Development of a New Asian Airport Model

April 2, 2014

As airports throughout Asia experience phenomenal growth, one of the most important ways airports are beginning to capitalize on the increasing passenger numbers is the development of non-aeronautical commercial facilities, services and revenue streams. This new airport model has become critical to enabling airports to modernize and expand, along with maintaining cost-competitiveness in attracting and retaining airlines.

Airports are also developing their landside areas with hotels, office and retail complexes, conference and exhibition centres, logistics, free trade zones and facilities for processing time-sensitive goods. Consequently, many airports now receive greater percentages of their revenues from non-aeronautical sources than from aeronautical sources.

Transit & Delays

Transit passengers account for a large majority of passengers that move through large Asian Airports. As regional airports continue to develop and tie into international routes, it will put an even greater importance on the Transit Asian Airport.

Singapore’s Changi Airport has been built around the transit passenger. Understanding its strategic location, Changi has been able to carve out a niche as a transit destination in itself (a model now being adopted by many Arab competitors). As airline alliances change and planes are able to travel further, Singapore is continuing to look at ways of redefining the transit experience, in many cases looking to make the Airport a destination in itself. Previously relying on the European/Australasia transit passengers, Singapore is now looking to cater for the Asian regional transit passenger. Instead of flying direct from Jakarta to London, Singapore is looking to capture the regional transferring passenger in the 6 – 8 hour transit lay over time.

The next progression will be unique entertainment based offerings that unite both airside passengers and non travelling landside visitors. Entertainment, events and even sports will be offered to help bring travellers to the airport a few hours earlier whilst also providing extended transit options for transferring passengers.

Delays to flights are inevitable, especially as more pressure is put on Airports. The advent of social media has had a unique effect in Asia where traffic jams and flight delays are a way of life. Social media has opened up a completely new realm in interaction between passengers, airlines and airport operators. We are seeing the formation of airport based digital communities. These might involve groups of friends, or people with similar interests, who interact around the departure times of their planes. As one member departs for a flight, another may join, keeping the community evolving within the Airport Terminal.


Asia has a greater acceptance and understanding of density. The idea of personal space differs in Asia through both necessity and comfort. There is a greater acceptance and understanding of dealing with crowds. In many cases people feel more comfortable travelling, dining and interacting in large groups. Cities such as Hong Kong and Bangkok have been built to work on many levels and in a true three dimensional fashion. As a truly unique Asian airport model develops the region will be able to offer a broader range of facilities within a smaller area.

Customer Centric Terminal Design

Asia is King when it comes to customer service. From exotic resorts in Thailand to Michelin star restaurants in Hong Kong, Asia is far ahead of its western rivals. A recent survey of airport quality has revealed that four out of the five top spots are in Asia – Seoul, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Nagoya. It is the attention to detail and warm friendliness that makes flying through Asia such a joy.

The present Asian model is based on the historical Western operational processes with a simple twist of Asian flare. As the Asian “middle class” passenger becomes more discerning, their requirements will become more closely aligned to their culture. It is then that we will see this segment of the Asian Airport really shine. Facilities such as banquet halls, group gathering spaces and spas will evolve. We may even see a resurgence in traditional entertainment as the Asian region is able to re-define the airport experience in its own way.

New forms of non-aeronautical revenues

Asia is in a unique position to redefine the airport financial model. Its staggering growth and unique cultures will define a new model specific to the region, which will greatly influence the rest of the world. Opportunities include:

  • Alternative revenue streams including integrated entertainment facilities, hotels, resorts, arenas, theme parks, sporting facilities & retail will be associated with airports.
  • Alternative forms of transport will also feed the future Airport City such as international rail, bus and ferry.
  • Airport Transit or short stay travel packages will be developed much the same way as the weekend getaway packages of today.
  • The 6-8 hour transit/activity window will develop further creating unique offerings that are able to merge transit passengers and non-flying landside customers.
  • The airport city will continue to grow but the model will become increasingly dense as land prices increase.
  • Technology and social media will help create airport based communities based on interests, flights, destinations & delays.
  • The Airport will become a destination in itself

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