News

First look: Jewel Changi Airport

19 Apr 2019 by Jackie Chen
Jewel Changi Airport - Rain Vortex and Skytrain

Background

Jewel Changi Airport is a newly opened mixed-use complex at Changi Airport. It covers a total gross floor area of 135,700 sqm, comprising a large indoor garden, recreation space, airport facilities, a 130-room hotel, as well as over 280 retail and F&B outlets.

The construction of this S$1.7 billion (US$1.26 billion) project commenced in 2014, and it’s built on the former site of the open-air car park of Terminal 1 (T1). It was designed by renowned architect Moshe Safdie, whose portfolio includes the Marina Bay Sands Integrated Resort in Singapore, the National Art Museum in China, as well as Pearson International Airport (Terminal 1) in Canada.

The opening of Jewel is hoped to entice travellers to choose Singapore as their preferred travel destination and further strengthen the position of Changi Airport as the transit hub of choice among travellers.

Given the considerable increase of passengers during the past ten years, Changi Airport has been undergoing expansion work to increase its passenger capacity. Together with the development of Jewel, T1 has been expanded with an increased capacity of another three million passenger movements per year, raising the airport’s total capacity to 85 million passengers per annum (mppa) by this year, and to 90 mppa by 2024. Meanwhile, the construction of a new terminal, which will be the size of all the current four terminals put together, is also in the pipeline. The new Terminal 5 (T5), with an estimated completion date in early 2030s, will have an overall capacity of 50 mppa.

Talking about the aim of Jewel, Hung Jean, chief executive officer of Jewel Changi Airport Development, said: “The vision for Jewel Changi Airport is to be a destination where ‘The World Meets Singapore, and Singapore Meets the World’. The unique proposition of world-class shopping and dining, seamlessly integrated with lush greenery, fulfills the needs of increasingly discerning travellers for a meaningful journey, even for brief layovers.”

According to Ivan Tan, group senior vice president of corporate and marketing communications at Changi Airport, Jewel is projected to receive 40 to 50 million visitors during the first year. On a long-term basis, as many as 20 million international visitors are expected to visit Jewel every year.

Jewel Changi Airport announced its grand opening on April 17. Business Traveller Asia-Pacific was invited to join a media preview to take a first look at Jewel last week.

Where is it?

Jewel is situated landside between Terminal 2 (T2) and Terminal 3 (T3), and is interconnected with T1. Here are tips on how to get to Jewel from all four terminals of Changi Airport:

  • T1: The north entrance of Jewel is connected to the Arrival Hall on Level 1.
  • T2: Visitors can get to Jewel via the link bridge on Level 3.
  • T3: Visitors can get to Jewel via the link bridge next to Crowne Plaza Hotel on the Departure Hall on Level 2.
  • T4: Visitors can take the complimentary shuttle bus to T2 first. Then, they can take the escalator or lift to Level 3 and walk to the link bridge.

For transiting passengers, valid travel documents are needed, since Jewel is situated landside, and they will have to clear immigration procedures. Also, it’s recommended that they have at least five hours between connecting flights.

I took the link bridge at T3, which is air-conditioned and has moving walkways nearly the entire way. It only took me around two to three minutes to get to Jewel on foot. When you walk over the link bridge, you can also take some good photos of Jewel with the Changi Control Tower beside.

Jewel Changi Airport - T3 link bridge

What’s it like?

The design of Jewel draws inspiration from Singapore’s reputation as a “city in a garden”. Viewed from outside, Jewel looks like a giant gem. Its dome-shaped façade is made of steel and special glass materials that have the dual ability of transmitting light and reducing heat gain, which enables the growth of plants inside and provides sustainable cooling at the same time. There’s also a 16-millimetre air gap that can control the level of noise from planes taking off and landing on the runways nearby.

Jewel Changi Airport - View of Jewel from the outside

The mixed-use complex spans across 10 storeys, including five above ground and five basement storeys. A car park serving both T1 and Jewel spans from Level B2M to B5, providing 2,500 parking spaces.

HSBC Rain Vortex

Upon entering Jewel, the first thing that greets you is its iconic 40-metre high Rain Vortex, the world’s tallest indoor waterfall, inspired by frequent rains in the tropical city-state. Harvested rainwater cascades through the oculus on the roof and streams down seven floors to Level B2.

Jewel Changi Airport - HSBC Rain Vortex 2

It’s worth noting that the new Skytrain connecting T2 and T3 is now in service. The train runs through the interior of Jewel and though there’s no station inside Jewel for passengers to alight, travelling on this short Skytrain route will allow you to capture a much closer view of the Rain Vortex, especially on the train from T2 to T3.

Jewel Changi Airport - View of the HSBC Rain Vortex from Skytrain

At night, the Rain Vortex is transformed into a light and sound show that lasts around five minutes. The show will run at intervals between 8:30 and 10pm with different themes for each session.

Jewel Changi Airport - Light and sound show

Shiseido Forest Valley

Surrounding the Rain Vortex is the Forest Valley, home to one of the largest indoor collections of plants in Singapore, with over 900 trees and palms as well as about 60,000 shrubs. The lush indoor forest spans four storeys above ground and features two walking trails. You can climb from Level 1 all the way up to the Canopy Park on Level 5, while you can stop by some great photo spots overlooking the Rain Vortex.

Jewel Changi Airport - Shiseido Forest Valley

Canopy Park

Situated on the topmost level of Jewel, Canopy Park covers an area of 14,000 sqm of recreational space, including play attractions, a garden, an event plaza and eight F&B outlets.

In the Topiary Walk, you’ll see animal-shaped topiaries made of flowers, which are dressed according to seasonal themes and can be good photo spots.

Jewel Changi Airport - Topiary Walk 1
Jewel Changi Airport - Topiary Walk 2

The Foggy Bowls is a play area for young children, with the mist emitted from the ground creating an experience of playing in the clouds.

Jewel Changi Airport - Foggy Bowls

The Petal Garden displays seasonal flowers in bloom.

Jewel Changi Airport - Petal Garden

However, it’s a pity that most major facilities in the Canopy Park, including Canopy Bridge, Manulife Sky Nets, Discovery Slides, Hedge Maze, and Mirror Maze, remained closed during the preview and I could only get a glimpse of it. These facilities opened in June 10, 2019.

The Canopy Bridge, suspended 23 metres above ground, features a glass bottom at the centre portion. Standing in the centre of the Canopy Bridge, you can expect a stunning view near the top of the Rain Vortex.

Jewel Changi Airport - Canopy Bridge 1
Jewel Changi Airport - Canopy Bridge 2

The Sky Nets are in fact giant trampolines that allow you to walk or even bounce on it, provided you’re not afraid of heights… It’s eight metres above the Canopy Park at its highest point.

Jewel Changi Airport - Manulife Sky Nets 1
Jewel Changi Airport - Manulife Sky Nets 2

The Discovery Slides serve as both a viewing deck and a slide.

Jewel Changi Airport - Discovery Slides 1
Jewel Changi Airport - Discovery Slides 2

The northern part of the Canopy Park is a 1,000-sqm Cloud9 Piazza, an event space that can accommodate up to 1,000 guests. This is also a good place to overlook Jewel.

Next to the event plaza, there are eight F&B outlets featuring both local and international cuisine, such as Tiger Street Lab, the newly curated concept of the local beer brand Tiger Beer, as well as Burger and Lobster from London. These F&B outlets will offer guests a special “dining under the stars” experience in all weather conditions.

Jewel Changi Airport - Tiger Street Lab

Airport facilities

Situated within the airport area, Jewel is equipped with essential airport facilities to offer convenience for flight passengers. The early check-in facilities on Level 1 feature four manned counters, six automatic check-in kiosks, and eight automatic bag-drop stations. The self-service kiosks remind me of my past experience of the fast and automated check-in and bag-drop procedures at Terminal 4. Passengers that have at least three hours to spare before departure are eligible to use the early check-in services.

Jewel Changi Airport - Self check-in kiosks and bag-drop stations
Jewel Changi Airport - Manned check-in counters

This makes it convenient for passengers that arrive at the airport early, as they no longer will need to wait and queue in front of conventional airport check-in counters that are generally open only two to three hours before scheduled departure time.

Passengers may also be eligible to check-in for their flights up to 24 hours before departure, depending on the airline. Currently, 26 airlines offer early check-in services at Jewel (please refer to the picture below), including Singapore Airlines, Air China, ANA and Qantas. This accounts for about 60 per cent of departing flights at Changi Airport.

Jewel Changi Airport - 26 participating airlines

Opposite the early check-in facilities you can find Changi Lounge, a 150-seat pay-per-use lounge providing passengers with refreshments, nap amenities, co-working space, showers and business facilities. Our editorial director Tom Otley reviewed this new Changi Lounge in May 2019. A GST refund counter and a baggage storage centre are both located nearby.

Jewel Changi Airport - Changi Lounge 1
Jewel Changi Airport - Changi Lounge 2
Jewel Changi Airport - Changi Lounge 3
Jewel Changi Airport - Changi Lounge 4

Meanwhile, in order to enhance sea-air connectivity and support Singapore as a cruise hub in the region, Changi Airport will also offer cruise and ferry passengers flying into Singapore with a new intermodal transfer service. Passengers transferring from the airport onward to their cruise or ferry can enjoy a seamless end-to-end transfer experience. Passengers’ luggage will also be delivered from their arriving flight to their departing vessel directly.

There’s also a Changi Experience Studio on Level 4, where visitors can learn about the past, present and future of Changi Airport by engaging in projection experiences and interactive games. The studio opened in June 10, 2019.

Hotel: Yotelair

Jewel also houses the first Yotelair property in Asia, which boasts 130 cabins in Premium, Accessible (handicap-friendly rooms) and Family categories on Level 4, with sizes ranging from 10 to 21 sqm. All the cabins are outfitted with queen-sized beds, while an additional dunk bed can be found in the Family rooms that can accommodate up to four people. However, there are no twin rooms.

Jewel Changi Airport - YotelAir Family Rooms

The design of the cabins is inspired by luxury first class aircraft. Premium Queen Rooms feature adjustable beds, which can be converted from a fully flat bed to a sofa or couch with a button installed beside. The purple lighting in the room, the hotel’s theme colour, can be adjusted.

Jewel Changi Airport - YotelAir Premium Rooms

A desk can be pulled out to create a workstation, equipped with both power and USB sockets.

Jewel Changi Airport - YotelAir in-room workstation

The en-suite bathroom is outfitted with a standing shower and basic bath amenities, though hairdryers, irons and ironing boards are only available upon request.

Jewel Changi Airport - YotelAir en-suite bathroom

The cabin can be booked for a minimum of four hours. Guests can either check in or out by themselves using the self-service kiosks, or head straight to the 24-hour manned counters.

Jewel Changi Airport - YotelAir self-service kiosks

For those that just want to freshen up before their flight, there are three shower cabins available that van be booked by the hour. Each of them is equipped with a standing shower, toiletries, towels and a hairdryer. There’s also a small 24-hour gym with a view of the Skytrains in the airport.

Jewel Changi Airport - YotelAir shower cabins
Jewel Changi Airport - YotelAir gym room

The hotel also features its signature Komyuniti Club Lounge, a 24-hour lounge that spans two levels and provides seating for 68 guests with complimentary coffee- and tea-making facilities. Snacks are offered throughout the day at a small charge. A chargeable breakfast buffet is served from 6.30 to 11am daily, while an all-day dining menu is available the rest of the day. The outdoor terrace affords a view of the Rain Vortex.

Business Traveller‘s Tom Otley reviewed the hotel in May 2019.

Retail and F&B outlets

In addition to the indoor garden, Jewel is also home to more than 280 retail and F&B tenants from both Singapore and around the world.

About 50 per cent of Jewel tenants are local brands, including Supermama selling souvenirs and porcelain items designed in Singapore and made in Japan, as well as Cookie Museum where you can find laksa-flavoured cookies.

Jewel Changi Airport - The Cookie Museum

Besides these homegrown brands, 60 per cent of retail and F&B outlets in Jewel are new-to-Changi brands, with many also being new to Singapore as well. One of the most anticipated new-to-Singapore brands in Jewel is the Pokémon Center Singapore, the first official overseas store in Asia outside of Japan, which covers a space of over 200 sqm on Level 4 with about 600 different items for sales.

Jewel Changi Airport - Pokémon Center Singapore

The Duplex Boulevard on Level 2 has 11 stores spanning across two levels, including the largest Starbucks flagship store in Singapore, Japanese department store Tokyu Hands, as well as well-known brands Foot Locker, Muji, Nike and Urban Revivo.

In the Starbucks Reserve, you can see a mural of the Starbucks Siren decorated with Peranakan patterns, which stretches across the staircase linking the two levels of the store.

Jewel Changi Airport - Starbucks Reserve 1

On the upper floor, there’s an art piece featuring the word “Singapore” made up of colourful tiles inspired by the Peranakan design styles, and Starbucks Reserve coffee cards.

Jewel Changi Airport - Starbucks Reserve 2

On Level B2, you can find a supermarket and a Shaw Theatre, with the latter being the first and only cinema in Singapore to screen “double midnight” shows daily until late.

In terms of F&B outlets, more than 30 per cent of tenants in Jewel are eateries. On Level B2, there’s also a food court with some outlets operating on extended hours. Major F&B tenants in Jewel include local brands such as: Irvins X Salted Egg selling salted egg-flavoured snacks; Rich & Good Cake Shop, especially famous for its multi-flavoured Swiss rolls; Violet Oon Singapore, which specialises in local Peranakan cuisine; as well as new-to-Singapore brands like the American ice cream store Emack and Bolio’s, and the fast casual restaurant chain Shake Shack.

Jewel Changi Airport - Violet Oon Singapore
Jewel Changi Airport - Shake Shack

Some restaurants have a small garden terrace that afford a pleasant view of the lush indoor garden and Rain Vortex. This kind of garden dining provides a unique al fresco dining experience in a more comfortable environment free from the hot weather and frequent rains outdoors.

Jewel Changi Airport - Garden dining

Particularly, Shang Social, the first standalone dining concept by Shangri-La Group outside of a hotel setting, has also opened its doors in Jewel. The 220-seater eatery features the concept of a single culinary destination with three master chefs, three Chinese cuisines (Cantonese, Huaiyang and Sichuan), as well as three separate dining spaces, including a full-service formal Dining space, a Bar and a “Mrkt” area for casual communal dining. There’s a small garden terrace with a view of the lush indoor garden, which can be used as a private dining room.

Jewel Changi Airport - Shang Social BAR
Jewel Changi Airport - Shang Social DINING

Verdict

Given that it’s common nowadays for transiting passengers to have to wait a few hours or even half a day until they can board their next flight, Jewel is the first stop to welcome overseas travellers and can be a great destination for them to idle away the hours recharging themselves by taking a rest, relaxing, or discovering local offerings without the need to head straight to town.

Besides international visitors, Jewel is also a long-anticipated new landmark for local residents. During my visit to Singapore, I was quite surprised to learn from local people that it’s not uncommon for them to visit Changi Airport from time to time for dining, shopping, and even dating and studying. Since Changi Airport is not far from downtown, for most local residents, it’s something more than an airport. The opening of Jewel is expected to attract many local Singaporeans as well.

In summary, it’s hard to give a definition as to what kind of building Jewel is. It’s an indoor garden, and also a large market place, with both situated side by side. You can find nearly everything you want here. I feel that it’s a one-of-a-kind destination, at least for the moment. If you have a chance to transit at Changi Airport or visit Singapore, I recommend you to pay a visit to Jewel.

Fact file

  • Hours: 10am to 10pm daily
  • Location: 78 Airport Boulevard, Singapore 819666

Photo credits: Jewel Changi Airport Development, Yotelair, Jackie Chen

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