In design, he said, “We have a hierarchy of desirability.” Capacity has to be addressed. So does service and experience. But the “secret sauce,” he says, is community. “If Changi succeeds, everyone succeeds. It’s not easy adopting and keeping that culture.”
Air traffic is projected to grow faster in Asia and the Pacific than any other region during the next decade. Changi’s challenge is to stay ahead of the pace of change. Lee believes design is essential to maintaining his airport’s leadership position and creating the airport of the future. The cutting-edge Terminal 4, which opened at the end of October, is the latest example of how Lee and his colleagues have incorporated design thinking into every aspect of the airport’s development.
“With T4, we are rethinking travel, exploring how key operational functions can be designed differently to optimize process flow, interior space, as well as manpower resources,’’ Lee said earlier. “In the aspects of architecture, layout and technology, we have future-proofed the terminal so that it can adjust to changing requirements of the industry.”
Lessons learned from Terminal 4 will inform the development of Terminal 5, expected to be ready in the late 2020s. The largest of all of Changi’s terminals, it will handle 50 million passengers a year, making the challenge of designing such a massive structure, while retaining Changi’s ability to enhance the experience of travelers, even more daunting.
Lee is confident Changi will stay ahead of the pace of change because the airport is so important to the role of the city-state that no one is complacent. “There is so much more we can do. We have to constantly strive to get better.”
To illustrate his point, he said that Changi was were among the first to use a feedback system, right outside the restrooms, inviting users to touch buttons on a screen to indicate their level of satisfaction at the state of the facilities, with the results sent straight to supervisors’ smart phones. Because aside from infrastructure and capacity issues, great retail experiences and generating a sense of community, in the world’s best airport, Lee says, “even toilets matter.”