Changi is tops for…
FLYING is exhausting.
By Ho Lian-Yi
03 August 2009
FLYING is exhausting.
Cramped legroom, economy-class food, jet lag and the hassles of customs and security checks often add to a very different experience from the serene skies of airline commercials.
Who can blame anyone – the transit folks especially – for wanting to get some shut-eye after landing?
It’s no wonder then that Changi Airport takes the science of sleep seriously.
A poll of 6,200 passengers by travel website The Guide To Sleeping In Airports rated Changi the cleanest and most comfortable airport to sleep in, ahead of Seoul’s Incheon and Amsterdam’s Schiphol, which came in second and third respectively.
Paris’ Charles De Gaulle was rated THE worst for its poor toilets, the throngs of homeless people who inhabit the place and hostile staff.
Cheekily, the website said: ‘Can Singapore Changi send over some trainers?’
But does Changi Airport live up to the hype? We wanted to see for ourselves.
So on Monday , The New Paper on Sunday decided to check out its lauded sleeping facilities.
We were invited to visit at 2.30pm, which seemed a little early, but we were assured that there was no shortage of snoozers even at that hour.
We met a Changi Airport representative, who accompanied us around its transit malls as we searched for the best snooze sites.
She said: ‘At Changi, we recognise travelling is stressful… so we want it as comfortable as possible.’
We started at Terminal 3, which looked spanking new even though it’s more than a year since its opening last January.
Our first stop was the Ambassador Transit Hotel (there’s a transit hotel at each terminal).
It’s not a five-star hotel but it’s entirely adequate.
Mr Vivek Chandra Thapliyal, 29, assistant manager (rooms division) said: ‘Just the basics, no frills, no room service, just accommodation.’
Sure, there’s no cable TV (the LCD TV only had local channels), or a bathtub, but the room we saw was sparkling clean, had a warm shower and the pillows were soft. There are 66 rooms in all with a limited number of windowed rooms.
The charge per person is $68.25 for the first six hours and $15.30 for each subsequent hour.
Next to the hotel is the movie theatre, screening free films all day.
It wasn’t exactly a first-rate movie experience – people used to cineplexes will find the screen, well, tiny. But the selection of films is decent (Jennifer Aniston vehicle Rumour Has It was showing at that time).
More importantly – it is an ideal spot for dozing.
It’s dark and one could easily sink into a slumber in the cinema-quality seats. But rest is not just about beds.
A short walk away from the theatre is the Butterfly Garden, one of several gardens in the airport for people who want to be with nature.
Madam Zandra Eccles, 71, an Australian retiree, was watching the fluttering insects. She was on transit from Brunei to Melbourne, with seven hours to kill.
‘I think this is brilliant,’ she said.
‘I love the openness, the way nature is looked after.’
There’s nothing more relaxing than lounging in the armchairs near the Singapore Straits Bar, surrounded by koi fish in running water, while the sound of jazz music lingered in the air.
Mr Wade Gregory, 24, an Australian student flying from London to Brisbane, was having a foot massage at one of the many massage machines around the airport.
‘This is very good especially after a 12-hour flight from Europe. My feet have been in shoes all the time,’ he said.
Then we took the Skytrain to Terminal 2, which was considerably more crowded.
Serious snoozers not wanting to pay may consider wandering over to Terminal 3 for superior sleeptime.
For those with cash, there’s another transit hotel and a Plaza Premium Lounge, where for around $30 (depending on the package), you can snooze in the nap room. (There’s a lounge at T3 as well.)
The beds are made of PVC (for easy cleaning) and the scent of lavender wafts in the air.
A buzzer clock – originally designed for the deaf – vibrates the pillow at the time of your choosing to wake you up without disturbing anyone else.
Showers, a lounge with buffet, massages, a gym and even an oxygen therapy room are available for a price as well.
There are free options too.
Mr Bob B, 27, an Indian nurse currently working in Australia, was lying on one of the many recliners at Sanctuary @ T2, a free resting spot.
He was tired, but he said: ‘I don’t think I’ll get a deep sleep because if I do, I’ll miss my flight.’
This is not necessarily true.
At The Oasis, another resting spot, some of the sleeping seats had in-built alarm clocks that also work by vibrating the headrest.
Unfortunately, because the shortest setting is 30 minutes (up to 300 minutes or five hours), we couldn’t actually test how well it works.
(We didn’t go to Terminal 1 as upgrading work was being done.)
THE BEST AIRPORT TO NAP IN
1. Singapore Changi
2. Seoul Incheon
3. Amsterdam Schiphol
4. Oslo Gardermoen
5. Hong Kong
7. Frankfurt International
* Source: www.sleepinginairports.net