Airport infrastructure: Terminal velocity

8 May 2023 by Tamsin Cocks
The new Luoto nature diorama at Helsinki airport welcomes passengers arriving in Finland - Credit Finavia Corp

Travel might have slowed down for passengers in the last few years, but development on airport infrastructure has been full steam ahead.

According to market research firm GlobalData, there is currently US$700 billion worth of airport construction projects underway around the world. The Asia-Pacific region claims the highest levels of development, with US$240 billion worth of projects, followed by the Middle East and Africa (US$200 billion), the Americas (US$150 billion) and Europe (US$130 billion). Here we look at some major airport upgrades around the globe.

John F. Kennedy International airport, JFK

New York’s biggest airport is undergoing a huge revamp totalling US$19 billion that will create four main terminals with a north and south hub. The first changes were unveiled last year, with British Airways moving into a revamped Terminal 8 alongside American Airlines and launching the co-branded Bridge Bar in the Greenwich Lounge. T8 will eventually host eight oneworld carriers, with Japan Airlines expected to move this month.

The US$1.5 billion expansion of Terminal 4 is due to be finished this year, and has become the consolidated home for Delta’s operations. A new 1,300 sqm Sky Club on Concourse A will open this summer, followed by an exclusive Delta One Club in 2024 for business class passengers.

Work began on Terminal 6 in February, which will connect seamlessly to the current Terminal 5. Passengers can expect bright and spacious arrivals, local artwork and more than 9,000 sqm of updated shopping and dining options. Advanced technology will update passenger touchpoints, including automated TSA security lanes and biometric controls, plus a new taxi plaza. In addition to JetBlue, the improved terminal will be home to the Lufthansa Group.

Finally, the largest development will be the New Terminal One, worth around US$9.5billion, which will occupy the sites of the current T1 and T2 (to be demolished this year) and former T3. It will include new dining and retail options championing local, female and minority-owned businesses, plus new lounges, indoor green space, public art, entertainment and family-friendly amenities. The arrivals and departures hall, and 14 new gates are expected to open in 2026, with the terminal’s final nine gates opening in 2030.

Chicago O’Hare International airport, ORD

The O’Hare 21 initiative is a multibillion-dollar upgrade of the world’s fourth busiest airport that has already seen increased runway capacity and a new automated people mover completed in 2021. It also includes the US$1 billion expansion and renovation of Terminal 5, which is due to complete this year, with ten new gates, more airline lounge space, improved security, immigration and screening facilities and a new baggage handling system. A new six-storey car park will also be created adjacent to T5, with an expanded curb-side drop off. Improved shopping and dining facilities will feature local favourites such as Butcher and Burger as well as Bar Siena, with mobile ordering and the option of gate-side delivery available throughout the terminal.

Work has also begun on the new O’Hare Global Terminal, a US$2.2 billion facility that will double the size of the current Terminal 2. Passengers can look forward to the co-location of domestic and international arrival gates and a more streamlined approach to airline alliances. There will also be more public amenities, a modern baggage system and new immigration and customs facilities. Two satellite concourses, also opening this year, will handle capacity while the new terminal is constructed.

Los Angeles International airport, LAX

Los Angeles International airport is midway through a major US$14 billion upgrade, which affects all nine terminals. Terminals 7 and 8 were upgraded in 2019, providing a fresh home for United Airlines, complete with a new Club lounge plus automated screening lanes, while Terminal 1 was modernised in 2018 and the new Terminal 1.5 opened at the end of 2021.

Still to come is the huge US$5.5 billion Automated People Mover project, due to open in 2024, which will provide ease of movement between terminals and connect to the regional transport system and a new car rental facility.

Terminals 2 and 3 are also undergoing a US$2.3 billion upgrade, which will replace the T3 concourse with new gates, more seating with charging capabilities, upgraded shopping and dining, and a secure connection to Tom Bradley International terminal. The new Delta Sky Club at Terminal 3 opened last year, with an indoor/outdoor bar and upgraded restrooms with shower facilities. Meanwhile, Terminal 4 is being redeveloped by American Airlines to the tune of US$1.5 billion.

Future vision of King Salman International Airport, a giant new airport scheduled to be built in Saudi Arabia - credit Foster and Partners

King Salman International airport

Saudi Arabia is ploughing enormous sums of money into a new era of international tourism. To that end, a new mega airport has been proposed for Riyadh. The King Salman International airport will become one of the largest airports in the world, with a site of 57 sq km that will be built on top of the current King Khalid International airport. It’s worth noting that Saudi Arabia already holds the title of largest airport in the world in terms of overall size, with the 776 sq km King Fahd International in Dammam, 400km east of Riyadh.

The new airport is planned to feature six runways capable of hosting up to 185 million passengers by 2050. Foster + Partners, the architecture firm leading the project design, has dubbed it an “aerotropolis”. It is scheduled to launch in 2030, with capacity for 120 million passengers in the first phase and 3.5 million tons of cargo.

Hamad International airport, DOH

Last November, Doha’s Hamad International airport completed the first phase of its airport renovation and expansion project. The newly renovated airport can now accommodate 58 million passengers annually and features additional lounges, retail and F&B options, a new transfer hall and a 6,000 sqm indoor garden, the Orchard, that bears some resemblance to Changi’s Jewel.

The Oryx Garden Hotel has opened in the north plaza, with 100 rooms, alongside four new lounges, including the Al Mourjan Business Lounge – The Garden; Gold and Platinum lounge; Oryx Lounge and Al Maha Lounge. The second phase of the airport’s expansion will commence this year and increase capacity to over 70 million passengers. It will also involve the construction of two new concourses.

The rainforest-like indoor garden The Orchard at Hamad International airport - Credit Hamad International Airport

New Central Polish airport

The New Central Polish Airport (also Solidarity Transport Hub, or Centralny Port Komunikacyjny CPK in Polish) is one of the largest infrastructure projects currently being planned in Europe, with a total investment of around US$8 billion. While still in the design stage, the mega air-road-rail transit hub is expected to be complete by 2028 and will be located 45km west of central Warsaw. Initially the new airport will be expected to handle up to 40 million passengers, rising to 100 million on completion, and connected by high-speed rail to the capital and other major cities.

Helsinki airport, HEL

Finavia has almost completed an extensive €1 billion upgrade of Helsinki Airport that began in 2014. The terminal has been expanded by 45 per cent, with a focus on keeping everything easily accessible. Departures has been given a new Finnish design with a wooden ceiling and large windows, while next-generation technology at security means there is no need to remove electronics or liquids from bags for scanning. New shops featuring popular Finnish brands from Moomins to Marimekko have opened, with a new food court in arrivals, and another opening in the gate area this summer. A new baggage hall will also be completed this summer with more carousels.

Singapore Changi airport, SIN

Consistently voted as one of the best airports in the world, Singapore’s Changi airport is set to almost double in size with the construction of its Terminal 5 project. The new terminal, due to be completed in the mid 2030s, will be capable of handling 50 million passengers a year (the current four terminals combined have a capacity for about 80 million). The airport will focus on contactless technology and enhanced ventilation, plus areas that can be used for testing operations or the segregation of high-risk passengers.

Sustainability will also play a major role in its design, with solar panels, district cooling systems and thermal energy storage, plus the capability to deploy sustainable aviation fuel (SAF). Increased technology will see the deployment of autonomous vehicles to support baggage and cargo transport, as well as robotics for baggage handling and other AI services. For those who love Changi’s unique lifestyle features, more can be expected, with the plan being “to create a social space that people living in the city are excited to visit”.

Meanwhile, Changi has also been steadily unveiling improvements to its Terminal 2, with more space, a refreshed design focused on nature and improved F&B facilities, due to be completed by 2024.

Hong Kong International airport, HKG

A major US$18.5 billion upgrade of Hong Kong International airport is due to complete in 2024, with numerous upgrades having already been unveiled. This includes the opening of the third runway and a new 200-metre-long Sky Bridge that enables passengers to travel between Terminal 1 and the Satellite Concourse (T1S). It is the world’s longest airside bridge and, at 28 metres tall, allows aircraft such as the A380 to pass under its glass floor.

The SkyCity development has also been opening in phases and is set to “transform HKIA from a city’s airport to an airport city”. A key element is the 11 SKIES complex, Hong Kong’s largest retail, dining and entertainment facility with 800 shops and 120 dining concepts, due to open in 2025. Recently opened is the 1,208-room Regala Skycity Hotel.

Shanghai Pudong International airport, PVG

One of China’s biggest airports has begun work on a huge expansion, totalling almost US$50 billion, that includes a new passenger terminal, transport centre and aircraft catering facilities. The new Terminal 3 marks the fourth expansion phase of the airport that will serve an additional 50 million passengers each year, bringing the airport’s total capacity to 130 million. Features will include nearly 100 aircraft stands for international and domestic flights and a new transport centre linked to the airport express line, metro, and Shanghai East Railway Station. Work began last year, with a completion date expected by the end of 2030.

Long Thanh International airport

A new airport has been proposed in Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City to relieve pressure from the existing Tan Son That international airport. The city’s main airport is designed to handle 15 million passengers, but pre-pandemic was dealing with 26 million, leading to heavy congestion and delays.

With a budget of US$16 billion over three phases leading up to 2050, Long Thanh International airport will be the most expensive infrastructure project in Vietnamese history.

The first phase is expected to be complete by 2025, complete with a 4,000-metre runway and capacity for 25 million passengers. This will then be doubled to 50 million passengers on completion of a second runway, with the final phase catering up to 100 million passengers by 2050. The new airport is an hour’s drive east of the current airport.

In the meantime, Tan Son Nhat International airport is also being expanded, with a new terminal that will add an additional capacity for 40 million passengers. This will feature 90 counters, 20 automated bag drop counters, 42 check-in kiosks and 25 security gates.

Manchester airport final phase of redevelopment. Rendering of retail areas


Manchester airport, MAN

The £1.3 billion Manchester Airport Transformation Programme was announced in 2015, with the first phase unveiled in 2021 featuring an expanded Terminal 2 now home to carriers including Singapore Airlines, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways. The final phase will see a £440 million renovation begin this year, which will double the size of the departure lounge and create more retail space with 27 new shops and F&B outlets. A new security hall will also be constructed with 3D scanners, spacious boarding gates and an improved baggage system capable of processing 5,000 bags per hour. Terminal 1 will be closed when the project is completed in 2025.

London City airport, LCY

London City airport began work on a £500 million upgrade in 2017, that has so far seen eight new aircraft stands, a parallel taxiway, new e-gates at immigration and a new baggage facility. Other recent improvements include new CT scanners added in March, which means the 100ml rule has been scrapped and passengers no longer need to remove liquids or laptops at security. In October, the airport announced a £12 million upgrade of its existing departure lounge facilities, with 30 per cent more seating, upgraded washrooms, and new retail and F&B facilities, including Juniper restaurant and a new “Champagne Cave”.

London Luton airport, LTN

The owners of Luton airport have proposed a new terminal that would see it almost double its 19 million capacity to 32 million. The Planning Inspectorate has accepted the application for review. In March, the airport unveiled its new £290 million Luton DART (Direct Air-Rail Transit) system to transfer passengers from Luton Airport Parkway station to the airport in four minutes, so passengers can get from London St. Pancras to the airport in half an hour.

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