Singapore Changi Airport is perhaps best known for its upscale terminals that cater to the whims of every passenger. There are a movie theater, swimming pool, health clubs and lush interior orchid gardens, to name a few of the amenities.

The new S$45 million ($28.5 million) Budget Terminal that opened in March offers a study in contrast. It features a functional, no-frills, utilitarian design that caters specifically to low-cost carriers.

The first customer is Tiger Airways, but officials with the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore are expecting significant growth from LCCs that now account for just 10% of overall passenger flights at Changi. "Tiger decided they wanted to operate out of a purpose-built terminal," says CAAS Director-Corporate Marketing Goh Yong Long. "It is a simple, single-story building with no escalators, aerobridges or elevators. The airlines said they don't need it."

The Budget Terminal consists of two adjacent buildings that separately handle arriving and departing passengers. Travelers walk to waiting aircraft and board via mobile stairs; boarding bridges are not used. The facility is designed to accommodate 2.7 million annual passengers but easily can be expanded to house additional low-fare operators. A free shuttle bus provides transportation to Changi's main terminals. While the Budget Terminal is minimalist in design, it does contain 13 retail and food and beverage outlets, including two duty-free shops.

Tiger started with 12 daily operations, but Goh says he expects it to be joined by other low-fare carriers taking advantage of the discounted facility. The passenger service charge there is S$7 compared to S$15 at the other terminals (the security fee of S$6 is the same at all terminals). The Budget Terminal has 18 departure check-in counters, 24 departure/arrival immigration counters, 12 departure/arrival immigration auto clearance system counters, seven departure gates and 10 aircraft parking bays.

Changi also is preparing for the arrival of the first Singapore Airlines A380, which is expected to land there by the end of the year. SIA, based at the airport, is the launch customer with 10 firm orders for the flying behemoth that will hold 555 passengers. CAAS has invested some S$60 million to prepare for A380 operations with expanded passenger holding areas at 19 gates, widened runway shoulders and bi-level boarding bridges designed by Japanese firm Shinmaywa to accommodate the upper deck. Flights will be serviced with three boarding bridges.

"We have been working really hard to get ready for the A380," says Goh. Currently, Changi sets a goal of moving baggage to carousels for pickup in under 29 min. for jumbo jets and 12 min. on average for smaller aircraft, he explains. The airport is still working on a baggage-handling target for the A380, having extended the baggage claim carousels to accommodate the 500-plus passengers that will arrive en masse on a single flight.

In addition to SIA, both FedEx and UPS have indicated they will operate A380 freighters at Changi, which has constructed two freighter stands to accommodate the aircraft.

Concurrently with the A380 preparations, Terminal 2 has been undergoing a $200 million upgrade, Goh says. When it is completed, renovation work will begin on Terminal 1. A third terminal estimated to cost $1.7 billion is under construction and is scheduled for completion in 2008. "Changi is a work in progress," he notes. Last year the airport served 32.4 million passengers.