The temporary KrisFlyer Gold Lounge at T3 is run by dnata’s marhaba – and it’s open to members of various programmes including NUSS and Diners Club

The marhaba lounge at Changi Airport’s Terminal 3 is also used by Singapore Airlines for its KrisFlyer Gold lounge.
Business Insider/Jessica Lin

Layovers can be some of the worst experiences in air travel, especially when the airport you’re stuck in was not designed for comfort (not every city has an airport with a 40m waterfall and multi-storey slides).

Thanks to what Emirates-owned airport services firm dnata calls a “democatisation” of airport lounges, premium options are no longer reserved for just a small group of high-fliers with top tier frequent flier status or elite credit card membership.

A “rising cohort” of millennials and their focus on “authentic and seamless travel experiences” has helped to “democratise” premium airport services, so that they are accessible by passengers taking economy class and low-cost carriers too, dnata’s regional chief executive officer for Asia Pacific, Dirk Goovaerts, told Business Insider.

“With digital exposure, consumers also have increased expectations, and seek instant solutions that can meet their needs.

“From the very moment they enter the terminal doors to when they leave the airport, passengers are looking for swift and top-notch service throughout the entire process,” he said via email interview.

On top of that, millennial travellers also want value and convenience, and look for “great experiences without having to invest in luxury products like first-class travel”, Goovaerts said.

As a result, more and more travellers are expecting to have access to airport lounges, especially if they are frequent travellers, he added.

To accommodate the shift in consumer demand, lounge access is now being introduced to more consumers through third-party partnerships with bank cards, club and lounge membership programs. Some also allow travellers without any of these affiliations to use their facilities as long as they make an advanced booking and pay a stipulated entrance fee.

In the case of dnata’s marhaba lounge at Changi Airport Terminal 3, there is no pay-per-use scheme for members of the general public. However, entry into the marhaba lounge is available to travellers through a wide range of airline loyalty programmes, credit card schemes and various club memberships.

Before a recent trip to Japan, I took a break at the T3 marhaba lounge, which is being used by Singapore Airlines as the KrisFlyer Gold lounge while its actual lounge undergoes a revamp. Here’s what it was like:


The marhaba lounge at T3 is a 24-hour lounge located on level 3, near the escalators next to Louis Vuitton.

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You can also take a lift up.
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Business Insider/Jessica Lin

There are two reception counters at the front of the lounge. Unlike some other lounges, which have darker and more ambient lighting, the marhaba lounge is brightly lit thanks to its floor-to-ceiling windows.

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Opened in June 2019, the lounge runs 24 hours a day, every day.
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Business Insider/Jessica Lin

The actual KrisFlyer Gold Lounge is currently undergoing major works till 2021, so Singapore Airlines is using marhaba’s lounge for the time being.

Apart from KrisFlyer Gold members, the marhaba lounge is currently also accessible to business class passengers on a wide range of airlines, including China Airlines, Garuda Indonesia, SriLankan Airlines and Myanmar National Airlines.

Members of several airport lounge programmes and clubs – Priority Pass, Lounge Key, Lounge Club, Diners Club International, National University of Singapore Society (NUSS), TAV Airports, Lounge Pass and DragonPass – also have access.

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KrisFlyer Elite Gold membership is given to KrisFlyer members who clocked 50,000 Elite miles in 12 consecutive months.
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Business Insider/Jessica Lin

There is a relaxing area where travellers can sit in comfortable semi-reclined chairs. Here, there are TVs and power points to charge electronic devices.

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There are also monitors which display flight information.
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Business Insider/Jessica Lin

If you like to watch the planes land, you can sit facing the window, where ample sunshades prevent the glare of the sun from hurting your eyes.

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Business Insider/Jessica Lin

Of course there are charging points every where…

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There is one charging point for every two to three seats.
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Business Insider/Jessica Lin

…and also reading material.

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There’s a wide range of international papers to choose from, but not too many kinds of lifestyle magazines.
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Business Insider/Jessica Lin

There are plenty of seats in the lounge, with just enough space in between the rows of tables for trolleys and cabin-size luggage to pass.

It was very crowded when I visited during lunch time, so I had to readjust my luggage a number of times to make way for people to pass.

The space did clear out quite quickly though, since travellers always have somewhere to rush to when at the airport.

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The lounge also provides baby chairs for toddlers, so you don’t have to worry about feeding your child.
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Business Insider/Jessica Lin

The best tables for dining, in my opinion, are the ones by the window. Not only do you get a great view of the runway, you’ll also get larger tables and the most comfortable dining chairs.

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Business Insider/Jessica Lin

The lounge provides all-day dining with and an international buffet.

According to Goovaerts, travellers today are more sophisticated and selective in areas such as food. For instance, many are more discerning about what they consume and actively look for lighter and healthier options even at the airport.

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There’s everything from dim sum to satay.
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Business Insider/Jessica Lin

The satay was surprisingly tender and tasty – highly recommended.

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I had to stop myself from taking more.
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Business Insider/Jessica Lin

Also a hit: mango panna cotta.

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The staff had to keep refilling this section because they were snapped up so quickly each time.
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Business Insider/Jessica Lin

There was a wide variety of drinks from coffee to juice.

The cucumber lemon infused water was a really refreshing touch, especially since being on a flight can make one feel really dehydrated.

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Business Insider/Jessica Lin

Of course there’s soft drinks and alcohol too.

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This was not the only beverage fridge.
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Business Insider/Jessica Lin

And perhaps most importantly, there are showers (hooray!) for passengers who just feel icky being in the same clothes for an extended period of time.

Goovaerts told Business Insider that an increasing number of travellers are looking for “elevated airport experience” in lounges that provide premium and personalised services.

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A red light indicates someone is using the cubicle. A vacant cubicle’s indicators will be white.
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Business Insider/Jessica Lin

The bathroom was minimal, but nice and sleek. Bonus points for hairdryer.

But there was no baby changing station, so if you have a child, you’ll need to exit the lounge and use the changing stations in the terminal itself.

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The bathrooms were spacious and cleaned very regularly.
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Business Insider/Jessica Lin

As you can see, the shower facilities are still very new. There is even a rain shower to soothe those tired shoulders after a long flight.

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You can borrow a towel from reception if you don’t have one.
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Business Insider/Jessica Lin

To be honest, Changi Airport is so well-equipped that there really isn’t a need for travellers to look for a lounge to relax in.

Having said that, I found the marhaba lounge’s large buffet offerings and comfortable dining arrangements very helpful because I did not have to think too hard about what to eat, and whether or not I’d be able to get a comfortable seat in the shortest time possible. The clean shower facilities were also a big plus point.

However, if you’re heading to the lounge this holiday season, I would suggest avoiding mealtimes since the place is not very big and can serve fewer than 150 people each time.

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My favourite part about the lounge was sipping tea while watching the planes go by.
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Business Insider/Jessica Lin

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