Memoirs of the Singapore Changi Airport Budget Terminal and Why it was the Worst Place on Earth

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it may look like a colorful place full of joy, laughter, rainbows, and butterflies…but it really functions as a dementor, removing all soul and feeling from your life

I am currently running around the room screaming for joy. Although I am 3 months late in learning this news, I have just been informed that Singapore’s Changi Airport Budget Terminal has finally met its death. GONE GONE GONE. Never to be heard from again (at least until Terminal 4 is completed, then who knows what this evil airport will do to house their poor people). Now, the purpose of this post is so that the world will not forget that this place was actually hell on earth. The Budget Terminal must NOT die with dignity!

I know, the Singapore airport is known to be the best in the world. And believe me, nobody gets more excited about airports than me. Coming from a person who gets excited for their plane to get delayed in order to stay in the airport longer, I was just as ecstatic to go to the Singapore airport as I was to go to Singapore. However, if you were one to opt for the cheaper flight, little did you know that you were actually signing your death certificate when you purchased that $15 Tiger Airways flight. Am I being a bit overdramatic? Well, let me take you through exactly what you would experience if you had to endure the agony of flying in or out of the Budget Terminal and then you can be the one to judge!

Let’s say you are a traveller meandering around SE Asia and you are currently in Vietnam and you wanted your next stop to be Bali, Indonesia. After checking a million different airlines and a million different flight times, you have to transfer in Singapore but you were able to get the times to match up perfectly if you flew AirAsia to Singapore and then transferred to Tiger Airways to fly from Singapore to Denpasar. You have 2.5 hours in between–should be plenty of time to get to your next flight right? And it was only $40 total. COOL! The following is what your day would entail.

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simple, right? WRONG–roadmap to death

You take a short flight from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam to Singapore. Your flight arrives in the sparkly Changi airport and you are loving life and all that is good. However, you have to have a little skip in your walk because you want to make sure you can check in on time to make your next flight. You ask the service desk where you transfer to Tiger Airways. She says that Tiger Airways departs from the Budget Terminal. HMM…okay. So you realize you are currently in Terminal 3 and keep following the signs but you get confused. How do I get to this “Budget Terminal?” There are no stops on the Skytrain. So you muster up any dignity you have to actually ask somebody, “How do I get to the Budget Terminal?” This is basically code for, “I am a starving poor person and I’d like to be labeled as so. I know I am not worthy to speak to you because you have a flight out of Terminal 3, but can you please provide me with some aid in directions and maybe some spare change?”

The person replies that you have to take the Skytrain to Terminal 2 and then take a shuttle to the Budget Terminal. Well, that sucks, but doesn’t seem unbearable. So you haul your luggage (as you obviously don’t check any because you are trying to save money) onto the Skytrain to Terminal 2. From Terminal 2, you start to follow more signs to the Budget Terminal, but once again have no idea what is happening. You, once again, throw away all self-respect and ask somebody how to get to the shuttle to get to the Budget Terminal. The person says that you actually have to leave the airport to get to the shuttle. Now, that doesn’t seem right. Why would I go through customs and immigration to immigrate into the country and then go through customs and immigration once again to leave the country? But alas, that is what you must subject yourself to. You wait in line to immigrate into the country. You even get a little stamp on your passport that makes you feel like you are going to be enjoying Singapore even though you are only going to be enjoying the pavement in between the real airport and the Budget Terminal.

Now, where the hell is this damn shuttle? You scurry around Terminal 2, especially now because you are cutting it close.  You once again, ask somebody where to go, and they say oh just go down that hallway and if you go to the basement, you’ll see where the shuttle picks you up. THE BASEMENT? Wow, I know we are poor, but really you have to herd us all to the basement? You also think it might be a quick elevator ride to go down to the basement. No. After about 6 miles of hallways, you finally find your way down to the grungy basement and wait with all the other poor people in the dark desolate basement for this thing to arrive:

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Yeah, I know. They try to make it sound all jolly and good that you have to ride this thing after just sprinting around and sweating with all of your stuff. Please, you don’t need to sugarcoat it. AND, the airport tries to act like it’s doing you this huge favor by advertising that the shuttle is free. ARE YOU JOKING ME? You have subjected me to the most inconvenient task I have ever had to undergo and are trying to act like it is something I should be thankful I am not paying for? EFF OFF. So, you would think it’d be a short ride so you don’t bother elbowing everybody to get a seat. WRONG. It’s about a ten minute agonizing ride. Along the way, you are greeted with this lovely sign, as if you are supposed to be happy that you are being taken to this bloody thing. Oh, goody! The Budget Terminal!!!

oh yea, like using Comic Sans font is going to make me enjoy a place called the “Budget Terminal”

Upon stepping off the bus, you try to gather your thoughts and realize you only have a little over an hour left until your flight! Rushing inside, you look for the flight to Denpasar. [You know how in airports they have a billion queue liners to form 10 queue folds but there’s usually only like, one person in line in front of you? Well in front of each check-in counter at the Budget Terminal, there are about 30 queue folds and it is overflowing with people just as P.O.ed as you.] Before you can stop to consider how this is even humanly possible, you join all the other herded sheep into the queue pen freaking out about trying to make their flight in time because nobody else knew either that the Budget Terminal was where happiness went to die.

As you wait in line, you start to get a little nervous that they are going to weigh your bookbag (the weight limit online is 7kg). You’re pretty sure it feels okay, but why take chances? Worst case scenario, they would make you check your bags, right? 30 minutes later, you are finally at the front of the line. There are three possible scenarios that could unfurl after this point in time:

  1. You miss the flight: The lady at the check-in says that you are too late to check-in to your flight, as check-in is now closed and you missed your flight. As you try to control not breaking out into tears, you realize how much your life sucks, wallow over to the customer service to buy a new ticket and realize that if you would have just flown Singapore Airlines, none of this would have happened and you would have actually saved $20. You spend the next four hours waiting for your flight. They won’t allow you to check-in until two hours before your flight so you have to spend the next two hours at the only place that the Budget Terminal has placed in its waiting area: a McDonald’s. As if being in a Budget Terminal wasn’t bad enough, they also think that the only place you can afford is McDonald’s. Once you finally wait in Check-in AGAIN, and go through immigration AGAIN, you spend the last hour dicking around in the dumpy inner waiting area, which only sells duty-free alcohol in which you almost buy a bottle of duty-free Jack right then and there to help alleviate your series of unfortunate events. 
  2. You make your flight but almost fall victim to a scam driven by the luggage airport staff people: You check-in and thankfully the airport check-in lady weighed your bag (9kg–eeeek!) but she didn’t say anything so….! WOOO! You’re in the clear. As you are about to go through Immigration, you are stopped by a shady-looking airport staff man who asks why you don’t have a sticker on your bookbag. Sticker?
    YOU: The lady said it was fine at the check-in counter.
    SHADY MAN: No, she would have put a sticker on it if it were fine. You have to follow me.As you follow the man, he directs you to enter behind this bogus, ghetto curtain set-up. At first you think they are going to check you for drugs or something and you feel as if you are on an episode of Locked-Up Abroad. Behind the curtain, there is a lady, a silver table, a scale, and big security guard looking dude.
    LADY: Put your bag on the scale.
    YOU: The check-in lady already weighed it. She said it was fine.
    LADY: There would be a sticker on your bag if it were fine. Put your bag on the scale.
    As you put the bag on the scale, it weighs 9kg.
    LADY: The limit is 7kg total for all luggage, including your bookbag and purse. It is 20 Singapore Dollars for every kilogram overweight. Plus 1kg for your purse. You cannot get on the plane unless you pay us 60 Singapore Dollars.
    YOU: Are you kidding me? The lady is the one who let me through. Can’t I just check my luggage for $30?
    LADY: No, you have already checked-in. It is illegal to leave this area and go back into the waiting area after you have crossed this line. You have to pay 60 Singapore dollars.
    YOU: You have got to be joking me. I would have paid to check my luggage if the lady had told me it was overweight. And how is it illegal to go back into the check-in area? I haven’t even gone through security or immigration yet.
    LADY: The only way to move forward is if you pay the $60.
    #&^#(*#&$(#*&@!@!@!@!#$ A series of nasty words are exchanged and you call them crooks and tell them what they are doing is pure theft and that all four of them are in on this (including the lady you thought was so nice behind the check-in counter!) You demand to speak to the airport authorities manager, they now all of the sudden change their mind and said fine, you could now somehow legally cross back over this “magic line” and go check your bag. You go pay $30, give the people looks of utter disgust as you pass back over the “line” and into immigration. Get your passport stamped AGAIN. Go through security. And sprint to your plane because you almost miss it due to the disgrace of humanity.
  3. You make your flight: Yay? You are starving because you had no time to get anything to eat. You are sweaty and look like you have crawled out of the grave because you just spent the last 4 hours of your life in a mad panic. At least you’ll be in Bali?….until you have to do this all over again on your return home. YIPPEE!!!

And to top it all off: if you think you can peacefully board your plane once you get to your boarding gate, THINK AGAIN. You are once again, lined up like a pack of mules into three lines that are sorted in an order that makes absolutely no sense. And line by line, you are thrown out on the run way and have to walk what feels like another 10 minutes across the runway up to the entrance of your plane. Never have you ever been so happy to fly away from a country that you never actually visited.

Okay, I feel better now. This was Memoirs of the Singapore Changi Airport Budget Terminal. May it collapse into a heap of utter uselessness and no longer cause any more completely unnecessary suffering of the human race.

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