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First-class airports are improving the travel experience

Changi Airport (Singapore)
Automation and technology are central to Changi’s infrastructure. LED screens broadcast mini-theatre shows like the “Peranakan Love Story,” while a Heritage Zone offers travelers a look into Peranakan culture, particularly architecture from the 1880s to 1950s. (Changi Airport Group)

These first-class airports are improving the travel experience

Kathryn Kyte

Whether you’re jet-setting for a special getaway or a frequent business flier, reliable air travel is central to the experience. Opting to fly comes with plenty of perks and pains—no one likes long layovers, right? However, there are ways to make those layovers more bearable and airports across the globe are gung ho about keeping customers happy on and off the ground.

Every year accolades are given to airports, like Skytrax’s World Airport Awards or the newly launched ‘Airport Innovation Power List’ from Future Travel Experience. Technological advances, architecture, airport culture, passenger accessibility and overall efficiency all come into consideration and critique when assessing what the best airports have to offer. Innovation is noticed and rewarded.

Automation, robotics, data analytics, smart infrastructure management are all areas that steer change, and airports invest millions of dollars to ensure their airport is offering only the best for its travelers.

Singapore’s Changi Airport, which is regarded as one of the most passenger-friendly airports, continues to be leading this innovation charge, and has been doing so consecutively for the past five years. In 2017 it once again topped Skytrax’s ‘best of’ list, and with its newly introduced Terminal 4 in early 2017, Changi will further shape the future of travel.

Terminal 4 is the first terminal at Changi Airport to offer end-to-end Fast and Seamless Travel (FAST) for departing passengers. Facial recognition software speeds up the efficiency of passenger’s check in, bag drop and immigration clearing. Nine airlines are slated to operate at Terminal 4 including Korean Air and Cathay Pacific.

In just under three years, the construction of Terminal 4 was completed, ringing in at a price tag of SGD$985 million (about CAD$908 million). Once the terminal is fully operational it is expected to facilitate 16 million passengers a year.

While Changi took the main award, four Canadian airports should be noted on the Top 100 list, too. Vancouver Airport came in at No. 13 (No. 14 in 2016), Toronto’s Pearson International Airport landed at No. 43 on the list (No. 44 in 2016), the Halifax Stanfield Airport is No. 65 (down from No. 61 in 2016) and Montreal Airport came in at No. 80 on the list, moving up eight spots from its 2016 ranking.

When it comes to innovation, there are seven airports that manage to attract, engage and respect travellers while they wait to fly.