More than 92 million people flew through Atlanta in 2011, giving it the dubious honor of world’s busiest airport. This year is already looking bigger and better, thanks to a new terminal that can save up to 45 minutes in travel time.
Atlanta’s $1.4 billion Maynard H. Jackson Jr. International Terminal is one of the much-needed new airport terminals whose innovations address the modern air travel experience—with its complex security procedures, crowded-to-capacity flights, and expectations of Wi-Fi and enough diversions to withstand delays.
“Passengers are spending up to an hour longer inside the airport than they did just a decade or so earlier,” says Tom Theobald, architect and principal at Fentress Architects, which specializes in airport design. He noted that even as air travel has changed dramatically, too often that added time is spent in airports built in the ’60s and ’70s.
Forward-thinking city and airport officials worldwide understand that investing in infrastructure lures more tourists, and at least some are taking action to introduce new terminals, overhaul old ones—or, as in Doha, reclaim a piece of land and start an airport from scratch. A common goal is to improve passenger flow and efficiency, while considering aesthetics, sustainability, and the needs of today’s jet-setters.
You don’t have to go far to be able to charge your smartphone at Sacramento’s International Airport Terminal B, for instance. It was unveiled in October 2011 with 140 tables of two USB ports and a two-plug outlet each—more than any other U.S. airport, according to PC World.
At Liberia airport in northwestern Costa Rica, a new international terminal provides another kind of convenience: easier access to the beaches of Tamarindo, the Nicoya Peninsula, and national parks. It opened to meet growing tourist demand. Instead of assigned ticket counters, any airline can operate at any ticket space or gate location using pioneering common-use terminal equipment.
Even as they introduce new technologies, some terminals and airports are also incorporating decidedly local design elements and vendors. “Not only are the selections healthier, but airports like LAX are bringing in local spots, like Pink’s Hot Dogs, that you wouldn’t find anywhere else in the country,” says John DiScala, who spends 220 days a year on the road and founded JohnnyJet.com.
Ready to upgrade your next trip? We’ve listed the airlines that serve these new terminals, including LAX’s T6, and the innovations that will help make your airport experience more pleasant.