Airport terminal design for commercial flow control

Published 3 July, 2022 by Johan Berhin

Passenger flows are increasing, and a widespread question among terminal managers is where to seat all those people. The answer lies in modern airport terminal design flow thinking: changing the use of seating to generate good business and a better passenger experience. Keflavik International Airport has introduced changes that accommodate the increase in passengers and keep people with time to spare in and around the shopping areas.

Keflavik Airport terminal design

At Iceland’s Keflavik International Airport, all passengers departing from Iceland enter an indoor market square surrounded by lovely shops. The whole commercial area was redesigned in 2015 but because of lack of space, there was not much common seating available. Therefore, up until recently, many passengers scurried past this commercial area, heads down, and arrived at the gate early. The result? Crowded gates and lower sales in the shops, as well as the cafés and restaurants.

Changes were made to the square this summer. The goal was to make it a pleasant place to linger while seating many more people and lightening the load at the gates and food & beverage area. Since Iceland is a destination of outstanding natural beauty, another goal was to make a sense of nature felt throughout the airport.

Seamless seating for a sense of place

The sense of place was created with seating of natural materials chosen with a mixture of the colours of Icelandic lava, stone, ice, and soil – and with organically flowing lines in grand shapes. The seating shapes are in scale with the room, catching the eye and making an unmistakable impression. In airports, this also has a place-specific commercial impact.

Seating density in the commercial area

Another benefit of seamlessly flowing seating lines is higher seating density, so there are always seats available. “It was also a big plus that it was possible to add tables and still keep the same number of seats on the area. We see a lot of passengers sitting down with food when the restaurant areas are full”, says Gunnhildur at Keflavik Airport.

Retail area design

We managed to keep passengers much longer in the commercial area and belief that was a great factor in sales increase.

Gunnhildur Vilbergsdóttir, Commercial manager, Keflavik International Airport

Commercial effect

Many ask the question of what makes an airport successful. We believe it’s in creating a place where people feel invited to sit, slow down and recharge – and here comes another commercial effect, seen at Keflavik and elsewhere. When people have a pleasant place to catch their breath, organize their luggage, and make sure everyone has their passports and boarding cards, their stress dissipates. They feel good and their minds are able to take in their surroundings – the joy of the shops, cafés, and restaurants.

Trends from shopping centres

In the past, commercial areas and shopping centers offered very little seating other than in cafés and restaurants. The theory was that this would encourage people to consume. Research has now shown that free, easy-access seating in common areas has a positive impact on people – and increases sales. The approach has now been adopted by shopping centers and commercial terminal areas all over the world. Sitting down for a moment lets people de-stress, giving them a chance to realize they have time after all and remember things they need to buy.

At Nice Airport, we changed the airport terminal design by increasing the seating capacity while enhancing both the passenger flow and satisfaction in the airport using the Nova C Bench in the middle, serpentining its way through large parasols, reminding us of the Rivieras shoreline.

Nice Airport terminal design

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Our team has many years of experience designing airport terminal flow control with our placemaking concept. We are happy to connect and talk about your next airport project and support you with a design proposal. Contact us here.

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