Sep 27, 2012

The Inaugural Tiger Flight out of Terminal 2

Inaugural Tiger Flight from T2!

History is made on the morning of 25 September 2012 as the inaugural Tiger flight made its way out of Changi Terminal 2. Four hours before an arrival flight at Changi Budget Terminal saw the disembarkation of the last group of passengers to have used the airport and with their clearing of immigration and collection of luggage, the curtains finally came down drawing the era of our no-frills terminal to a close.

Bitten by the nostalgia bug that comes with an impending closure I joined the ranks of camera owners in bidding the terminal goodbye with our shots. Many must have done that as paying passengers or as relatives and friends of paying passengers after the news broke out more than six months ago. A rather late decision, one made over the weekend before the closure, was taken to pay the terminal a final visit and to say goodbye a few hours before its closure. The story of the Budget Terminal's last night will be blogged later.

It was all over for me at the terminal by the time the shuttle bus passed the SATS building and under Airport Boulevard bound for T2. A mirroring of this bus journey, the carriers that were in Budget Terminal would also move and commence operations at T2 in a few hours.

The first thing I did upon alighting from the shuttle - my final trip no doubt - was to search for the Budget Terminal's new beginning at T2. How would the phoenix rise from the ashes? The flag carrier at Budget Terminal from the first day has always been Tiger Airways. It is no coincidence that the carrier was given the honour to have their flight be the first to depart from T2 and take to the air like a phoenix.

T2 is a different ball game from the no-frills terminal. For instance, where is Tiger's . . . check-in row? Where should the vehicle stop to . . . drop you and your luggage? These are not easily answered on your first try. At the Budget Terminal with the arrival and departure halls located at ground level and check-in counters facing the main entrance, these questions did not exist.

So I did what any obedient traveller at a main airport terminal would do. I checked the departure board. There it was, TR 2986 to Guangzhou at Row 12. The inaugural Tiger flight out of T2!

I looked up to check my current position. Row numbers decreasing forward - the row was behind me. Turning back, the row number increased at every passing of the counter and built up the suspense. In no time I was at the last row. This was it. In few hours time, the Tiger would be reborn at T2. Ready for the queue?

Row 12 for Tiger Airways. Notice for BT Closure.
The suspense that built up ended at the last row - Row 12 - where Tiger has their check-in counters. By the time the counters started operations at 4am, 2 hours before scheduled departure time of TR 2986 to Guangzhou, the Budget Terminal would have closed 2 hours earlier.

Tiger Check-in Queue
The view from the top. The whole area is barricaded and the exit points are probably guarded by ushers when in use. I am not going to like this arrangement. Passengers will have harder time maneuvering with their trolley and luggage.

Row 12 for Tiger Airways
All set and ready at the check-in counters of Row 12. I presume the counter staff would be transferred over from Budget Terminal. A more spacious departure hall awaits them.

Luggage Belt at Row 12
The baggage belt behind the check-in counter, ready to take on the bags of Tiger passengers.

It was deja vu all over again. This familiar corner after the last row, where Starbucks still sit, holds sweet memories of a trip few years back. This was where I spent the earlier part of the wee hours waiting, and drinking, for my flight to Bangkok. In a cruel twist of irony, it was a Tiger flight to depart from the Budget Terminal. And here it was, the Tiger check-in counter, just next to Starbucks! I would never have imagined Tiger would one day fly out from a main terminal utilized by Singapore's flag carrier, leaving its budget cousins Jetstar and Airasia behind at another terminal, and having its check-in counter next to where I was drinking. Back then, filled with a sense of adventure and partly to save cost, I told my travelling companion we should reach the airport before midnight, when public transport were still available, to wait for time to pass before the first shuttle service commenced to take us to the Budget Terminal. As the shuttle served only T2 to pick up passengers, naturally T2 became our choice to spend the night before the morning flight. For me, the plan beats having to wake up from a short nap on the bed; and having to arrange for a cab or private transport in the wee hours.

If Starbucks has a memory, she would surely remember us, travellers who took the cafe as a lounge and the sofa as bed, to catch forty winks. Well, sort of, I do not remember we imposed on her for long. We were not alone. There were others and surprisingly many looked more like students than travellers judging from the assignments on and discussion around the coffee table.

Tiger Row beside Starbucks
The corner of T2 that holds sweet memories for me. The Starbucks was where both of us spent the earlier part of wee hours waiting for the first shuttle bus to Budget Terminal for our flight to Bangkok. You can see the blog post here. I do not mind going through the experience again, except this time I would sip coffee in between winks (not a good move?) while waiting for the  Tiger check-in counters (left side in photo) to open.

It was a dead departure hall in the wee hours with Starbucks emitting the only sign of activity few years ago. What would be the situation now that Tiger has shown herself at T2? For one, I am sure no traveller would be like us then, idly waiting for time to pass just to catch the first shuttle bus to the destination. It would be a more meaningful wait, for the Tiger passengers, at the terminal where they would catch their flight. There is still Starbucks, where after queuing at Row 12 to check in, they would return for another cup of coffee before making their way to the departure gate. For sure, the retail experience at the transit area after immigration, which technically includes all the three main terminals, would be so much more complete than at the no-frill terminal which is now history.

Photo album for the new Tiger check-in counters