Changi Airport prepares for the arrival of the Airbus A380 superjumbo
$45m to 'fit' new jet into Changi Airport
Airport being modified for the world's biggest plane, the Airbus 380, which SIA will fly from 2006
By Karamjit Kaur
THE Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) is spending $45 million to prepare Changi Airport to welcome a new guest: the Airbus 380 superjumbo jet.
Singapore Airlines (SIA) will be the first carrier in the world to fly the 555-seater double-decker aircraft in 2006. The biggest airplane today is the 420-seater Boeing 747.
So far, Airbus, based in Toulouse, France, has received more than 120 orders for the new aircraft. SIA will buy 10 and is considering 15 more.
But before the A380 can land at Changi, the airport needs to be modified to cater to the aircraft - 2m longer than the 70.7m-long 747, with the tail about 5m higher - and the larger number of travellers it will carry.
For example, intersections between runways and taxiways need to be wider so the plane can turn safely on ground.
Also, 11 of the areas where passengers wait to board will be made 5 to 10 per cent bigger. Six baggage belts will also be extended, and the airport will have 11 aerobridges to connect the A380s to the terminal.
Work has already started on the modifications, due to be completed by the end of 2005.
CAAS engineering director Fong Kok Wai, said the A380's arrival presents a challenge to the airport authorities.
'It's a test of their nimbleness in responding to an airline's needs within a given time frame, as well as to the constraints of existing infrastructure and an operational airport environment.'
Because of the increased number of passengers the new plane can carry, more check-in and immigration counters may need to be manned, so passengers can check in quickly.
For quick clearance and to prevent bottlenecks, travellers are also encouraged to check-in by fax, phone or the Internet, and to use automated immigration clearance channels.
By the time other airlines also start flying the superjumbo in 2006, more than 20 airports should be equipped to handle the bigger jet.
But not all carriers are planning to pack their plane with the maximum 555 passengers.
SIA, for example, is looking into using the extra space in the aircraft to provide passengers with more facilities, like a children's play room that its frequent fliers suggested in a poll last year.
SIA expects to have a preliminary design plan for its A380s next year.