Photo: Dr. Jean-Paul Rodrigue, 2008.
Modern Airport Terminal, Barajas, Madrid, SpainAirports are among the most complex of terminals. Moving people through an airport has become a very significant problem, not least because of security concerns. Passengers may spend several hours in transit, with check-in and security checks on departure, and baggage pick up, and in many cases customs and immigration on arrival. Planes may be delayed for a multitude of reasons. The result is that a wide range of services has to be provided for passengers not directly related to the transfer function, including restaurants, bars, stores, hotels, in addition to the activities directly related to operations such as check-in halls, waiting areas, passenger loading ramps and baggage handling facilities. Simultaneously, airports have to provide the very specific needs of the aircraft, from runways to maintenance facilities, from fire protection to air traffic control.
The above photo of the new Barajas terminal in Madrid, opened in 2006, is typical of a modern airport terminal design. Very high ceilings convey an impression of spaciousness, which has a calming effect on passengers. Since the linear design conveys long distances between gates, mechanized walkways are a common feature. The growing size of planes has also incited the provision of larger waiting areas at the gate.