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Airport Terminal Designs US Vs Europe  
User currently offlineBruce From United States of America, joined May 1999, 5099 posts, RR: 13
Posted (11 years 11 months 1 day 20 hours ago) and read 6613 times:

One thing I was noticing when browsing the photos for airport interior shots from Europe there are lots of them and the design / architecture is very modern and very appealing in most cases but in this country if you go into most airports they are old and boring and simple designs.

Detroit has a new terminal which I uploaded a shot of, but in my opinion its just dull and boring (the gate area). If you ever go inside Memphis ughhhhh boring right out of the 1970s I would expect to see Elvis over there! Even BNA, and BHM, and others. Now Baltimore built an new International Terminal and where the ticket counters are is wow, kind of European in look but the domestic terminal is boring.

Denver is nice, but there are so few of those. Most of these places are just so old (Huntsville also was built in 1968) and I think they are doing a lot of airport building in Europe and also Asia. Most American designs reek of 1960s/1970s. I wonder why we are so far behind the rest of the world in airport designs? We used to have some really modern and visual designs like the old TWA terminal in JFK and others; I think there was an airport building boom but that was in the 60s!

Also these old 60s designs were not made to incorporate the extensive security of today (ex.: MCI) so when they bring in new bomb-sniffing machines and checkpoints it just adds to the cluttered old look of a lot of our airports.


Bruce Leibowitz - Jackson, MS (KJAN) - Canon 50D/100-400L IS lens
36 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
User currently offlineDesertJets From United States of America, joined Feb 2000, 7897 posts, RR: 14
Reply 1, posted (11 years 11 months 1 day 20 hours ago) and read 6563 times:

Don't mean to sound crass, but perhaps the reason is that these terminals were designed and built in the 1960s and 1970s. Especially with the increased demands placed on them from increased security needs to just more passengers, some of their inherent design flaws have become pretty obvious. As a result I don't expect Memphis' terminal to be in the same class as CDG-2.

I don't have any idea that European airports just happen to have newer terminal design vis-a-vis American airports either. I would suspect the mix of old vs. new is probably about the same anyways.

Stop drop and roll will not save you in hell. --- seen on a church marque in rural Virginia
User currently offlineDtwclipper From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 2, posted (11 years 11 months 1 day 19 hours ago) and read 6494 times:


First off, Detroit is not dull (DTW that is), come to the airport and see it before you make such a statement. Also, when the north terminal is finished (2008 maybe) we will have an outstanding airport.

DEN, is a work of art.

Correct me if I am wrong, but in Europe, many of these "new" airports receive a great deal of funding from their respective governments. This was the case in the late 1950's and early 1960's in the U.S. But that funding has all but disappeared. Now it is the local governments, airport authorities, and airlines that must pay for their own facilities.

Old out of date in Europe. AMS is a mess, long walks, crowded.
LHR has its own share of problems, and let's not even talk about CDG.

User currently offlineLH477 From Canada, joined Jan 2004, 584 posts, RR: 4
Reply 3, posted (11 years 11 months 1 day 17 hours ago) and read 6377 times:

Toronto's T1NEW is a amazing building, both in design and size. I would say much more European and then American. In terms of funding, the C$5 Billion
prize tag is privetly funded.

Come on you gunners......!!!!!
User currently offlineFanoftristars From United States of America, joined Jul 2000, 1657 posts, RR: 4
Reply 4, posted (11 years 11 months 1 day 17 hours ago) and read 6366 times:

AUS is a beautiful airport, although it is a bit small.
DEN is very nice from an interior design perspective. Other than that it sucks... Way too far from anything to be convenient.

User currently offlineN328KF From United States of America, joined May 2004, 6610 posts, RR: 3
Reply 5, posted (11 years 11 months 1 day 17 hours ago) and read 6321 times:

Well, sometimes it's a mixed bag even at the same terminal. ORD T5 is pretty new, and has a distinctly different look from T1/T2/T3, but those three terminals look much more modern than some of the European airports I've seen -- esp. MAD. Nevermind about MDW -- the thing is basically brand new. DEN is new, JFK has a new terminal and several old ones. They don't just tear them down and rebuild them new all at once.

When they call the roll in the Senate, the Senators do not know whether to answer 'Present' or 'Not guilty.' T.Roosevelt
User currently offlineSnnams From Ireland, joined Apr 2004, 288 posts, RR: 1
Reply 6, posted (11 years 11 months 1 day 14 hours ago) and read 6221 times:


AMS is a mess? You have got to be kidding me  Wink/being sarcastic

Crowded? sure, it can that way at times, but it's the most logically layed out airport you'll find anywhere. It's bright, the transport links are fantastic and far superior to anything you'll find in most countries. It is far from old, and even the older bits have been recently renovated (eg Lounge 2) or are being renovated now (eg Lounge 1). It is also receiving an extension to Area 3, and has been under perpetual modernisation for the last 25 or so years. Sorry my friend: bad choice of example of an airport that's old and out of date! I'd be more inclined to agree about CDG 1 and parts of Heathrow though.

I think you will also find that most major EU airports are self financing too. AMS is now privatized, as is BAA for Heathrow as is Frankfurt..my own home airports have been self financing for years... the list goes on and on.

Besides the US has plenty of impressive airport terminals, and if you really want to talk about impressive, go to Asia!

[Edited 2004-06-11 03:10:01]

User currently offlineERJ170 From United States of America, joined Apr 2004, 6871 posts, RR: 16
Reply 7, posted (11 years 11 months 1 day 13 hours ago) and read 6200 times:

Here is a look at the forthcoming new Terminal 2 at RDU.. Does it have that Euro-esque look or no? Does this seem pretty cool?


Aiming High and going far..
User currently offlinePU151 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 8, posted (11 years 11 months 1 day 13 hours ago) and read 6143 times:

You've got a point Petazulu and JFK, but on the other hand when they tear down that terminal, they'll have to rebuild it, and THEN, CDG 2 will be even newer than US airports Big grin .

And then, I can only hope, it won't collapse.

Edit: I'm also joking. And BTW, I don't find CDG1 to be all that beautiful or modern-looking.

[Edited 2004-06-11 03:31:23]

User currently offlineOB1783P From United States of America, joined Sep 2003, 329 posts, RR: 0
Reply 9, posted (11 years 11 months 1 day 12 hours ago) and read 6111 times:

I think we are missing something essential here:

In America, for something to be perceived as "serious", it mustn't appear frivolous or whimsical. Look at cars, look at appliances, here and in continental Western Europe, and you'll see, by and large, the same difference in spirit that Bruce brought up in the first post.

I recently flew from EWR to AMS, and I can't imagine a clearer example. EWR is unattractive and utterly functional. AMS is more stylish, but there aren't enough restrooms and it is cold.

When my (French) mother visits here, she adores leafing through the JC Penney catalogue and make fun at the ugly American window treatments and furniture. When my (American) wife visits France, she loves to poke fun at the unusable kitchens and uninviting bathrooms...

Hopefully, US airport designers will pay a little more attention to "looks" and European ones to "comfort".

I've flown thousands of miles and I can tell you it's a lot safer than crossing the street!
User currently offlineKomododx From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 10, posted (11 years 11 months 1 day 12 hours ago) and read 6097 times:

Hey Bruce!

Ever been to FLL? If so, or if you ever do, go to the new Terminal 1! It's beautiful! And yes, the European apts do have a more "modern" style, but then again, I don't think the average person gives a rats ass, other than aviation enthusiasts and architecture/engineering enthusiasts.

KdX in TLH

User currently offlineBoingGoingGone From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 11, posted (11 years 11 months 1 day 10 hours ago) and read 6022 times:

Correct me if I am wrong, but in Europe, many of these "new" airports receive a great deal of funding from their respective governments. This was the case in the late 1950's and early 1960's in the U.S. But that funding has all but disappeared. Now it is the local governments, airport authorities, and airlines that must pay for their own facilities.

Nope. You're right. US airports are funded by the airports themselves. They issue bonds which are paid off through rates and charges. Essentially, PFC's and the tenants pay for the airport. Government funding is barely a drop in the bucket compared to other countries.

You're also write on build dates. As older terminals are taken down, a new look for US airports will emerge. Look at IND.

[Edited 2004-06-11 06:13:26]

User currently offlineSR 103 From United States of America, joined Sep 2000, 1748 posts, RR: 37
Reply 12, posted (11 years 11 months 1 day 9 hours ago) and read 5973 times:

Old out of date in Europe. AMS is a mess, long walks, crowded.

Are you kidding DTWclipper? While I love the new DTW terminal and fully agree with what you said about it, I find your example of AMS to be a very poor one. Travel the globe and lets see what you say after. AMS is one of the better airports around. Sure its no Hong Kong or Singapore or even DTW, but keep in mind it is a relatively old airport and for its age is in excellent condition.

I have spent close to 10 hours just connecting there just in the last 6 months and have feeling I am not alone in my feelings towards AMS.

SR 103

User currently offlineBruce From United States of America, joined May 1999, 5099 posts, RR: 13
Reply 13, posted (11 years 11 months 1 day 7 hours ago) and read 5908 times:

So that's basically it: government funding in other countries. Instead, we fund wars and big oil companies. ok, I dont want to turn this into a political thread now....

Private funding here in America is on thin, thin ice no matter what is being funded, so i guess airports have to wait. I do think that a LOT of american airports are now straining under the increased loads and stress of increased security needs and will need to be modernized and soon....


Bruce Leibowitz - Jackson, MS (KJAN) - Canon 50D/100-400L IS lens
User currently offlineJGPH1A From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 14, posted (11 years 11 months 1 day 7 hours ago) and read 5913 times:

A great many US airports do seem to have been designed from the same cookie cutter - long straight narrow concourses, with gate areas behind pillars - seriously, if you were teleported into 80% of US airports, you'd have no idea where you were just by looking at the architecture. CVG looks the same as CLT, looks the same as RDU, looks the same as LGA. Not that this is necessarily bad, just a little samey. DEN is great, open and light - I like ATL, esp the E concourse, IAD is fun (esp. the mobile lounges), but some are not good at all - JFK T3 was probably great in the 60's, but now its a rabbit warren, dank and dark and ugly.

Some older European airports do have serious issues - LHR (my favourite bugbear), CDG 1 (which I incidentally love because its quirky, but its hell to use), CDG 2 (certainly the older bits 2A/2B are awful, look like a bus station), but AMS is great - I went through recently, and the refurbished bits in the Schengen part (don't know which part that is) are really lovely (the black marble floor with the shiny bits - sexy !). NCE T2 is cool, with huge ceilings (but yes, not enough restrooms - a perennial European complaint).

User currently offlineUkflyer From United Kingdom, joined Mar 2004, 18 posts, RR: 0
Reply 15, posted (11 years 11 months 1 day 4 hours ago) and read 5727 times:

Having lived in the US a couple of years back I noticed the difference not just in airport design between the two continents but architecture and design as a whole. American buildings all seem to look the same, straight lines, angularand very uniform whereas European buildings/ design seem to have a much more organic/ curvy appearance. A good example would be the new Swiss Re building in London (shaped like a gherkin), what would be the chances of something like that been built in an American city?

I do agree with certain views re. LHR though. However it is a case of it having evolved over a number of years to adapt to increased air traffic and whereas in the States there is room to expand and build whole new airports, in the UK its a case of very tight planning regs and a lack of land, expensive land at that. Terminal 5 looks set to be a bit more exciting design wise tho  Smile/happy/getting dizzy , lets hope transfers between terminals improves also!

User currently offlineErj170 From United States of America, joined Apr 2004, 6871 posts, RR: 16
Reply 16, posted (11 years 11 months 1 day 3 hours ago) and read 5677 times:

I have to agree with other posts. American terminals are from many, many decades ago. Most new terminals that are being built are being completely redesigned into airy, spacious terminals. Many architects see the importance of having "room to move" in the terminals. DEN is one of the newest airports and definitely have the "breathability" factor. New concourses built onto older terminals have the same ability. Unfortunately, American airports do not have the luxury of finding another spot to open a new airport. Where you gonna put a new airport in NY? FL? LA? SEA? Most of the airports that need to be redone are too important to just tear down and start over. Or, they just to surrounded to start a new airport 20-30 miles away. So they have to do with the "tear 1/5 down, build it back up on top and move on" syndrome.

Aiming High and going far..
User currently offlineGSPSPOT From United States of America, joined Sep 2003, 3366 posts, RR: 2
Reply 17, posted (11 years 11 months 1 day 1 hour ago) and read 5354 times:

AMS is great, and so is AB) (FRA / FRF / EDDF), Germany">FRA! Both are labyrinthine and older designs, but I just LOVE them. You don't feel so removed from things, like you do in newer (but still beautiful) airports like MUC, etc.

Finally made it to an airline mecca!
User currently offlineHz747300 From Hong Kong, joined Mar 2004, 2122 posts, RR: 0
Reply 18, posted (11 years 11 months 1 day ago) and read 5225 times:
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Frankfurt airport was pretty boring to me. Let me say it another way, it had no great appeal to me. Just like LHR, extremely functional, but blah design, except for the great views from the middle of T4.

Also, blah was LIS--and while Lisbon is a wonderful city and the trip was great. I found the airport not only boring in design, but not very functional either. Best thing about Lisbon was how close the airport was to the city! And realizing when the jets roared overhead that I probably was ripped off by the taxi driver, and then confirming that when the trip back to the airport was 1/4 of the cost to the hotel.

Airports I have not been to for a while, but I remember not liking in Europe-CDG and Rome.

In the US, since we rarely build brand new airports anymore we settle for function over form. Denver is nice, as is Orange County, a lot of JFK appeals to me too. Skyharbor in PHX is a great example of function over form--extremely efficient, but very, very brown.

But as an aviation enthusiast I love all airports because that's where the planes are.

Keep on truckin'...
User currently offlineJsnww81 From United States of America, joined Jan 2002, 2408 posts, RR: 14
Reply 19, posted (11 years 11 months 23 hours ago) and read 5123 times:

I think saying that all American airports look like the 1960s and 1970s is a bit rash. There are some very gruesome examples of architecture from that period in Europe as well:

- CDG Terminal 1: all concrete, hardly any windows, seems cold and unfriendly
- Cologne/Bonn Terminal 1
- Berlin Tegel
- London Heathrow

For me, the differences in design aren't as great as some of the differences in function.

For example, Europeans, by and large, are in love with luggage carts. Unlike the US, where a SmarteCarte will cost you fifty cents, luggage carts are free at most European airports. I was at Paris-Orly last month and saw passengers with just one suitcase trundling it around on a cart. This creates a lot more congestion in the ticketing areas. It's also why every escalator and stairway in a European airport has those steel stanchions in front of it - to keep people from dragging the carts onto the escalator and killing themselves.

On the other hand, the Europeans have a much better check-in concept. With only a few exceptions, all check-in is done with island counters, which create more counterspace and more flexibility. I'm happy to see island counters showing up in the US (in the new SFO international terminal, for example, and the new IND is slated to have them as well.)

Most airports in Europe also have baggage belts that take luggage directly off your hands at the check-in counter. In the US, you heft your suitcase onto the metal scale, where the ticket agent puts a label on it, then the ticket agent has to heft it onto another baggage belt (or you have to heft it over to the EDS machine). In Europe, you slide your bag onto a belt, the ticket agent advances it forward, they put on a label, and it's moved automatically onto the main belt and down into the innards of the terminal (where Europe has wisely placed all their EDS equipment - thank God we're starting to do the same.)

I do love American airports - we seem to have more concourses, rotundas, moving walkways and gates than anyone. But the European airports I've been to (LHR, LGW, MAN, BRU, CDG, MAD, ORY, STN and FCO) all seem to be designed a little smarter. I guess the grass is always greener on the other side, eh?  Smile

User currently offlineBrubiac From Bouvet Island, joined Nov 2003, 218 posts, RR: 6
Reply 20, posted (11 years 11 months 21 hours ago) and read 4774 times:

This is our new terminal opened on 15th May 2002, for me it doesn't look bad.

View Large View Medium
Click here for bigger photo!

Photo © Serge Bailleul

BRU a small airport in a big world.
User currently offlineGeoffm From United Kingdom, joined Feb 2004, 2111 posts, RR: 6
Reply 21, posted (11 years 11 months 20 hours ago) and read 4586 times:

AMS - labrynthine, I like that word, because it fits! Nothing wrong with AMS per se, just isn't exactly the best of class either.

DEN - great, except see below.

Other US airports do tend to be quite boxy and straight - just like their roads in cities! The worst thing I find is the check-in desks - did anybody consider people actually *using* them? More than a dozen people queuing and the entire check-in area is clogged. Simply not big enough. For example, both DEN and MCO both seem to have this problem despite being new/modernised airports.

DFW is probably a good example of modern requirements being shoehorned into an older building. Scanners and x-ray machines seemed to be put into any crevice large enough to fit. [AA flight to Las Vegas, NV, not sure which terminal].

Geoff M.

User currently offlineN757KW From United States of America, joined Sep 2003, 458 posts, RR: 0
Reply 22, posted (11 years 11 months 20 hours ago) and read 4573 times:

A Smartcarte costing $0.50?!?!? What airport? They are $2.00 in ATL. If I need one I usually hunt down a stray in the parking lot.

Back to the thread. I will admit, I am not really for new or old airports. I like them just as much.

I enjoy the new airports I have been to like ICN and DEN. However, I still love the old airports because of just what they are. Old airports. I find it interesting to walk into the past.


"What we've got here, is failure to communicate." from Cool Hand Luke
User currently offlineStirling From Italy, joined Jun 2004, 3943 posts, RR: 20
Reply 23, posted (11 years 11 months 20 hours ago) and read 4558 times:

Just returned from a European fling....
I dislike this school of thought, that just because it's 'European', it's better than America.
Heathrow handles something like 60 million passengers annually, to me it seemed like 600 million. After a splendid Atlantic crossing on Virgin Atlantic, Heathrow was a disappointment, and aggravation. I am fully aware of the inherent dynamics of Heathrow, but that doesn't make the experience more enjoyable.
London-Luton, I was hoping would be a better experience, but again disappointment ruled the day. This is the most confusing airport I have ever encountered, and I have been to many! Imagine checking in for your flight, turning around and going back in the same direction you just came from! Right back through the crowds of people, shops, eateries and such.
Airlines such as Volare, which I flew, must have an arrangement with Luton to use the first available gate, rather than one pre-set location. The gate was not announced until the incoming flight had landed. This meant for me, sitting in an area I guessed (incorrectly) was the gate, only to choke on cigarette smoke. No One, and I mean no one, could tell me which gate it might arrive at. So, myself, along with the other 188 persons (all on an A320) wandered around for 120 minutes before the flight.
London-Luton is great to read about in Aviation magazines, as it does posses a lot of character (like LHR), but character does not make the airport what I would call user-friendly.
I also flew into CAG-Cagliari Elmas, beautiful airport! But it was just re-built in 2002. Volare boards/exits through both ends. From the time we landed, to the time I went through baggage claim, customs, to my taxi, was, 17 minutes. It was a mere 3 minutes from the time we arrived at the stand, to the time I was on the shuttle bus to the terminal. By far the quickest international exit ever. Compare to the 68 minutes at Heathrow and 35 at SFO!!!! (I time these things, SFO has REALLY improved)
I can't really comment on Berlin-Schonefeld, since I was mainly there for the airshow, but it seems fairly ordinary.
The international terminal at SFO is at fault for this whole dissertation, as it was amazing. Much better than the old international terminal (now slated for renovation) at SFO. It set my expectations way too high.
Next stop Asia....Now that's a discussion, the masterpieces that have been built there over the last decade or so, are definitely something American airports could take a lesson or two from.

Delete this User
User currently offlineJsnww81 From United States of America, joined Jan 2002, 2408 posts, RR: 14
Reply 24, posted (11 years 11 months 20 hours ago) and read 4558 times:


My mistake. I've never actually rented a SmarteCarte (honestly, if you don't have arthritis or a major disability, you can carry your dang luggage) so I wasn't sure. I do remember running around DFW as a little boy, returning the carts to get the fifty-cent reward! Maybe that's what I was thinking of.

I definitely like the older airports too... I love taking a step back in time.

Still, I do believe that we here in the US could take a few lessons in airport design from the Europeans.

25 Snnams : BoingGoingGone, Yes, you are correct that US airports dont receive much funding. However it is not correct to say that most major EU ones do. Many sma
26 Adriaticflight : I have only experienced two US airports JFK and Newark. They were both terrible. They were ugly, huge and completely devoid of shops and things to do.
27 BoeingBus : My absolute worse experience, in terms of comfort and design for any Capital city airport ever been was in Dublin back in 2000... I was a bit surpris
28 BoingGoingGone : Yes, you are correct that US airports dont receive much funding. However it is not correct to say that most major EU ones do. Many smaller ones do alr
29 Bruce : In Detroit, the designers who are working on the new terminal (the North Terminal) want to go with a plain linear design and Spirit Airlines is strong
30 JGPH1A : Re: London-Luton, I was hoping would be a better experience, but again disappointment ruled the day I don't think anyone would argue with the statemen
31 Post contains images Snnams : BoingGoingGone, Yup, but I did say Major European airports and acknowledged that Smaller airports were a different matter. So, I agree with what you s
32 Nudelhirsch : I would say DEN, like already mentioned, ORD the UAL terminal and JFK TWA-terminal are just awesome, and I am sure, there are more out there. Take LHR
33 Cory6188 : Adriaticflight, I'd like to know which terminal you were in at EWR. A and B could definitely use some help (and have had renovations), but CO's Termin
34 Copenhagenboy : deleated, doubble post[Edited 2004-06-13 00:44:03]
35 Copenhagenboy : "Correct me if I am wrong, but in Europe, many of these "new" airports receive a great deal of funding from their respective governments. This was the
36 JGPH1A : I'd have to agree with the comment that EWR looks like a prison. The new CO International Arrivals bit is very grey and sterile, with long ugly corrid
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