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Singapore

Changi Airport Terminals 1 and 3 reopen to the public, shops 'excited' to welcome visitors

SINGAPORE: Changi Airport Terminals 1 and 3 reopened to the public on Wednesday (Sep 1), with many shops excited and happy to welcome visitors again.

Many hope that the September school holidays, which begin on Saturday, will help their businesses pick up again. 

"It was quite an exciting day for us. At least we see some life in the airport now, compared to the past few months," said duty terminal manager Mr Dushantha Baduge.

"We definitely wanted to see members of the public back in the airport, and especially to see travel kick off again. You know, the joy of travelling. We were excited. Our whole unit was looking forward to it," added Mr S R Jegan, who is also a duty terminal manager. 

The two terminals had been closed to non-travellers for more than three months, after a cluster of COVID-19 cases was identified at the airport.

More than 80 per cent of the stores in Terminal 1 and 3 have reopened, said a spokesperson from Changi Airport Group (CAG). 

To attract more members of the public, free parking will be offered at Terminal 3 until Oct 10. Destination photo spots will also be available in both terminals, with most located in Terminal 3, until Oct 10. 

During a tour of Terminal 3 on Wednesday, the departure area only had a handful of visitors, most of whom were strolling around taking photos.

F&B OUTLETS 'EXCITED' TO WELCOME VISITORS AGAIN

On the other hand, visitors packed into food and beverage outlets, such as Starbucks, Old Town White Coffee, and Mr Teh Tarik Express.

Located at Basement 2, Mr Teh Tarik Express boasted almost a full house when CNA visited around noon. They had remained open during the last three and a half months for airport staff. 

"Sales has been picking up since morning ... There's a pickup of sales of more than 20 per cent today as compared to when the airport was closed," said business development manager Mr Tommy Ng. 

"We do see visitors coming in to dine in or take away (their food) ... The staff has been looking forward to the opening." 

Mr Ng also wanted to reassure the public that the F&B outlet has safety measures in place, including 1m distance between tables and disinfecting tables after a customer leaves.  

Over at restaurant Collin's Grille, the team was "excited" to welcome visitors to their Terminal 3 branch again.

"It's great to be back in business after a long closure ... We are fortunate to have other outlets open, and during this period we trained our staff and upskilled them to get them ready for (Terminal 3's) reopening," said CEO Collin Ho. 

"Operations today (have been) quite smooth. The team is excited to be here again and they've started to fire up the oven in the kitchen," said Mr Ho, adding that affected staff members were transferred to other outlets during Terminal 3's closure. 

The restaurant is running a promotion to welcome back customers, which mostly include families, airport employees and residents who live in the East, said Mr Ho.

RETAIL STAFF 'HAPPY' TO RETURN TO WORK 

Some retail stores had not yet benefited from the increased footfall when CNA visited earlier in the day. 

Staff at The Cocoa Trees, which sells chocolate and confectionery brands, "haven't really seen much of the family crowd", said its director of retail and local sales Pamela Loo.

But her employees were not expecting to see the family crowd until this weekend when the school holidays begin, she said. They were happy when they heard confirmation that Terminal 3 was reopening, as they were not sure when it would happen.

Over the last three months, the store's closure brought back memories of the "circuit breaker" period last year. The company reassured employees about "their job security" and what their plans were as a company, she said.

But having been through changes "quite a few times" due to the COVID-19 situation, her staff has coped better with the closure and reopening of Terminal 3.

"We're all very happy that (the reopening of Terminal 3) happened. We were a bit unsure over the last two weeks because (COVID-19) cases (in Singapore) were picking up again. The airport is relatively high risk because we're the frontline, so there was some anxiety whether (we) would really reopen," said Ms Loo. 

"Just nice (it's in time) for the school holidays. During the school holidays, we do see a sizeable family crowd ... There's quite a lot to do here. Jewel is also close by. There are so many F&B options ... We're quite positive that over the next week or so, we'll see a good comeback." 

However, some employees' family members were concerned about them returning to work at the airport, especially after the cluster was detected, said Ms Loo. 

"So it was helpful that our transit shops opened first (in July). We had a bit of a rehearsal because inside (the departure gates), it is even more high risk than here. So we had those shops open first and with all the added measures, that was like a pre-run before everything picked up again," she explained. 

SEPARATE DINING AREAS FOR STAFF

To reassure the public, "comprehensive safety measures" have been implemented, said Mr James Fong, senior vice president of CAG's landside concessions team.

"We have thoroughly disinfected all the (stores) and the airport common areas. All the staff have been recently tested negative before starting work ... (within) the past two to three days. They also go for routine testing, which gives us the added assurance," he said.

At the Terminal 3 arrival hall, parts of the area have been converted into a staff rest area. The F&B and retail outlets at Terminal 3's arrival hall will be temporarily closed to the public with this zonal segregation.

A new dedicated dining area for airport staff has also been set up at Terminal 3's Basement 2, next to the Kopitiam food court. This is to minimise their interaction with members of the public, said CAG and the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) in a joint media release on Friday. 

"To enhance segregation at the airport, a staff dining area adjacent to the Kopitiam food court at Terminal 3 Basement 2  has been set up to provide airport staff dining at the food court with a dedicated area to have their meals outside of their shift," said the media release.

"This reserved staff area will give airport workers the convenience of not having to hunt for a table at the food court, especially during busy meal times."

The terminals’ air-conditioning and mechanical ventilation systems have also been enhanced given the threat from the more transmissible COVID-19 variants, added CAG and CAAS.

"These air quality enhancements include the use of hospital grade MERV-14 filters and installation of UV-C sanitisation in the air-conditioning systems, as well as portable air purifiers with HEPA filters in the main dining area at the Kopitiam food court."

These safety measures aim to give visitors "peace of mind to freely visit the departure halls and Terminal 3 Basement 2 to shop and enjoy their meals", said CAG and CAAS.

Speaking to CNA at the staff dining area, Mr Nigel Ng, who is a swabber at the airport, was happy that people get to come back to the terminals that they "so dearly miss for the last few months". 

"It feels a bit unusual, considering how the airport has been empty for the past few months. It's going to take awhile for us to reacclimatise ourselves to this new normal.

"But (being able to visit the terminals) will definitely provide a sense of normalcy to Singaporeans, even though they cannot fly. It's better than nothing," he added.

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Source: CNA/gy

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