According to Matthew Abbot, Regional Aviation Sector Leader for Australia and New Zealand, the future of airport design includes automated recognition systems and curating the spaces as a retail destination. These two factors will enhance the travelers’ experiences and provide a sense of place while being out of their personal comfort zones.
Travelers will not have a need for immigration forms or passports, which will be replaced by automated recognition systems, or more specifically biometric technology, that utilize facial recognition or fingerprints. "This step… 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 realizing they are being processed,” Abbott said. In order to achieve this, designers will need to work hand-in-hand with technological advancement and the providers that deliver them.
For the past 20 years, Abbott has worked on global aviation projects in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Australia. His most notable sites include Rome's Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport, Pulkovo Airport in St. Petersburg, and Heathrow Airport's Terminal 5 in London. According to him, there is now a strong opportunity for retail and hospitality sectors to create a sense of place for the traveler within transportation and aviation sites. “We are seeing airports designed like shopping centers that planes happen to park on,” he says.
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. By utilizing valuable data that predicts passenger behavior, retail companies can predict what passengers want and manage the design offering rather than integrate these amenities as an “add-on” experience.
A benefit to streamlining the experience for travelers is that it breaks down the segregation between premium and business travelers. A design that exemplifies this process is Woods Bagot’s design for United Arab Emirates airline Etihad Airways’ Midfield Lounges in Abu Dhabi Airport’s new terminal. Covering approximately 36,000 square meters of flagship lounges and hospitality spaces, the design entails a range of areas including business and economy lounges.