An airport terminal is a building at an airport where passengers transfer between ground transportation and the facilities that allow them to board and disembark from an aircraft.
Within the terminal, passengers purchase tickets, transfer their luggage, and go through security. The buildings that provide access to the airplanes (via gates) are typically called concourses. However, the terms "terminal" and "concourse" are sometimes used interchangeably, depending on the configuration of the airport.
Smaller airports have one terminal while larger airports have several terminals and/or concourses. At small airports, the single terminal building typically serves all of the functions of a terminal and a concourse.
Some larger airports have one terminal that is connected to multiple concourses via walkways, sky-bridges, or tunnels (such as Denver International Airport, modeled after Atlanta's, the world's busiest). Some larger airports have more than one terminal, each with one or more concourses (such as New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport and Chicago's O'Hare International Airport). Still other larger airports have multiple terminals each of which incorporate the functions of a concourse (such as Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport).
According to Frommers, [ citation needed ]
When London Stansted Airport's new terminal opened in 1991, it marked a shift in airport terminal design since Norman Foster placed the baggage handling system in the basement in order to create a vast open interior space.Airport architects have followed this model since unobstructed sightlines aid with passenger orientation. In some cases, architects design the terminal’s ceiling and flooring with cues that suggest the required directional flow. For instance, at Toronto Pearson’s Terminal 1 Moshe Safdie included skylights for wayfinding purposes.
In the early history of air flight, airlines checked in their passengers at downtown terminals, and had their own transportation facilities to the airfield. For example, Air France checked in passengers at the Invalides Air Terminal (Aérogare des Invalides) from 1946 to 1961, when all passengers started checking in at the airport. The Air Terminal continued in service as the boarding point for airline buses until 2016.
Due to the rapid rise in popularity of passenger flight, many early terminals were built in the 1930s–1940s and reflected the popular art deco style architecture of the time. One such surviving example from 1940 is the Houston Municipal Airport Terminal. Early airport terminals opened directly onto the tarmac: passengers would walk or take a bus to their aircraft. This design is still common among smaller airports, and even many larger airports have "bus gates" to accommodate aircraft beyond the main terminal.
A pier design uses a small, narrow building with aircraft parked on both sides. One end connects to a ticketing and baggage claim area. Piers offer high aircraft capacity and simplicity of design, but often result in a long distance from the check-in counter to the gate (up to half a mile in the cases of Kansai International Airport or Lisbon Portela Airport's Terminal 1). Most large international airports have piers.
A satellite terminal is a building detached from other airport buildings, so that aircraft can park around its entire circumference. The first airport to use a satellite terminal was London Gatwick Airport. It used an underground pedestrian tunnel to connect the satellite to the main terminal. This was also the first setup at Los Angeles International Airport, but it has since been converted to a pier layout. The first airport to use an automatic people mover to connect the main terminal with a satellite was Tampa International Airport, which is the standard today. The world's largest satellite terminal is Terminal S1 and S2 at Shanghai Pudong International Airport. The 622,000 square meter 90 gate terminal is connected to the main terminal by a high capacity people mover using conventional subway trains.Other examples include the following:
Some airports use a semicircular terminal, with aircraft parked on one side and cars on the other. This design results in long walks for connecting passengers, but greatly reduces travel times between check-in and the aircraft. Airports designed around this model include Charles de Gaulle Airport (terminal 2), Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Mumbai (old terminal 2), Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, Seoul's Incheon International Airport, Jakarta's Soekarno-Hatta International Airport (terminal 1 & 2), Toronto Pearson Airport, Kansas City Airport, Nairobi's Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Rio de Janeiro–Galeão International Airport and Sapporo's New Chitose Airport.
A particularly unusual design was employed at Berlin Tegel Airport's Terminal A. Consisting of an hexagonal-shaped ring around a courtyard, five of the outer walls were airside and fitted with jet bridges, while the sixth (forming the entrance), along with the inner courtyard, was landside. Although superficially resembling a satellite design insofar as aircraft could park around most of the structure, it was in fact a self-contained terminal which unlike a satellite did not depend on remote buildings for facilities such as check-in, security controls, arrivals etc.
Especially unique were its exceptionally short walking distances and lack of any central area for security, passport control, arrivals or transfer. Instead, individual check-in counters are located immediately in front of the gate of the flight they serve. Checked-in passengers then entered airside via a short passage situated immediately to the side of the check-in desk, passed (for non-Schengen flights) a single passport control booth (with officers sat in the same area as check-in staff), followed by a single security lane which terminated at the gate's waiting area behind. Pairs of gates shared the same seating area, with small kiosks for duty-free and refreshments making up the only airside commercial offerings. Thus, other than the adjacent gate, passengers could not move around the terminal airside and there was no central waiting lounge and retail area for departures. Individual rooms for arrivals, likewise serving a pair of gates, each contained a single baggage carousel and were alternately situated in between each pair of departure gates on the same level, such that the entrance/exit of each jet bridge lied at the boundary of the two areas. Two or three passport control booths were located close to the end of the jet bridge for arriving passengers (causing passengers to queue into the bridge and plane itself) and passengers left the arrivals area unsegregated from departing passengers into the same landside ring-concourse, emerging next to the check-in desks. This allowed both arriving and departing passengers immediate access to the courtyard on the same level, where short-stay parking and taxi-pickup were located. Vehicles could enter and exit via a road underpass underneath the terminal building entrance.
For flights using jet-bridges and passengers arriving or leaving by private transport, this resulted in extremely short walking distances of just a few tens of metres between vehicles and the plane, with only a slightly longer walk for public transport connections. A downside of this design is a lack of any provision for transfer flights, with passengers only able to transit landside.
Another rarer terminal design is the mobile lounge, where passengers are transported from the gate to their aircraft in a large vehicle which docks directly to the terminal and the aircraft. Washington Dulles International Airport, Mexico City International Airport, and Mirabel International Airport have used this design.
Hybrid layouts also exist. San Francisco International Airport and Melbourne Airport use a hybrid pier-semicircular layout and a pier layout for the rest.
A common-use facility or terminal design disallows airlines to have its own proprietary check-in counters, gates and IT systems. Rather, check-in counters and gates can be flexibly reassigned as needed.
This table below lists the top airport terminals throughout the world with the largest amount of floor area, with usable floor space across multiple stories of at least 400,000 m2 (4,300,000 sq ft).
|Name||Country and territory||Place/City||Floor area||Notes|
|Dubai International Airport Terminal 3||United Arab Emirates||Dubai||1,713,000 m2 (18,440,000 sq ft)||Three buildings connected by tunnels|
|Istanbul Airport Main Terminal||Turkey||Istanbul||1,440,000 m2 (15,500,000 sq ft)||World's largest airport terminal under one single roof|
|Beijing Capital International Airport Terminal 3||China||Beijing||986,000 m2 (10,610,000 sq ft)||Three buildings connected by train.|
|King Abdulaziz International Airport Terminal 1||Saudi Arabia||Jeddah||810,000 m2 (8,700,000 sq ft)|
|Abu Dhabi International Airport Midfield Terminal Complex||United Arab Emirates||Abu Dhabi||735,000 m2 (7,910,000 sq ft)||Due to open in 2021|
|Beijing Daxing International Airport Terminal||China||Beijing||700,000 m2 (7,500,000 sq ft)|
|Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport Terminal 2||China||Guangzhou||658,700 m2 (7,090,000 sq ft)|
|Shanghai Pudong International Airport Satellite Concourse||China||Shanghai||622,000 m2 (6,700,000 sq ft)||World's largest stand-alone satellite terminal|
|Hamad International Airport||Qatar||Doha||600,000 m2 (6,500,000 sq ft)|
|Hong Kong International Airport Terminal 1||Hong Kong||Chek Lap Kok||570,000 m2 (6,100,000 sq ft)|
|Suvarnabhumi Airport||Thailand||Bangkok||563,000 m2 (6,060,000 sq ft)|
|Kunming Changshui International Airport||China||Kunming||548,300 m2 (5,902,000 sq ft)|
|Barcelona Airport Terminal 1||Spain||Barcelona||544,000 m2 (5,860,000 sq ft)|
|Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport Terminal 3A||China||Chongqing||530,000 m2 (5,700,000 sq ft)|
|Indira Gandhi International Airport Terminal 3||India||Delhi||502,000 m2 (5,400,000 sq ft)|
|Incheon International Airport Terminal 1||South Korea||Seoul||496,000 m2 (5,340,000 sq ft)|
|Barajas Airport Terminal 4 main building||Spain||Madrid||470,000 m2 (5,100,000 sq ft)|
|Shenzhen Bao'an International Airport Terminal 3||China||Shenzhen||459,000 m2 (4,940,000 sq ft)|
|Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport Terminal 2||India||Mumbai||450,000 m2 (4,800,000 sq ft)|
|Narita International Airport Terminal 1||Japan||Narita||440,000 m2 (4,700,000 sq ft)|
|Soekarno–Hatta International Airport Terminal 3||Indonesia||Jakarta||422,804 m2 (4,551,020 sq ft)|
Many small and mid-size airports have a single, two, or three-lane one-way loop road which is used by local private vehicles and buses to drop off and pick up passengers.
An international airport may have two grade-separated one-way loop roads, one for departures and one for arrivals. It may have a direct rail connection by regional rail, light rail, or subway to the downtown or central business district of the closest major city. The largest airports may have direct connections to the closest freeway. The Hong Kong International Airport has ferry piers on the airside for ferry connections to and from mainland China and Macau without passing through Hong Kong immigration controls.
Washington Dulles International Airport, typically referred to as Dulles International Airport, Dulles Airport, Washington Dulles or simply Dulles, is an international airport in the Eastern United States, located in Loudoun County and Fairfax County in Virginia, 26 miles (42 km) west of Downtown Washington, D.C.
Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), is Malaysia's main international airport and one of the biggest airports in Southeast Asia and worldwide. It is located in Sepang District of Selangor, approximately 45 kilometres (28 mi) south of Kuala Lumpur city centre and serves the Greater Klang Valley conurbation.
Dubai International Airport is the primary international airport serving Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and is the world's busiest airport by international passenger traffic. It is also the nineteenth-busiest airport in the world by passenger traffic, the one of the busiest cargo airports in the world, the busiest airport for Airbus A380 and Boeing 777 movements, and the airport with the highest average number of passengers per flight. In 2017, DXB handled 88 million passengers and 2.65 million tonnes of cargo and registered 409,493 aircraft movements.
Frankfurt Airport, is a major international airport located in Frankfurt, the fifth-largest city of Germany and one of the world's leading financial centres. It is operated by Fraport and serves as the main hub for Lufthansa, including Lufthansa CityLine and Lufthansa Cargo as well as Condor and AeroLogic. The airport covers an area of 2,300 hectares of land and features two passenger terminals with capacity for approximately 65 million passengers per year; four runways; and extensive logistics and maintenance facilities.
Hong Kong International Airport is Hong Kong's main airport, built on reclaimed land on the island of Chek Lap Kok. The airport is also referred to as Chek Lap Kok International Airport or Chek Lap Kok Airport, to distinguish it from its predecessor, the former Kai Tak Airport.
Pittsburgh International Airport, formerly Greater Pittsburgh International Airport, is a civil–military international airport in Findlay Township and Moon Township, Pennsylvania. Located about 10 miles west of downtown Pittsburgh, it is the primary international airport serving the Greater Pittsburgh Region as well as adjacent areas in West Virginia and Ohio. The airport is owned and operated by the Allegheny County Airport Authority and sees numerous flights a day to destinations throughout North America. PIT has four runways and covers 10,000 acres (4,000 ha).
Tampa International Airport is an international airport six miles (9.7 km) west of Downtown Tampa, in Hillsborough County, Florida, United States. The airport is publicly owned by Hillsborough County Aviation Authority (HCAA). It has been praised for its architecture and Landside/Airside design of a central terminal (landside) connected by people movers to four satellite air terminals and gates (airsides), a pioneering concept when designed in the late 1960s. The airport was called Drew Field Municipal Airport until 1952.
Orlando International Airport is a major public airport located 6 miles (10 km) southeast of Downtown Orlando, Florida. In 2019, it handled 50,613,072 passengers, making it the busiest airport in the state and tenth busiest airport in the United States. The airport code MCO stands for the airport's former name, McCoy Air Force Base, a Strategic Air Command (SAC) installation, that was closed in 1975 as part of a general military drawdown following the end of the Vietnam War.
Seattle–Tacoma International Airport, also referred to as Sea–Tac, is the primary commercial airport serving the Seattle metropolitan area in the U.S. state of Washington. It is in the city of SeaTac, approximately 14 miles (23 km) south of Downtown Seattle and 18 miles (29 km) north-northeast of Downtown Tacoma. The airport, the largest in the Pacific Northwest region of North America, is situated between Portland, Oregon, and Vancouver, British Columbia, and owned by the Port of Seattle.
Charlotte Douglas International Airport is an international airport in Charlotte, North Carolina, and is the primary airport for commercial and military use in the Charlotte metropolitan area located roughly six miles from the city's central business district. The airport is owned by the City of Charlotte and operated by the city's aviation department. Established in 1935 as Charlotte Municipal Airport, the airport was renamed in 1954 for Ben Elbert Douglas Sr., who was mayor of Charlotte when the airport was first built. It took its present name in 1982. The airport is a fortress hub for American Airlines, which serves 149 destinations and operates over 700 daily flights out of Charlotte. CLT covers 5,558 acres of land.
Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport, usually called Detroit Metro Airport, Metro Airport, or just DTW, is a major international airport in the United States covering 4,850 acres (1,960 ha) in Romulus, Michigan. It is the primary international airport serving Detroit and is Michigan's busiest airport. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems for 2017–2021 categorized it as a large hub primary commercial service facility.
The Changi Airport Skytrain is an automated people mover (APM) that connects Terminals 1, 2 and 3 at Singapore Changi Airport. Opened in 1990, it was the first driverless and automated system of its kind in South East Asia. The Changi Airport Skytrain operates from 05:00 to 02:30 daily. Traveling on the Skytrain is free and an inter-terminal journey takes approximately four minutes.
The Plane Train is an automated people mover (APM) at Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport that transports passengers between the terminals and the airside concourses. The system is the world's most heavily traveled airport APM, with 64 million riders as of 2002.
The McCarran International Airport People Movers are three separate automatic people mover systems operating at McCarran International Airport near Las Vegas, Nevada. The people mover system consists of three separate lines: the Green Line connecting the Main Terminal to the C Gate Concourse, the Blue Line connecting the Main Terminal to the D Gate Concourse, and the Red Line connecting the D Gates Concourse to Terminal 3.
The Satellite Transit System (STS) is an automated people mover (APM) system operating in the Seattle–Tacoma International Airport in SeaTac, Washington, United States. Originally opening in 1973, the STS system is the second oldest airport people mover system in the United States. The APM was designed to quickly transport passengers between the airport's Main Terminal and the North and South Satellites.
Heathrow Terminal 5 is an airport terminal at Heathrow Airport, the main airport serving London. Opened in 2008, the main building in the complex is the largest free-standing structure in the United Kingdom. Terminal 5 is currently used exclusively as one of the three global hubs of IAG, served by British Airways and Iberia, with the others being London Gatwick South and Madrid Barajas Terminal 4. Prior to 2012, the terminal was used solely by British Airways.
Dubai International Airport Terminal 3 is an airport terminal at Dubai International Airport serving Dubai, UAE. When completed and opened on 14 October 2008, it was the largest building in the world by floor area and is currently the world's largest airport terminal, with over 1,713,000 m2 (18,440,000 sq ft) of space. The partly underground Terminal 3 was built at a cost of US$4.5 billion, exclusively for Emirates and has a capacity of 43 million passengers. However it was announced on 6 September 2012 that Terminal 3 would no longer be Emirates exclusive, as Emirates and Qantas had set up an extensive code sharing agreement. Qantas would be the second and only one of two airlines to fly in and out of Terminal 3. This deal also allows Qantas to use the A380 Dedicated Concourse A. The terminal has 5 Airbus A380 gates at Concourse B, and 18 at Concourse A.. In December 2018, flydubai commenced flights from Terminal 3 to selected destinations to facilitate transfers to/from Emirates.
The Terminals of Los Angeles International Airport have a total of 146 gates in nine passenger terminals arranged in the shape of the letter U or a horseshoe. At Los Angeles International Airport, passengers may move between terminals via a shuttle bus, or through various inter-terminal pedestrian connections.
The Orlando International Airport People Movers are a set of automated guideway transit (AGT) people mover systems operating within Orlando International Airport. The four original people mover systems connect the airport's main terminal to four satellite airside concourses. A fifth AGT people mover system was installed in 2017 to connect the main terminal with the airport's new Intermodal Terminal.
The Tampa International Airport People Movers are a set of automated people mover systems operating within Tampa International Airport. The primary set of people movers are automated guideway transit (AGT) systems that connect the airport's main terminal to four satellite airside concourses. Opened in 1971, it is the first automated people mover system in the world built within an airport. A monorail connected the main terminal and the long-term parking garage from 1991 until its closure in 2020. A fifth AGT line known as SkyConnect began operating in 2018, and connects the main terminal with the airport's economy parking garage and rental car center.
Media related to Airport terminals at Wikimedia Commons