Take Offs & Landings
In the necklace of airports that encircle the globe, three gems are showing some extra bling these days
Crown Jewels – Three gems in the global airport constellation. Delta makes changes at LHR, The Club at PHX opens, United unveils Heathrow T2 Lounge. Plus new route news
On the map, it’s easy to see today’s aviation system as a string of interconnected nodes linked to one another by the invisible strands of the airline networks. No city is truly joined to the rest of the world unless airplanes take off and land carrying people and cargo, empowering economies and forging commercial and cultural ties that reach across borders.
However these dots on the map – these aerodromes – are no mere dots. Each of them is an enormous undertaking in its own right, often the most complex aggregation of systems to be found in any city. No longer a simple strip of runway and a hangar, today’s airports are vibrant centers that play host to literally millions of people every day.
Recognizing the immense opportunities present in these facilities, cities and airport authorities the world over are busy expanding terminals, offering new retail options and providing greater levels of passenger comfort and convenience. Here are three of the newest.
Los Angeles International
The sprawling Los Angeles Basin is home to five commercial airports, but in terms of pure passenger throughput, LAX is headand-shoulders the aviation pivot point for the entire region – and arguably for the West Coast of the US. The planet’s sixthbusiest airport welcomed nearly 67 million travelers last year, despite the fact that it’s not truly a hub.
Some 108 airlines frequent LAX, but no one carrier dominates. While it’s not a typical hub operation, it tends to be everybody’s gateway – particularly for the increasingly important trans-Pacific traffic.
To make sure it stays that way, Los Angeles World Airports, the entity that operates LAX, has undertaken a multimillion dollar capital improvement project, known collectively by the rather typographically-challenged acronym LAneXt.
The most conspicuous contribution to the LAX project is the newly-opened Tom Bradley International Terminal, affectionately known as TBIT. The $1.7 billion effort adds 18 new international gates and a Great Hall with new places to eat and shop. Natural light streams through a huge glass ceiling overhead, and aerial walkways look down on a new departures area and the large Welcome Wall, which has shimmering blue water patterns on it.
The centerpiece of TBIT’s Phase One is the new Great Hall. It is seven stories high, with a dining and retail zone that offers a mix of local brands such as Fred Segal and Kitson LA, as well as Tumi, Burberry, Gucci and Hugo Boss.
There are more than 30 restaurants and cafés throughout, plus a plethora of new lounges, including the impressive Star Alliance facility on the sixth floor. One gains these heights either by escalators or an elevator housed in the 72-foot-tall Time Tower, an LED-wrapped column showing dazzling multimedia videos.
The latest addition to the LAX lounge array is the Skyteam facility opened in March by Korean Air. Located on the fifth floor of the Tom Bradley International Terminal, the 305-seat lounge is approximately 68 percent larger than the old facility and therefore capable of accommodating 135 more passengers.
Services include four private lounge rooms and shower booths, a balcony area that offers panoramic views of the entire terminal, and a luggage depository area.
Unfortunately, arriving passengers get only a tantalizing glimpse of the new TBIT before descending into the old immigration and security gates – though it should be noted that the immigration/passport control area has been expanded with additional lanes. Plans for new arrivals facilities are coming up in subsequent phases of LAneXt, along with new checkin and security lanes, which are still housed in the older section of the terminal.
The capital plan also implements operational improvements to the airside, plus renovations to Terminal 5, slated to be revamped by 2015. Terminal 5’s redo is
particularly important when it comes to efficiency. There’s a new in-line baggage system and a streamlined passenger screening set-up.
The idea here is clear. In the face of increasing competition from abroad, LAX wants to keep its standing as a premier trans-Pacific gateway.
Doha Hamad International
As the competitive landscape among global airports continues to shift before our eyes, one region that’s captured everyone’s attention is the Middle East. Here a trio of airports in Doha, Dubai and Abu Dhabi are either changing, or are poised to change, the long-standing East-West, status-quo connectivity picture.
In Doha, the new $15.5 billion Hamad International Airport is finally coming online, as Qatar Airways commenced operations out of the new facility last month. The airport was due to have opened in 2012 but has been dogged by delays, resulting in its opening being postponed a number of times.
However Doha’s problems are not unique in light of the complexities of standing up a massive new project like an airport. Consider Berlin’s Brandenburg International, which was first scheduled to have opened in 2010, and still lies essentially fallow. In the mid-90s, the premiere of Denver International was delayed at least four times before finally replacing Stapleton on Feb. 28, 1995.
But for Hamad International, all that’s in the past now. By all accounts, this airport has been worth the wait. Poised on a point of land jutting out into the Arabian Gulf, Hamad is two-thirds the size of metro Doha itself, reflecting the city’s penchant for thinking big. When paired with the immense new terminal complex, the tworunway layout will ultimately more than double Doha’s capacity to some 50 million passengers per year.
Qatar Airways is the force behind all that growth. The carrier’s rapidly expanding network connects Doha nonstop with Chicago O’Hare, NewYork Kennedy, Bush Houston Intercontinental, Montreal Trudeau, Washington Dulles and Philadelphia. Then beyond Doha, Qatar reaches out to major points east such as Chengdu, Guangzhou and Singapore.
The soaring three-story 6.5 millionsquare-foot terminal boasts 63 gates in all – six designed to handle the gigantic A380. In this first phase the terminal will be able to accommodate 28 million flyers each year. When the final phase is complete (that’s projected for after 2015) there will be 24 more direct contact gates, enabling Hamad to handle some 50 million passengers every year.
However more than simply huge, Hamad is a striking bit of architecture. The central terminal and concourses feature silvery curvilinear forms that reflect the waves of the nearby sea. And the control tower may become one of aviation’s newest icons with its crescent shape visible throughout the city.
Qatar will be the only airline to have its own dedicated airport lounge, although other carriers will share common-use lounges. As for longer stays, there will be a pair of on-airport hotels, one of them a 100-room enclave inside that part of the terminal set aside for transit passengers. Truly a must for any hub that aspires to connect the continents.
Consistently at the top of award-winning airports – including Business Traveler’s Best Airport in the World for 2013 – Changi Airport mirrors the city it serves.
According to Airports Council International, Changi was the planet’s 13th busiest airport in 2013, hosting a total of 54 million travelers, just behind Frankfurt and just ahead of Amsterdam. In the past three years, SIN has managed a sustained growth trend, boosting traffic by 10 percent in 2012, 5 percent last year, and projecting 6.3 percent growth this year. Part of the impetus behind the increases is transit traffic to China and India. Changi is adding links to major cities in both of these important economic powerhouses.
SIN currently operates a trio of terminals. And there are lots of reasons to love this airport. Mother Nature blends with steel and glass in Singapore the city as well as the airport. Terminal 3 has a 16-foot high“Green Wall,”planted with hanging creepers and adorned with a beautiful waterfall. Terminal 2 has its own orchid garden and koi pond.
Changi’s fourth terminal building – the Budget Terminal – has been knocked down to make way for the construction of a new Terminal Four. T4 will be a two-story, 80-foot-high building about seven times larger than the old BT. This will enable the new terminal to serve both full-service and low-cost carriers.
The main attraction of the new terminal is a 1,000-foot-long Central Galleria that separates the public area from the airside. Featuring a transparent concept, the Galleria will provide full visibility from the check-in hall to the transit lounge. This area will feature local culture and a heritage-theme design, with retail outlets featuring façades of Singapore’s old Peranakan shop houses.
At launch, T4 will have 21 gates with Jetways – 17 for narrow-body aircraft and four for wide-body. With an area of 2 million square feet, the new terminal can handle 16 million passenger movements annually.
However, nothing at SIN is standing still. In addition to T4, Changi Airport Group has announced Project Jewel, described as“an iconic mixed-used complex”to be built on the site of the parking area in front of Terminal 1. It will feature aviation and travel-related facilities, as well as new retail offerings and other leisure attractions.
As part of the redevelopment, Singapore’s old T1 will be expanded as well, creating more space for the arrival hall, baggage claim areas and taxi stands. The new project will also improve interterminal connectivity with Changi Airport Terminals 1, 2 and 3 through an indoor garden as the central hub of the complex.
Along with the upcoming Terminal 4, Project Jewel will help boost Changi Airport’s capacity to 85 million passengers a year, and position it for growth over the next decade.
These are but three of the hundreds of airport projects where designs are being developed, plans are in the works and ground is being broken that will shape the aviation system of tomorrow. As competition among these facilities grows, they push one another to new heights of service – and flier satisfaction. BT
Above: Los Angeles International Airport; Hamad International Airport
Above: Changi International Airport