Pressure will soon be relieved on Singapore’s Changi Airport, as plans to open a new passenger terminal at the smaller Seletar Airport in the north of the city-state are on track. The structure is due to open later this year.

Seletar is 19 miles north of Changi. Built as a Royal Air Force station in 1928, it saw action during World War II and can claim to be Singapore’s first international airport.

Today, the airport is a busy general aviation facility, with flight training establishments and a number of maintenance operators providing heavy engineering services from the single-runway site. It also handles many corporate visitors and executive jet movements.

From movie stars to business leaders, the quiet convenience of Seletar has always been a benefit to this kind of customer.

However, a small passenger terminal with two check-in desks, a water fountain and a few plastic seats has represented Seletar’s efforts to develop airline services for decades. Yet, it has been many years since passengers departed on scheduled flights.

Now, all that is about to change as the Changi Airport Group — operators of Seletar and the island nation’s main international hub airport — has confirmed that a new passenger terminal is on track to open in December, with a Temporary Occupation Permit being granted earlier this month.

(c) Changi Airport Group

The new 10,000-square-meter passenger terminal is six times the size of the existing, outdated structure, and is situated on the opposite side of the runway. It will have the capacity to handle 700,000 passengers per year, and includes a large arrivals area, four check-in counters, six immigration lanes, two security screening stations and a spacious departure lounge that can hold 200 passengers.

Another part of the terminal will cater for passengers on executive flights, private jets and charters, which will be separated from the main passenger areas.

Development of Seletar into a modern passenger airport has been in the pipeline since the early 2000s, when it was recognized that Changi Airport was reaching a critical point of passenger activity. Recent additions to the terminal facilities at Changi have enabled it to cope better, but with Seletar now ready to accept passengers, it has been agreed that some services will transfer across to the smaller airport to further relieve the larger hub.

Firefly, a subsidiary of Malaysia Airlines, will be the first operator at Seletar. It is currently the only airline operating turboprop aircraft into Changi, which makes it a target for relocation.

When Seletar opens, all turboprop operators will be required to fly out of there, and Firefly will begin services to Ipoh, Kuala Lumpur and Kuantan on roughly 20 daily flights. This will, in turn, allow the number of aircraft movements at Changi to increase.

For some, the development of Seletar will see some of the last remnants of how air travel used to be disappear. A lecturer in aviation management and services at Temasek Polytechnic told the Singapore Times about taking students to the airport, "They are always very shocked, because many of them think every airport is like Changi. Alas, a part of history is going. All good things come to an end."

But the success of Singapore as a tourism and business destination, and Changi being voted the world’s best airport for the past six years means the old ways must be replaced in the name of progress.

In addition to the new terminal, recent works at Seletar have seen the lengthening of the runway, a new control tower and fire station constructed, as well as expansion of the aircraft parking apron.