Workplace: Pros and Cons working at Changi Airport

By Changi Airport Group - Source: Wiki Commons
Iconic control tower at Singapore Changi Airport

I have been calling Changi Airport my workplace for the last 6 months now. Changi Airport is often the most checked-in place in Singapore and usually signifies someone’s start, mid or end of a journey.

The significance of being at Changi Airport has lost its shine on me. Instead, it has taken on a different meaning – I have become an observer of people journeying through the airport.

If you have been to Singapore’s Changi Airport, you will know that the airport is divided in three terminals – 1,2 and 3 with a 4th underway. The airport is shaped like a U, with Terminal 3 on the left, Terminal 1 which houses the familiar iconic control tower at the airport and Terminal 2 on the right. Both Terminals 3 and 2 are linked through a long walk-way over the MRT station, which makes it easy for me to get across from Terminal 3 where the bus takes me first, to Terminal 2 where my office is. It is a good walk for sure.

Now, if you are working at the airport with an airport pass for airside or departure/transit area, that makes work even more exciting when you get to be as close to the traveling action as possible. I have gone through with a temporary pass a couple of times and you will realise that the shops are about the same. You’ll pass perfumes and cosmetics and more high-end fashion shops which are usually empty and makes you wonder how they are surviving at the airport given the high lease rates.

What is exciting is knowing about the fight for space at the airside where confectioneries battle for who gets prime space at the airport and cosmetics, perfumes which have recently changed hands from long-time incumbent for perfumes and cosmetics, Nuance-Watsons at the airport to The Shilla Duty Free (Korean). This may not be something which a main paper would report as it is specific to industry. However, being close to the ground makes this exciting as tenders at Changi Airport can be a battleground where brands from all over the world fight to get a place at one of the world’s busiest and highly rated airports. King Power has long lost in the tussle for confectioneries to Focus Network Agencies (The Cocoa Trees), a homegrown company which distributes a wide range of chocolates and candies from all over the world.

Before I start disclosing more interesting events and findings from the airport, I’ve a few thoughts on how my experience has been working at the airport.

Why I like working at the airport 

  • Being close to the ground where travellers meet Singapore; being part of the action and the movement of people.
  • World class airport environment which I am proud of.
  • Accessible by all modes of transport.
  • No traffic jams/heavy traffic usually in the direction I’m heading since traffic during peak hours are usually heading towards town and not to the airport.
  • Bus 36 to the airport from Marine Parade is usually empty.
  • Fully sheltered for access to food and amenities.
  • GST-free purchase at Watsons and some other outlets.
  • Cheap food at staff canteens, located at different lifts close to the carparks. You’ll need to take a short walk to the canteens and then again it is a walk to anywhere at the airport, even the bathrooms. Fully air-conditioned canteens but beware, you’ll smell like a walking fried carrot cake when you leave. Have plenty of body spray on hand at the office. (I can remember eating at the canteen only twice in the 6 months I’ve been working at the airport.)
  • A good in-door walk without being exposed to humidity outside. I’ve done about 10,000 steps in a day just at the airport alone walking from one Terminal to another and taking a walk around transit. This is especially great when it is raining outside and you can’t do your usual walks after work.
  • Quick cab queues. Absolutely fantastic with no queues or so fast you won’t be able to finish loading an email on your phone before your turn comes up. Of course, you do get a flat surcharge of S$3 from the airport. But hey, it costs about S$2.50 or so to call a cab from outside when it’s difficult to flag a cab.
  • Mystery of what and where you are from when you get into a cab with just a handbag and a laptop bag or a day backpack with gym stuff – Some drivers ask where you are going and I’ve had drivers who wish to take me through a scenic route, telling me that the ECP is the most beautiful expressway in Singapore (which I agree). Some try to give me a description of where we are going and what we are travelling through. Sometimes I just listen and pretend I don’t know just to hear what they say. I feel like a ‘Mystery Tourist’.
  • No problems getting a cab at 4pm – the ‘witching’ hour for cabs in Singapore when all cabs which appear available are actually not available. They tell you that they are changing shift and will only go to places which are going in the same direction. I jump into a cab queue at the airport at 4pm and a whole line-up of cabs await in bays and the operator commands you, ‘Bay 12 madam’.
  • Bathrooms in more accessible public areas such as the level 1 arrival halls and level 2 departure halls are usually cleaned almost clockwork after you leave the cubby. You don’t run out of paper as the airport tries to maintain a good standard for visitors.
  • Uniforms everywhere – from pilots, stewards, stewardesses, airport customer service staff in their bright pink and purple outfits which remind me of Willy Wonka all the time to cleaning, trolley services and Certis security which i find dubious sometimes.
  • Patrol units of special ops – military and police patrol the airport in packs of 3, fully armed and of course, I hope that I will never need to see them in action.
  • You can take as many trips on the skytrains as you like.
  • Hidden passageways can be interesting. eg. There’s an airport recreation club which you’ll need to go through several doors and a lift.

Why the airport may not be great as a workplace

  • I no longer wish to visit the airport over the weekends for meals with my family as I usually do in the past since we live in the far Eastern side of Singapore (Tanah Merah) and it is really convenient to eat at the airport. I am now at Katong which is still nearby but given the transport fare, it is evident that I am closer to City than the airport.
  • Bus rides are direct but long and more pricey – My bus to the airport, Bus 36, takes me from the house to the airport almost in an empty bus. My bus ride now costs about 1.55 or so per trip compared to travelling towards town from Katong which costs only 1.30 per trip.
  • Cab rides to and from the airport are costly. The stretch of expressway from Bayshore to the airport is long and it usually costs about S$10 just on that stretch.
  • Travelling time to anywhere in Singapore can be a pain in the arse. This means I have to plan my meetings and a last minute meeting throws my day off track when I have to reshuffle some office meetings and out of office meetings.
  • Long walks to the bathrooms which are at the ends usually. My office is located in the middle and you’ll find yourself running down the corridors to the bathroom when you are close to high tide.
  • Some offices around the airport can be tricky to locate. There are hidden passages and doorways to the airline offices. This may or may not be a bad point. It depends on how much time you have. It may be fun given that it’s like a labyrinth.
  • If you are not eating at the staff canteen, you’ll find that food options can be limited. There is a Kopitiam food court at Terminal 3 which is reasonable. Otherwise, all other foods can be pricey.
  • My office doesn’t have windows as it is located in the basement. This can get depressing and hence, walks around the airport where you have a glimpse of the world outside can be slightly lifting. I have no access to weather until I walk up to the first level.
  • It is always freezing at the office. The office is operated by the central airport unit and it doesn’t get a rest at the airport. You’ll find those winter jackets useful at the office after a while.

I guess that just about sums it all, for now. Let me know if you think of others. 😀

More updates on my airport experiences!

Love, Ali

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Alicia C

Travel, cooking, discovery, outdoors, randomness...and experiences!

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