Friday, August 3, 2012

Evolving Airport Terminals

I'm pretty sure it has been happening at a large airport near you. That's because airports for larger metropolitan areas seem to be continually under reconstruction. For this post, I'm referring to the evolution of the airport terminal.

Not all that many years ago terminals had waiting areas and a few news stands and a limited, "captive" (contracted out to a single supplier) set of restaurants and snack bars. Those restaurants and snack bars seemingly invariably had overpriced goods.

Then cracks in the system appeared. The one that impressed me was the appearance of a McDonald's hamburger stand in the Minneapolis terminal maybe 20 or more years ago. Now, in America, I don't notice any more of those single-contractor operations for food services (news stands still seem to be another story). Better yet, in many airports, the price of a McDonald's burger or a cup of Starbucks coffee is the same as it is off-site.

Behold the contrast with 60 years ago. My example is Seattle-Tacoma International Airport showing old photos found on the Web and a few I took recently.

These are views of waiting areas in the years before major changes occurred. The top photo shows a waiting area near the departure gates and the lower photo shows the main lounge. There was a restaurant with a view of the airplanes that was situated on the second floor beyond the far end of the main lounge.

A few years ago, the central part of the terminal including the main lounge (already re-done a time or two since the photo above was taken), was extensively rebuilt. The photos below indicate the result.

That sign in the background is both fairly recent and seriously tacky. I'm not sure that "captive" passengers within the security zone need to be prompted to spend, because they're likely to do so anyway.

Where the main lounge was is now a food court.

There's also a huge window where aircraft can be observed. Some airport amenities don't change.


Hels said...

I used to think it was a one size fits all sort of deal.

I have spent the last month in and out of airports and no longer believe that they function equally efficiently. Hong Kong has millions of people going through, stifling heat, not enough immigration and customs officers and endless, mind numbing queues. London Heathrow was delightful but involved walking many kilometres within each terminal. Lisbon involved endless walking and waiting in squishy holding area etc etc

Only Frankfurt was a delight.

dearieme said...

"London Heathrow was delightful": you're just teasing, aren't you? I know people who fly to Schipol from Stansted, to connect to onward flights, just to avoid Heathrow.

Hels said...

Not at all.

Terminal 5 had presumably been used for Olympic teams and visitors. As I arrived right in the middle of the Games, the terminal was virtually empty. The volunteers could not have been more helpful.

Peter said...

The airline industry's shift toward hub-and-spoke operations may have been an impetus to airports to upgrade their facilities, as at many airports there are now large numbers of people waiting for connecting flights within the security zone.