Future of Airport Design.

The future of airport travel will see biometric technology replace all forms of travel documentation and the designed terminal environment created purely for the traveler experience. 

Woods Bagot’s Regional Aviation Leader Matthew Abbott who has worked on airport design in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Australia, said to make airport terminals more operationally efficient and address the traveler experience, designers need to work hand-in-hand with technology and technology providers. 

Technology is changing rapidly and as designers we need to keep up with this. 

"In the future, passports will be a thing of the past and immigration forms will be obsolete," said Abbott. "This step change in the experience is known as single token travel. With no documentation required and passengers passing through the airport with little to no human intervention, in many instances not even realising they are being processed, this will mean the entire traveler experience will need to change."

According to Abbott, there is now a stronger than ever opportunity for retail and hospitality to work together to respond to creating a relevant experience and a sense of place for the traveler. 

“We are seeing airports designed like shopping centres that planes happen to park on. There is now a stronger than ever opportunity for sharing knowledge and expertise and we need to work hand-in-hand with the commercial, retail and hospitality sectors in order to create these airports of the future,” he said. 

Woods Bagot-design Qantas Lounge at Brisbane Airport.


While making the experience relevant to the passenger is paramount, understanding the needs and demographics of the passengers passing through the terminal is also vital. In the future, Abbott said we will see designers, airports and airlines working alongside leading retailers like Westfield and the likes of Google, Amazon and Apple to enable design to truly transform the customers’ journey. 

"Retail really needs to be managed and curated as part of the design offering, rather than being a retrospective add-on to the experience. There is the potential to use valuable data from companies like Google, Amazon and Apple to help predict passenger behaviour and what they, as passengers, ultimately need and want." 

We are predicting a future where these technology giants become the custodians of the traveler journey and experience, rather than airports or airlines.

Abbott said by streamlining the passenger journey, it is also creating a shift in segregated areas for the premium passenger experience.

Woods Bagot’s design for Etihad’s Midfield Lounges in Abu Dhabi Airport’s new terminal is an example of an airport, which has completely transformed the traveler experience for the airlines key guest segments.

Covering approximately 36,000 sqm of flagship lounges and hospitality spaces, the design will evolve a physical interpretation of the new branding concepts developed by Etihad to suit their range of passenger products, including The Residence, First Suite, Business and Economy. 

The Residence by Etihad will provide guests with a truly unique and bespoke travel experience, delivered with a high level of discretion and hospitality. The lounge design will reflect opulence and exclusivity, offering the ultimate in high-end luxury and facilitating a seamless transition for passengers from the ground to the air.

Etihad is an entirely segregated passenger experience from security to boarding for the premium passengers. We have also created something similar in Brisbane for Qantas at the Domestic Terminal, which offers dedicated security screening for Qantas premium passengers. 

"This is being adopted in more and more airports and we are starting to see this rolled out in Asia as well,” Abbott added. 

Woods Bagot-design Qantas Lounge at Brisbane Airport.


According to him, driving the future of gate lounge design with cross-sector knowledge from retail, hospitality and workplace, will make the experience more relevant and personalised to the passenger. 

“The Gatwick airport is a perfect example, very hospitality-driven. We looked at providing dwell environments in the gate lounge that respond to the different types of passenger: the young couple, the family and the retired couple. They all have different needs and it’s important to respond to these.” 

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