Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Our Embarrassing Budget Terminal

I just came back from a trip from Phuket and this is the first time I've tried a budget flight. It was a last minute trip and to book a ticket to Phuket on Silkair on the desired dates, it cost roughly about S$1200 round trip, a price i could fly to Europe in less desirable dates. It is very complex how they calculate these fares, a day can make a difference of a few hundred dollars, and booking a day after you consider can see a sudden rise in the fares, and you can hardly even try to conclude any certain trends, studying these fares and strategising when to buy your ticket makes watching the stock market feels as relaxing as having an ice cream with my little nephew. At this time of the year, to book a flight, it is a profound decision to decide how much you want to be chopped - with a small, medium or big parang (huge meat-cutting knife, if you wonder what parang means). One way or another it is going to be painful. 

Anyways, so i got a reasonably humanely priced ticket from Tiger Airways and nervously i told the Taxi driver to go to the Budget Terminal. My nightmare hence began. The Taxi Driver started to ask me how much i pay and if the budget planes are safe to travel in. I really want to know too. He made me really nervous, reminding me of a few plane crashes with various foreign budget air. The part where i was close to asking him to turn back and take me to the warm comforts of my home with no life-threatening vacations and the warm fake furs of my teddy bears as when taxi uncle said, "I think their engine not so good hor!!" i had a nauseating feeling which was positively not from his 60km/hr driving. It was from the brainwashing. When we were approaching the terminal, the bright-red handwritten-type font that screamed "BUDGET TERMINAL" aggravated my nausea. I felt a sense of panic. 

I came out a nervous wreck from the Taxi, and upon first sight when i stepped out into the Budget Terminal, i thought i had arrived in the Phuket Airport. As if i had a hallucination, the world's best airport (in most years) boast of such a sparse shoddy architecture. 

To my horror, when i stepped into the check-in hall, i thought that i just stepped into a foodcourt, horrible lighting, bad details, bad materials, all bad. The lines of people at the check-in counters is reminiscent of people Q-ing for Cha-Kway-Keows or Carrot Cakes in a hawker centres. I want to be clear - I am all for budget airlines that make us so much more mobile, but this airport architecture is excruciating. Why is it that low-budget must mean no design? Does the design have to reflect the word "Budget Terminal"? There are so many bright young designers in Singapore who will be able to make this a bit more presentable. There as as much thoughts put into this as designing a foodcourt. How many young designers would kill to have the challenge of making a budget terminal look cool? Many. 

The nightmare continued when i stepped past the passport checks and i felt nothing less than stepping into a JB Mall shopping for cheap Attack washing powders or Head & Shoulders Shampoo. As i was having a panic attack and looking for the washroom, it is time to board. You know, there is this feeling when you are really high tide and when you stepped into a toilet, it heightens that urge to pee.. When i got into the gate area, i had that terrible urge-to-pee feeling because i thought that i just stepped into a huge public toilet and lines of people Q-ing at different "cubicles" (the gates, really). The 20by20 homogeneous tiles a bit beige-y, a bit brownish, you can only find in all public toilets in Singapore - it is all over. Complete with uneven grouting lines, it was hard-core public toilet aesthetics. 

When i finally got to the Phuket Airport, it was actually a relief. At least i feel more at home with that, feasting on the food of the push-cart hawker food. There is at least no pretensions to be first-class in everything, it is consistent and consistency is important to keep an individual or a nation sane. 

I flew back to tonight and as i boarded a taxi to get home, the very good natured taxi driver told me that he just dropped an Aussie traveller who asked to take a taxi from terminal 1 to the budget terminal. Very little money and he said some taxi drivers would complain but he said, we all just have to do our job. Very nice guy but really very bad budget terminal.  


  1. I can so identify with this post! Did you have to walk past the passport check with this tiny piece of receipt everyone refers to as the "boarding pass"? How quaint.

  2. haha yah that little handwritten "receipt", i was paranoid that i would flush it away in the public toilet.. :P