Nearly four decades ago, Changi Airport – with its iconic control tower, opened its doors to passengers.

Picture Singapore in 1981; back then, the population of Singapore was a mere 2.5 million – less than half of today’s population. It was also the year that the orchid, Vanda Miss Joaquim was declared Singapore’s national flower. In those days, one of our most popular means of public transport, the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT), had yet to be constructed and the Pan Island Expressway (PIE) as well as the East Coast Parkway (ECP) were almost brand new.

Fast forward to 2017; the airport has just crossed a significant milestone of having 1,000,000,000 passengers passing through Changi Airport since 1981! (That is 9 zeroes, by the way.) So what has changed in these 36 years?

In 1981: You would be one of 4.3 million

When Changi Airport first opened in July 1981, the airport saw a humble 4.3 million passengers passing through that year (8.1 million including Paya Lebar airport’s traffic from January – June 1981). That may sound like a lot, but in 2016, Changi saw a record 58.7 million passengers. That is roughly 7 times the passengers in 1981!

In 1981: There was no need for a Sky Train – but you’d better be here on time

Changi Airport started out with one terminal (i.e. Terminal 1), which only had 7 food and beverage outlets. As a comparison, today there are 140 F&B outlets serving up various cuisines across all terminals.

Slightly older Singaporeans would also remember the iconic Mylar Cord Waterfall that “rained down” in Terminal 1 for 31 years, until it was replaced in 2012 with the Kinetic Rain installation.

The Mylar Cord Waterfall

How many of you remember the name of this iconic waterfall that was in Terminal 1 before the Kinetic Rain installation?

Kinetic Rain installation at T1

Made of 1,216 bronze droplets, the two Kinetic Rain sculptures in Terminal 1 are the latest addition to Changi Airport's collection of art installations and displays

The Mylar Cord Waterfall was probably what kept you entertained back in 1981 while waiting for check-in (there were no online check-in services back then!). Today, passengers are able to enjoy a seamless and convenient check-in experience, with airlines introducing web-check-in options, and Changi rolling out self-service options in our terminals.

In 1981: You probably had much fewer holiday options to pick from

If you were planning a holiday 36 years ago, travel options were probably quite limited, or involved multiple transfers. Back in 1981, there were only 67 direct city links from Singapore, compared to the 380 cities today.

747 and DC-10 aircraft with the Changi Airport control tower

Planes have evolved greatly since 1981 – spot the 747 and DC-10 aircraft in this #throwback image

Airbus A380 aircraft with the control tower in the background

The Airbus A380 aircraft that is used today

Technology advancements since then have seen the introduction of longer-range aircraft, and this has made it possible for airlines to launch non-stop flights between Singapore and long haul destinations. You can now take non-stop flights to San Francisco on Singapore Airlines or United Airlines, as well to many cities in Europe.

Low-cost carriers have also entered the long-haul market; Scoot and Norwegian which will fly non-stop to Athens and London respectively later this year. Such flights provide even more choice for budget-conscious passengers. Today, Changi Airport is connected to 380 cities in about 90 countries, which greatly widens the options available for passengers.

1 billion people can circle the Earth 42 times

Can you imagine us circling the Earth 42 times?

In a span of 36 years, Changi Airport has grown steadily to its current scale. It is on track to serve 60 million passengers in 2017.

With the upcoming opening of Terminal 4 later this year and the expansion of Terminal 1 in 2019, Changi will have capacity for 85 million passengers a year. This will ensure that we can cope with continued traffic growth until Terminal 5 opens in the next decade.

In 1981: Your overseas shipments would have taken much longer to reach you

In April 2017, Changi Airport handled over two million tonnes of airfreight in the past 12 months - an all-time high in the airport's history. The Changi Airfreight Centre is the heart of the air cargo operations at Changi. Spanning 47 hectares, or the size of over 50 football fields, it houses state-of-the-art facilities to ensure that shipments are processed at maximum speed and capacity. So be it chilled meat or your online shopping, they now reach you in a heartbeat. 

Changi Airport: A Leading Air Cargo Hub

Thank you everyone who have journeyed with us to this milestone! Now, shall we continue onwards to our second billion?