Examining the Future of the Airport Passenger Journey

February 19, 2019 / Geoffrey Ax

In a time when information travels at the speed of light around the globe, why is it our own long-distance travels feel like an eternity? Could it be the endless lines or cramped seats, the silent battles for the armrest or the not-so-silent baby enjoying the journey even less than you?

Airports and transport hubs have become wait-wait-go places full of stress. So maybe it’s best we start there, with the moments in between motion. What happens when an airport tackles the waiting game from both ends, simultaneously reducing bottlenecks and, more importantly, making time in transit feel a little more leisurely?

What happens is passengers’ spending habits start to shift. We know because Populous has been in the business of designing public assembly spaces for 36 years. A trio of Populous designers including myself, Michael Hoelscher and Jemma Radick will elaborate on this theme and more at this week’s Airport Planning, Design and Construction Symposium in Denver.

In Inside the Airport: Digital Experience and Wayfinding, Experiential Designer Jemma Radick will demonstrate how airports can help us feel calmer and more comfortable as we navigate through some of the world’s largest public facilities.

Architect Michael Hoelscher, meanwhile, will shift the topic externally in Outside the Airport: What’s my Journey? When you stop and think about it, airports are cities. They’re multi-modal and pedestrian-heavy. They offer retail and restaurants, require major development strategies, and must operate without interruption. Michael’s thought-provoking presentation will take a deeper look at your destination and the key question of how you arrive.

What will it be like when the airport shifts from being a place we have to be to a play we enjoy visiting? In We Love to Wait: Holdrooms and Concessions, I’ll show you why it’s all about the little moments. Two travelers swapping laughs while they connect flights. Two parents finding a rare moment of peace as their kids play nearby. This is our purpose as designers of the aviation experience. When our work tells the right stories — and tells them well — passengers are free to live out their own.

Taking your airport from an experience to a journey starts by sizing up the role your airport plays in the story of your community. Everything else flows from that: driving more revenue out of tired or unused spaces; recruiting new passengers and new airlines and designing frictionless wayfinding that lowers people’s airport anxiety. These are the challenges that fuel our passion for human-centered design. If you can’t say hello in Denver this week, connect with me on Twitter to keep the #airportsymp conversation going.

Meet the author

Geoffrey Ax

Senior Architect, Principal / Washington, D.C.

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