Airport Design – Concept

Airport Terminal Concept

Photo: New Terminal in Heathrow Airport, UK

Basic Planning Criteria in Development of Passenger Terminals

  • Easy orientation
  • Simplicity
  • Minimize walking distances
  • Minimize level changes
  • Minimize pax cross-flows
  • Compatibility of facilities with aircraft characteristics
  • Built-in flexibility to accommodate future changes in dynamic industry
  • Traffic peaking characteristics
  • Transfer volume and connecting times

5 Common Terminal Design Concepts in Airport Design

  • Pier/Finger
  • Linear
  • Transporter
  • Satellite
  • Compact Module Unit Terminal
  1. Pier/Finger Concept:

Pier Design for Terminal


    • Centralized resources, economies of scale (human, facilities, amenities)
    • Facilitates pax management
    • Economical to build
    • Efficient use of land


  • Long walking distances
  • Kerb side congestion
  • Limited expansion capability
  • Reduced aircraft circulation &
  • Maneuverability
  • Limited compatibility of future aircraft design development
  1. Linear

Linear Terminal Airport Design


  • Shortest walking distances
  • Clear orientation
  • Simple construction
  • Adequate kerb length
  • Shorter close-out times
  • Lower baggage systems costs
  • (conveying/sorting) using decentralized system


  • Duplication of terminal facilities/amenities
  • Longer minimum connecting time
  • Longer walking distances for transfer pax
  • Special logistics for handling of transfer bags
  • Less flexibility in terminal and apron for future changes in operations eg aircraft design, airlines
  1. Transporter:

Transporter Terminal Design


  • Easy compatibility of terminal/ apron geometry and future aircraft design development
  • Ease of aircraft manoeuvrability
  • Ease of expansion capability for aircraft stands
  • Simple and smaller central terminal
  • Cost savings


  • Higher instances of pax delays
  • Early closed-out times
  • High capital, maintenance & operating costs
  • Susceptible to industrial disputes with vehicle drivers
  • Increased vehicular movements on airside with aircraft
  • Kerbside congestion
  • Increased minimum connecting times
  1. Satellite

Satellite Concept For  Airport Terminal


  • Centralized resources (human, facilities and amenities)
  • Facilitates pax management
  • Additional satellites can be designed to accommodate future aircraft design developments


  • Requires high technology, underground transportation system
  • High capital, maintenance & operating cost
  • Kerbside congestion
  • Limited expansion capability at main terminal
  • Increases minimum connecting times
  • Early closed-out times
  1. Compact Modul Unit Terminal

Compact Unit Modul For Airport Terminal


  • Short walking distances
  • Late closed-out times
  • Longer kerb length than conventional central terminal
  • Capital investment is commensurate with demand
  • Simple pax & baggage transportation/sorting systems within each module
  • Low baggage mishandling potential


  • Multi-compact module units require pax and bag transfer systems between terminals
  • Duplication of facilities, higher operating costs

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