The Future of Airports
Published: May 2009
By Jessie Scanlon
With increased traffic and more rigorous security, the airport is evolving. <b>Jessie Scanlon</b> talks to aviation experts and reports on what's to come, from the terminal to the tarmac.
• Worries about car bombs will lead many airports to institutecarless terminals. Travelers will park in a remote lot and reach the terminal by light-rail.
• Standardized, wireless check-in kiosks (not specific to any airline) will be positioned wherever necessary to streamline the passenger's progress through the airport.
• Kiosks will be equipped with a camera and biometric software (to verify ID), and will print an image of the passenger's face on each boarding pass.
• Radio-frequency ID luggage tags—more rugged than bar codes—will also contain passenger data and a photo image.
• The X-ray machine isn't going anywhere. Neither is the metal detector, though it will soon be joined by the Terahertz machine,which uses light waves to detect ceramic or plastic objects beneath your clothing, and by a walk-through portal that detects trace explosives.
• Handheld devices will analyze substances down to the molecular level, testing foranthrax and other bioweapons.
• Document scanners will sniff every passport for signs of explosives.
• Each checkpoint will have a command-and-control center—a workstation where the manager can see data from all machines.
• The preferred-traveler line will allow passengers who've registered and provided background information to speed through security.
• Every piece of checked luggage will be screened by machines built into the moving luggage-ways.
• In the wake of SARS, airports will install thermal-imaging systems to detect pathogens.
• Sensors in air ducts will detect poisons and immediately shut down the ventilation system when necessary.
• Smart surveillance camera systems will run software that can spot anomalous behavior.
• Passengers will wait in holding areas rather than spending hours at the gate. The emphasis will be on comfort: rocking chairs, spas, fitness centers, bars.
• Two-floor gate areas will accommodate a higher passenger load and double-decker plane design.
• Wider concourses will allow room for more retail outlets, which will be higher-end: Brooks Brothers and Chanel will replacesouvenir shops.
• VIP lounges and first-class terminals will proliferate, allowing higher-paying passengers to segregate themselves from the masses.
• Runways, tarmac lanes, and berths will be widened by 50 feet, to accommodate the Airbus A380.