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QUESTION: Dear David

what are the different factors/parameters contributing to number of terminals required in a international airport design?


ANSWER: Hi, Prashant:

My view of airport terminal design, especially international airport terminal design, has to focus as much on the number of airline aircraft loading gates needed first, and then the number of terminals needed.  But, in general, the following factors must be considered:

1.  First and foremost, are you talking about passengers only, or are you taking about passengers and cargo?   And, if you are including cargo, then, are you working with an airport that has, or is forecast to have all-cargo aircraft?   If yes to this second question, then, you are forced to have both a passenger terminal and an air cargo terminal. Keep in mind that most cargo does fly in the bellies of passenger aircraft, so, regardless of the airline terminal planned you MUST account for air cargo loading and unloading, as well as air cargo processing spaces, whether located in or near the passenger terminal, or, in its own building.

2.  Focusing just on the passenger side, some of the key factors are as follows:

A.  Safety--you must carefully consider where to locate an airline terminal, or terminal(s), on an airport based on where runways and taxiways are already located, or, where they might be located in the future.  

B.  Runway and taxiway location vis-a-vis airline terminal location is also important in terms of airline aircraft flows on an airport---and making those flows (to and from the runways) as efficient as possible.

C.  Overall passenger forecasts are key as well since the total volume of passengers is key in terms of sizing the airline terminal(s).

D.  Also critical to airline passenger terminal design will be the number and types of airlines being serviced by the passenger terminals---if there are a lot of different airlines of different types (long haul carriers, low-cost carriers, hub & spoke carriers, and so forth), that will impact the total number of gates and the types of gates needed;

E.  Also affecting the number, type and size of gates will be the different types of airline aircraft served.  Clearly, if your airport intends to serve airlines with the Airbus A-380-800 or the 747-8/Intercontinental, that will impact the size of the terminal and the size of the gates.  The A-380, for example, requires dual level loading gates (two gates/loading bridges operating simultaneously to unload this aircraft in the most efficient way possible.

F.  Another key consideration in planning today's international airline terminals is WHO is going to pay for the building(s)---and, many times, revenue/profitability concerns drive the decision on what to include in an airline terminal.  An example is that you must include space for retail concessions (stores, restaurants, and so forth) to help pay for the overall cost of the terminal.

These are just some of the  factors to be considered.  I hope this helps.


David A. NewMyer,, Ph.D., Emeritus Professor
Southern Illinois University
Department of Aviation Management and Flight

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Dear David



In case the number of flights increases say 30 - 50, then in case there could be a space constraint for building new terminal/S in the International airport?


Hi, Prashant:

An increase of 30 to 50 flights per day would impact different airports differently.  For example, an international airport designed to handled 1000 flights per day would not be significantly impacted by 30 to 50 more per day.  For example, the airports at Shanghai, China or in Dubai (hub for Emirates Airlines) could fairly easily handle 30 to 50 more flights per day.  However, one more caveat on this is the type of aircraft involved---if you are talking 30 to 50 more Boeing 777 flights a day, that would be significant for almost any airport in terms of both the flow of aircraft on the airport and the flow of passengers in the terminal (since each Boeing 777 could conceivably have 500 passengers on board, so that would mean 9000 to 15,000 more passengers a day inside the airport terminal)!  That kind of flow might affect passenger terminal flows, contributing to building congestion, impacts on flow through security, the use of restrooms, automobile parking, and so forth.

I hope that this helps,

Dave NewMyer


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David A. NewMyer


I can answer questions about aviation industry employment, airports and airport planning and aviation industry regulation (overall regulation of the industry--who regulates what and why).


I have worked in aviation since the late 1960s, primarily in airports, airport planning and in aviation education. I have done major research in aviation employment and in graduate education in aviation.

University Aviation Association since 1982 (President, 2009-2010)

Collegiate Aviation Review Journal of Aviation/Aerospace Education and Research Journal of Air Transportation ATEA Journal SIU Press

B. S. in History and Government, University of Redlands, California, 1969 M. A. in Political Science (Metropolitan Studies), Drew University, Madison, New Jersey, 1971 M. S. in Transportation, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois, 1974 Ph.D. in Education (Education Aministration and Higher Education), Southern Illinois University Carbonale, 1987

Awards and Honors
United Airlines William Wheatley Award from the University Aviation Association, 1994 for excellence in Post Secondary Aviation Education Sorensen Award for Excellence in Research, University Aviation Association, 2008

Past/Present Clients
Prepared airport master plan and environmental assessment reports for several Illinois Airports; prepared two separate airport systems plans for the Chicago area

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