Singapore airport opens new terminal to fend off competition
( dpa )- Singapore's Changi Airport opened its third terminal Wednesday with the aim of capturing a bigger slice of the rising demand for air travel in the Asia-Pacific region and fending off its competition. The first passengers arrived on a Singapore Airlines flight from San Francisco via Seoul to a colourful welcoming ceremony at the 1.75-billion-Singapore-dollar (1.22-billion-US-dollar), state-of-the-art facility. "Competition between hubs is heating up," said Lim Kim Choon , director general and chief executive officer of the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore, which runs the airport. The city-state faces competition from new airports in Dubai and Kuala Lumpur. Also under consideration is an expansion of Bangkok's international airport opened in 2006. Changi's 380,000-square-metre Terminal 3 was designed to handle 22 million passengers per year, hiking the airport's annual capacity to 70 million air travellers , a 50-per-cent hike. China and India's robust economies have led to double-digit growth in their air traffic, Lim noted. The International Air Transport Association estimated that air passenger traffic in Asia would grow 5.9 per cent from 2007 to 2011. Passengers in both the arrival and departure halls expressed delight with the decor of the new terminal, which features a five-storey vertical garden with 25 species of climbing plants, waterfalls, 100 shops, and 40 food and beverage outlets. Another feature is a new baggage system, which the Civil Aviation Authority said moves bags between the airport's three terminals in less than 10 minutes at a rate of seven metres per second. China Eastern Airlines Corp, Qatar Airways, India's Jet Airways Ltd and United Air Lines also plan to start operating from the seven-storey Terminal 3 in March. The terminal adds 28 aerobridge gates to Changi with eight designed to handle the superjumbo Airbus 380. Singapore Airlines became the world's first airline to fly the double-decker in October. "We wanted a terminal ... that is able to build an emotional bond with out passengers," Lim said. The architectural design lets in natural light while cutting out tropical heat. Soft natural light permeates the building through 919 skylights. The hope is passengers will associate the terminal "with fond memories," Lim said.