Is this possible?

Buy a cheapest ticket or refundable ticket and enter T3 departure hall of Singapore airport, clear immigration and go to T3 arrival area and meet my wife even before she clears thru immigration desk.

Reason: to give her surprise and help her with document handling.

Thanks for your help.

P.s. this question may have been asked in different formats earlier, but i am keen on knowing for Singapore airport. There may be Meet&Greet services, that would be last resort.

  • 7
    How are you planning to get from departures to arrivals airside?
    – Gayot Fow
    Commented May 13, 2015 at 20:29
  • 3
    As @GayotFow implies, whenever I've landed in a foreign country, the passengers are herded into the immigrations area. Occasionally there's mixing of two or more flights, but generally close to the immigrations area, not near the gates.
    – mkennedy
    Commented May 13, 2015 at 21:57
  • 1
    Usually that would not be possible but you may be in luck. Hopefully someone who has been to Singapore recently will be able to confirm (or not).
    – Relaxed
    Commented May 13, 2015 at 23:21
  • 1
    The big problem may not be meeting your wife or even clearing immigration but the fact that you would be checked in to the flight you will not take. It will ultimately depart without you but you will be creating some unneeded work for the ground staff (calling you, checking if you have hold luggage to offload, etc.) which is not nice.
    – Relaxed
    Commented May 13, 2015 at 23:24
  • You could probably get a ticket departing many hours later and cancel even after going through security depending on the type of ticket you have but the problem I think is "before immigration" -- I can't readily imagine any countries allowing you to get to the "before immigration" area of the airport from inside the country. You'd need to go through immigration checks absolutely needlessly and noone wants to allow people putting additional load on the border control.
    – user4188
    Commented Sep 28, 2015 at 2:41

5 Answers 5


TL;DR: there is no distinction between arrival area and departure area, so it might be possible. However, there will be logistical and possibly legal problems. I don't think it will be worth the risk.

As of the logistic part of the question, this is absolutely no problem. At Changi Airport, the arrival and the departure zones are linked together and you won't have any problems to access the gate once you are through immigration. You won't even need to go through security check as those only take place at the gate. For more details of how to get from the arrival customs to the gates, you can see their online map of T3. As @uncovery noted in the comment, it might be quite hard to find your wife, as arrival gates are usually not announced. She will have to pass through one of the two escalators located at Transfer A and Transfer B on above map to get to immigration, but if you don't know which gate she is arriving at, you won't be able to know at which side to wait for her.

I would urge you however to consider that this is going to cause some problems to the airline, as they will have to call for you, since you will do the check-in and then not board the plane, this will make for instance a potential early departure of the plane impossible. If you do so, I would suggest that you book a flight departing well after your wife arrives and then go back to the check-in counter to tell them that you are not actually flying.

I can't help you with the question if this is legal. You should see jpatokal's answer for some examples of how this might (probably will) go wrong.

Note that the immigration process at Changi airport is among the most straight forward ones I have seen. If you want to help your wife, help her to prepare all the details she has to fill in for the D/E form and make sure she has all the documents for her visa if she needs one and she should be fine. I have passed through the Singapore customs many times and rarely ever had to talk to them.

Also note that there are no budget airlines departing from T3, so in order to get a cheap one-way you would have to check-in from one of the other terminals and then transfer, which is possible, but will only make it more annoying. If you are really scared, that your wife will not make it through there alone, I suggest you do consider the Passenger Meeting Service which will save you all this potential trouble and seems to be cheaper than buying a flight.

Update: You might be interested in this article, quoting the police on how it is illegal to enter the transit area without wanting to travel.

  • 1
    One question for me is how he will make sure that he actually meets his wife without ruining the surprise. It would be quite meaningless if his wife misses him and then waits for him outside while he still runs around inside looking for her.
    – uncovery
    Commented May 14, 2015 at 1:50
  • @uncovery oh, that's true, haven't thought of that. The ideal place would be the escalator from the transit area down to the arrival baggage area, where also the immigration counters are. Problem is, afaik there are two of those and I don't think they will announce the gates of arriving flights.
    – drat
    Commented May 14, 2015 at 2:06
  • exactly. He will need a place in the airport where she is sure to come by. Or ask her to buy something for her in a specific shop and meet her there. If he's so afraid she won't make it through immigration, that might not be a good plan either, though.
    – uncovery
    Commented May 14, 2015 at 2:15
  • 2
    Problem is the luggage belt is after immigration. And if he wants to wait there, he might just as well wait outside at the normal waiting area, as the luggage belt is separated from the arrival waiting area by a glass wall. I checked this question about arrival gates, but it doesn't seem to work for Singapore for the flights I tried.
    – drat
    Commented May 14, 2015 at 2:31
  • 1
    One additional fly in the ointment: if your wife is flying Singapore Airlines, she may land at T2 instead of T3. While SQ publishes lists of which terminal flights depart from, a flight that left from T3 might return to T2 if that's where its next flight is headed. Commented May 14, 2015 at 7:32

As drat's answer explains, it's technically possible, but it's also illegal. There's a sign ahead of Immigration that says "No entry except for passengers with boarding passes and proceeding to their next destination", so if you enter and do not proceed to your flight destination, you're trespassing.

This is not a dead letter either: several fans of a Chinese pop star who did just this were arrested and eventually fined $1,000, and this has even been applied to a Singapore Airlines pilot seeing off his girlfriend.

  • Didn't he say he wanted to buy a ticket? If someone bought a ticket, planning to take a flight and then change their mind in the last minute and go back out, that would be illegal? They would have to prove that he did it intentionally I think.
    – uncovery
    Commented May 14, 2015 at 4:31
  • @uncovery Read the linked case: the fined fans had cheap tickets to Kuala Lumpur, but returned without taking the flights. And without a ticket you wouldn't even get though Immigration, since they check for this. Commented May 14, 2015 at 7:27
  • @uncovery Of course, if you have sufficient reason for not taking your flight ("my mother just had a heart attack!"), you'll likely be let through without trouble. And for Sg residents immigration clearance is automated anyway. Commented May 14, 2015 at 7:28

As others have said, it's illegal. Visas permitting you can accomplish this, though: Actually fly up to Kuala Lumpur--a quick search turned up a $65 ticket.


As it is obvious from the posts above, that this might end up with you breaking the law.

If you would like to speed up your wife's formalities through the airport - consider applying for the meet and greet services which will provide for her an escort through the terminal and priority clearing of baggage and immigration. For an extra fee they can also deliver a flower bouquet.

However, they will not be able to let you escort her as the ability to transit between secure areas of the terminal is restricted.


It will depend greatly on the layout of the airport. There are two major models:

  • The airport is a transfer hub, the whole concourse is considered an international area, arriving and departing passengers mix.

  • The airport is a national gateway or a primary destination. Arriving and departing passengers do not mix.

Heathrow is an example of the former. You land, exit directly into the main terminal. Heathrow even implements extra checks to make sure you don't transfer to domestic flights without going through immigration first.

Vancouver is an example of the latter. International arrivals make a turn and go up an escalator, where they proceed directly to immigration. Waiting or walking the other way will quickly attract the attention of security. There are different paths for US transfers and for international departures.

If you do make it to immigration with your wife you may have some interesting questions to answer, as you have "departed" but not actually departed. If you take a day trip somewhere and schedule your arrival for almost the same time it's no problem at all, but still unlikely you can wait at the arrival gate.

  • 8
    Since the question did explicitly ask about one airport, wouldn't it make more sense to abstain from answering if you don't know that airport instead of writing “it depends on the airport”, which the OP apparently already knows.
    – Relaxed
    Commented May 13, 2015 at 23:25

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