated immigration lanes, said operator Changi Airport Group (CAG). They serve Singaporeans and residents who have enrolled their iris and facial biometrics with the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA), as well as eligible foreign visitors. Another 12 lanes are manned by ICA officers.

Of the 34 automated lanes, six are special assistance lanes that are wider to cater to passengers with mobility aids and big families.

However, only 16 automated lanes, three special assistance lanes and six manned counters will be in use for now, the airport operator said.

Before the renovation, there were only eight automated lanes and 16 counters in the same hall.

Sunday marks the first phase of the reopening of T2, with arrival immigration, baggage claim belts and contact gates at the southern wing of the terminal ready for flight operations.

The rest of the arrival immigration hall, as well as the departure hall, are still undergoing renovation. The expansion works are slated to be fully completed by 2024.

The terminal will cater to peak-hour arrival flights of airlines operating in Terminal 3 (T3). A small number of T3 departure flights may use the boarding gates at T2, although passengers on these flights will continue to check in and clear departure immigration at T3.

As travel restrictions ease globally, air travel has picked up, with passenger traffic through Changi Airport now averaging above 40 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.

Mr Mohan said the passengers were offered tea and biscuits by airport staff welcoming them, making for a "very festive" atmosphere.

Another passenger, Mr Tay Swee Kiat, praised the lighting and layout, as well as the efficiency of immigration clearance.

The engineer, who is in his 50s, had flown from Texas in the United States - with a layover in Munich - to visit family in Singapore with his 17-year-old daughter.

But Mr Tay lamented the lack of duty-free shopping at the arrival immigration hall. He said: "Usually we'll get some duty-free items, but today, it (the store) is closed."

The duty-free store in the arrival immigration hall was still under renovation, though staff were seen wheeling in crates of goods to stock makeshift kiosks selling duty-free goods.

But the kiosks were also not open early on Sunday.

Also disappointed at the lack of duty-free shopping was Mr Ching Tze Choon, a 55-year-old who works in the semiconductor field, returning from a two-week work trip in Munich. "I usually get beer, but the store is not ready yet. Other than that, everything was okay."

Some said the facilities in the terminal can be improved.

"I don't think it (the old T2 design) was like that - this feels so sparse in comparison," said counsellor Oileen Lee, 56. Madam Lee was at the terminal with her husband to welcome her eldest son who was returning from a study programme in Barcelona.

With only part of the arrival hall opened, she added: "There's nothing to drink and eat here; we were hoping to have coffee."

CHANGI AIRPORTAIRPORTSTRAVEL AND LEISURE