Handling escalating growth no longer means "just" providing more security, more ticketing counters, more baggage capacity and more ground transportation. Progress in technology, in sustainable living practices and in considering passenger and staff "well-being’" is shaping a new perspective on the types of spaces and systems that will define airports of the near future. Global expenditure on airport infrastructure is climbing, opening up opportunities to realize new visions that focus on major improvements, rather than servicing the flawed status quo.

 Some cities have already implemented innovations that are redefining the airport’s purpose.

Changi Airport in Singapore is seeing the growth of new retail and leisure experiences, within a uniquely rich botanical environment.

At Marseille Provence Airport in France, an iconic terminal is being rejuvenated, rather than demolished. By embracing the latest philosophies, the airport is moving into the future for decades to come.

Toronto Pearson International Airport, Canada’s main hub, is developing  a truly regional, if not national, transit centre, where new highways and rail lines will converge, creating connections to towns and cities for the international air traveller.

At LaGuardia Airport in New York, technical innovation comes together with business acumen to prepare this gateway airport to thrive. On the technical front, the unique application of two stunning bridges to span the taxiways is one of the innovations designed to unlock what is an exceedingly tight airport. On the business front, the adoption of a P3 finance model enables these forward-looking changes to happen.

Picture if you will, airports around the world providing easy, fast and stress-free passenger navigation every day. This advanced offering, driven by the objectives of operational efficiency and passenger well-being, would bring an unprecedented level of passenger satisfaction extending throughout the traveller’s journey. 

Actualizing the Future

Envisioning airport infrastructure in this broader and passenger-oriented context means creating terminals and other airport buildings that can adapt to change. This fluid approach will inform the early design and planning stages of airport development – always with an eye toward long-term return on investment. Technological improvements, including various automatic biometric scanning and recognition methods as well as automated baggage screening and tagging, are increasingly being integrated into existing spaces to decrease passenger congestion and expedite flow throughout airports.  Processes will become safer and more thorough, yet less intrusive to passengers.

Mobility advancements will also foster progress, as airports adopt autonomous vehicles as the norm in getting to and from the airport, and in transporting passengers between terminals. Increased intermodal connectivity between bus and train lines plus high-speed rail connectivity to outlying areas will further support the transition to this new airport landscape. 

Cultivating the Aviation Landscape

As emerging technologies are implemented to expedite passenger traffic flow on the ground, research into lighter aircraft materials and new propulsion discoveries, including those focused on vertical take-off, bio fuels and electric propulsion, will deliver even more aircraft evolution. Further development and successful application of these technologies will ultimately translate into less congestion on the tarmac, reduced carbon footprint and ecological mitigation, and lower levels of noise and air pollution impacting surrounding communities.  The standard airport plan is evolving rapidly in response to these changes.

Accelerating the Pace of Change

Harnessing the power of information technology enables airports to focus on creating an airport experience characterized by ease, agility and enjoyment, rather than frustration and bottleneck. Repositioning the passenger (and indeed the staff) as a sensitive person with complex needs, rather than a component that requires processing, opens up tremendous opportunities for airports. In the context of accommodating increasing volumes of air passengers, well-thought-out planning and implementation of state-of-the-art technologies will benefit airports, airlines and passengers. 

Progress requires collaboration, cooperation and agreement among the multiple local, regional and national stakeholders. Such an alignment will help airports evolve—to become destinations providing innovative experiences, centres of sustainable growth for communities, and responsible neighbours in those communities.

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