Take Offs & Land­ings

In the neck­lace of air­ports that en­cir­cle the globe, three gems are show­ing some ex­tra bling these days

Business Traveler (USA) - - NEWS - By Dan Booth

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.

Sin­ga­pore Changi

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

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