Photo credit: Youth.SG/David Yip

Keeping things smooth at the airport

This Changi Airport duty terminal manager tells us what it takes to run one of world's best airport terminals.

David Yip

Published: 1 February 2018, 12:00 AM

Taking flights can sometime be an unpleasant experience. You never know when you’ll need to deal with long lines of passengers and unexpected delays.

But thanks to the capable hands of the duty terminal managers at Changi Airport, travelling through its terminals is often a breeze.

From 11pm to 4am, Youth.SG followed duty terminal manager, Cindy Tay, to find out the various responsibilities she handles on a daily basis.


Starting off her shift, 25-year-old Cindy does a thorough check on the terminal operations starting from the departure area. Here, she checks all the touch-points, such as the check-in counters and kiosks, immigration and transit areas to see if there are any issues or problems.

During her 10-hour shift, Cindy and her team had to lockdown an abandoned luggage near a check-in counter, as a safety precaution.


Cindy also ensures that there are no issues in the check-in counters located at the departure hall.


Luckily, the owner of the luggage returned to claim it after 15 minutes. Cindy calmly informed the passenger to refrain from leaving luggage behind, due to the potential security issues it may cause.

Many travellers tend to think that it is safe to leave their personal belongings around the check-in area, as it is within their line of sight.

“Things like this happen regularly at the airport. We just have to take extra precautions as we never know what will happen,” said Cindy, who has been working as a duty terminal manager for almost 1.5 years.


As we walked through Terminal 2, Cindy casually shared more about herself.

The hospitality management graduate from Singapore Institute of Technology said: “I don’t like to sit still, so I knew that a nine-to-five job wasn’t my cup of tea. I went into the events industry before coming here because I knew I wouldn’t be stuck at a desk, and I will not have the stamina to sit all day in front of a computer.

“But I wasn’t really happy in the events industry, so I decided to explore different options. When a friend told me about this job, I decided to apply. To my pleasant surprise, I liked this job much more than I expected. You never know what will happen, which is what makes this job fun.”

What does she like most about her current job?

“I get to run the ground operations and meet new people. No two shifts are ever the same here, and that is the fun part because you have to think on your feet,” said Cindy.


True enough, we soon encountered an unexpected incident in the transit area. At around 11pm, there was an unusually long line of passengers at one of the boarding gates.

Cindy looked into it and shared that a dysfunctional metal detector had caused the hold up.


Cindy dealing with a growing line of passengers stuck at one of the boarding gates.


“When certain scenarios occur, like when a flight is delayed due to a technical issue, the most challenging part is to explain the issue to the passengers.

“They would not understand it from our perspective, and they will only think, ‘Why is my flight delayed?’ or ‘Why aren’t we leaving yet?'”

She added: “This leads to emotions flaring up, and we have to explain to them in the way that they can understand.”


Working the graveyard shift also means irregular break times. Her break times depend on the situations that occur during each shift.

The biggest sacrifice Cindy has made for her 12am to 8am job?

Giving up personal time with her family and friends.

She said: “I have lesser time with my friends and family because my off-days and my leave might not be on weekends.

“I also need a lot of understanding from my family members and the people around me because they have to support me [due to the challenges I face] in this job.”


Cindy believes that having resilience to deal with the challenges is essential, in her line of work.


Nevertheless, Cindy feels motivated, thanks to her close-knit team, who gives her “a certain push” whenever they work together.

“When the airport runs smoothly and I see the passengers fly off happily, that is what really makes this job worth it,” added Cindy.

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