Singapore’s Changi Airport: 40 Years Later (In Photos)

by Zoe

Singapore Changi Airport is often regarded as the best airport in the world. From gardens to movie theaters to waterfalls — and almost everything you could possibly imagine within the walls of an airport — Changi pretty much has it.

Construction began on Changi 40 years ago in 1979, and the fascinating transformation of the airport in the decades since can be seen through an awesome timeline on Changi’s website.

Not only has it been awarded the most “best airport” awards, it also has the honor of welcoming the first Boeing 747-400 to operate across the Pacific as well as put into service an Airbus A380 (both with Singapore Airlines).

There’s a ton of Changi “firsts” and notable achievements. Here are some of the highlights in photos:


Image by Changi Airport

Construction on Singapore Changi Airport breaks ground, and China and Singapore reach an agreement to operate flights between the two countries.


singapore changi airport

Image by Changi Airport

Changi is the first airport in the world to introduce the concept of airport gardens, and the first to allow passengers to make free local phone calls in transit.

Taxi lines were located indoors so passengers could wait within the terminal (with air-conditioning) before they entered their taxi.

Within two weeks of the airport opening, 250,000 people visit the airport. That’s 1 in 10 Singaporeans. The airport conducts paid tours after immigration at the cost of $0.50 per person.


Image by Changi Airport

By 1986, Changi passes the 10 million passenger mark and construction for Terminal 2 begins.


changi airport history

Image by Changi Airport

Singapore Airlines operates the first Boeing 747-400 across the Pacific.


singapore changi airport

Image by Changi Airport

The world’s first ever transit area swimming pool (which also happens to be on the roof) opens at Terminal 1. This currently still exists with the Aerotel transit hotel operating the pool.


singapore changi airport

Image by Changi Airport

Even more amenities are introduced to Changi including a now iconic movie theater and sports arena.


Image by Changi Airport

Changi Airport’s MRT (public transit) station opens which makes the airport even more accessible.


changi airport history

Image by Changi Airport

Singapore Airlines flies the first ever Airbus A380 and Changi is the first airport to welcome the aircraft.


Image by Changi Airport

The world’s first ever airport butterfly garden opens with over 1,000 butterflies and 40 unique species.

Related: Photo Tour of Changi’s Butterfly Garden


singapore changi airport

Image by Changi Airport

Terminal 4 opens with Air Asia, Cathay Pacific, Cebu Pacific, Korean Air, Spring Airlines and Vietnam Airlines moving operations there. It also brings Changi’s total capacity to 82 million passengers per year.


singapore changi airport

Singapore Airlines operates the world’s longest ever flight (again) with nonstop service between Singapore Changi and Newark, NJ using an Airbus A350-ULR.


changi airport history

The Jewel opens which is described as a “multi-dimensional lifestyle destination with airport facilities.” The centerpiece is the world’s tallest indoor waterfall at 144 feet.

Related: Best Meal At Changi Airport: Staff Canteen!

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