The Cult of Changi: Unmasking the Ungodly Behaviour of Singapore’s Airport Employees

Posted by - January 29, 2012 | Category: Asia, Escapes, Singapore

There’s something a little Stepford Wives-ish about Singapore’s Changi airport.  Everyone’s a little too “nice”. A little too…“friendly”. Since I’ve been weaned on North American in-your-face, no-holds-barred, matter-of-fact-ness — nice and friendly raises my alarm.

So while en route to the ASEAN Tourism Forum in Manado, Indonesia, I had to investigate.

Turns out, they’ve been put up to it.

Singapore and Indonesia 103-1

At the Changi Budget terminal, tucked away alongside the building (and cleverly nestled between the toilets and the smokers) is the employee lunch area.

This is where the brainwashing happens.

It appears to be a cult of some sort. And this is their headquarters. Convert You HQ I christened it. Party propaganda lines the walls instructing the flock on – are you ready —  the Three Easy Steps to Great Customer Service.

Greet. Smile. Thank.

Just who do they think they are?

Singapore Changi Airport -- Greet, Smile, Thank program signs

Step 1: Greet

Passengers arriving for, or departing from their Singapore holidays can expect to be met with the following forms of proselytism – a smile, a 15 degree nod, and — I shudder to think of the consequences – eye contact.

Singapore Changi Airport -- Greet, Smile, Thank program sign -- signature greeting

Have they no shame?

But the indoctrination doesn’t end there. Guests at this airport (or “compound” if you like) must suffer through not just any smile, but a smile in three acts.

Step 2: Smile

Singapore Changi Airport -- Greet, Smile, Thank program sign -- types of smiles

I implore the gods above (and if that doesn’t work, the ones below) to be spared the indignity of “The 3rd Degree Smile”. Coupled with the Greet, it’s a one-two punch certain to weaken the defenses of even the most seasoned traveller.

Singapore Changi Airport -- Greet, Smile, Thank program sign -- greet and smile airplane logo

The final canon this dangerous sect preaches is textbook grooming behaviour – the Thank.

Step 3: Thank

Singapore Changi Airport -- Greet, Smile, Thank program sign -- thank with plane logo

Why isn’t something being done about this? Why is there no furore? Certainly passengers more influential than I have passed through those gates; suffered through these egregious displays?

The staff, clearly assimilated, were busy converting from entry to exit. What with their smiling, and their greeting, and – perhaps worst of all – their thanking. Oh the thanking!

Unable to stop there, Changi’s budget terminal also engages in “grassroots” activity to reach the unwashed masses. Like recycling…

Singapore Changi airport budget terminal recycle bins (2)

They even have the gall to be powered by solar energy.

Singapore Changi budget airport powered by solar energy sign

Passengers don’t stand a chance.

It’s no wonder they were named the best airport in the world. We can’t let them get away with this people. Next thing you know, other airport’s will want to offer (ugh) Great Customer Service too.

Let’s fight the real enemy.

Who’s with me? Care to take up the cause?

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51 comments - add one
  1. I fly out of Changi on Tuesday!! I’ve heard so much about it that I’m almost thinking that, for the first time, I want to get to the airport WAY earlier than the mandatory two hours just so I can explore!

    1. If you’re flying out of the Budget terminal, don’t expect too much — it’s pretty small. The main terminal is where all the action is at! You can grab a shuttle bus and head to that one if you have a few hours to spare (and yes, I went early too — well worth it!)

  2. Brilliant! The 1st, 2nd and even 3rd degree smile! Atrocious! 😀

    And cute recycle bins! Definitely more user-oriented! 🙂

  3. Wait, wait wait, I’m typing and looking in the mirror at the same time…practising THAT smile. What do I see?? Spinach between my teeth!! I guess these lovelies don’t have that.

  4. This whole airport gives me the heebie-jeebies.

    Free UNLIMITED wifi, free water, a budget terminal with couches AND tvs? It’s all sort of creepy in a Paranormal Activity kind of way.

  5. As a Singaporean, I find this post hilarious! 😀
    Yeah our people are weird. We also have Speak Good English campaigns and a Kindness Movement. The government thinks citizens need to be explicitly told what to do every step of the way, although nobody gives a sh*t. It’s entertaining, though.

  6. try dealing with them early in the morning, the smile button seems to not have been pressed “On’ around that time LOL… i like changi, its like a huge mall with a lot of freebies… i like the free foot massage and comfortable lounges, me and my friends spent the night there once just to try different stuff they have there…

  7. Investigative journalism at its finest! 😛

    This airport sounds suspicion… are you sure they’re not all cylons?


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