Airport city

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Airport city is a term for an "inside the fence" airport area including the airport (terminals, apron, and runways) and on-airport businesses such as air cargo, logistics, offices, retail, and hotels. The airport city is at the core of the aerotropolis, a new urban form evolving around many major airports.[1]

The airport city model recognises that an airport can do more than perform its traditional aeronautical services, evolving new non-aeronautical commercial facilities, services and revenue streams. Airports are now routinely targeting non-aeronautical revenue streams amounting to 40–60% of their total revenues. Industry leaders and researchers share best practices on non-aeronautical revenues for airports at conferences and in literature, including refereed literature.[2][3]

With airports typically surrounded by hundreds or even thousands of hectares of undeveloped land that acts as an environmental buffer for nearby residents, it has been recognised that airports are sitting on a potential goldmine of real estate opportunities.[4][5]

Office blocks, hotels, convention centres, medical facilities, free trade zones and even entertainment and theme parks can be built to generate new sources of revenue for the airport operator and make the airport a business or tourism destination in its own right.[6]

The airport city concept consists of a number of logically combined elements that reinforce each other. Services and facilities are designed to guide travelers easily through the airport process. Access is key for passengers, cargo, businesses, and residents, many of whom work in the airport city.

Time has named it as one of "10 ideas that will change the world".[7]


The chapter "The Way Forward" from Global Airport Cities describes the basic airport city drivers, which have evolved with different spatial forms predicated on available land and ground transportation infrastructure:

  1. Airports need to create new non-aeronautical revenue sources, both to compete and to better serve their traditional aviation functions.
  2. The commercial sector's pursuit of affordable, accessible land.
  3. Increased gateway passengers and cargo traffic generated by airports.
  4. Airports serving as a catalyst and magnet for landside business development.[8]

The most common airside and landside airport city commercial activities include: duty-free shops and airline lounges; restaurants, catering, and other food services; specialty retail and factory outlet centres; cultural and entertainment attractions; hotels; banks and currency exchanges; business offices and complexes; convention and exhibition centres; leisure, recreation and fitness venues; logistics and distribution; perishables and cold storage; and free trade zones and customs-free zones.[9]

Some notable activities[edit]

Airport cities may be found in varying stages of development surrounding major airports worldwide, particularly in Europe, where older airports are being redeveloped or expanded on large tracts of unused airport land. Many new airports in Asia are being planned as airport cities or aerotropolises. North America, South America, and Africa all boast airport city and aerotropolis developments.

While there is not yet a quantitative model or listing of airport cities, a qualitative list has been developed by researchers at the Center for Air Commerce at the Frank Hawkins Kenan Institute of Private Enterprise at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This list is updated frequently as new projects are announced and economic development related to airports accelerates. Sites are noted as being "operational" or "under development."

Criteria include:

  • Expert assessment by Dr. John D. Kasarda and Dr. Stephen Appold based on their qualitative knowledge and quantitative research of the airport and surrounding aviation-linked business and industry clusters that correspond to the airport city and aerotropolis models.
  • Demonstrated commitment to the aerotropolis or airport city model as seen in the establishment of aerotropolis steering committees, strategic planning, and development initiatives.
  • Government/regulatory support of the aerotropolis or airport city through aerotropolis legislation, tax incentives or other mechanisms.
  • Media announcements by proponents with substantiated evidence that an aerotropolis or airport city initiative is moving forward.

The list is available at the Center for Air Commerce website and at



  1. ^ Kasarda, John (21 April 2013). "Airport cities: The evolution - Airport World Magazine". Retrieved 2015-09-09. 
  2. ^ Reiss, B. (2007). Maximising Non-Aviation Revenue for Airports: Developing Airport Cities to Optimise Real Estate and Capitalise on Land Development Opportunities. Journal of Airport Management, 1 (3), 284-293.
  3. ^ Martel, F. (2009). External Factors and their Impact on Non-Aeronautical Revenue. Journal of Airport Management, 3 (4), 337-344.
  4. ^ Taylor, Matthew S. "Land of Opportunity," Global Airport Cities, May 6, 2011,
  5. ^ Van Wijk, M. (2007). Airports as Cityports in the City-Region, Spatial-Economic and Institutional Positions and Institutional Learning in Randstad-Schiphol (AMS), Frankfurt Rhein-Main (FRA), Tokyo Haneda (HND) and Narita (NRT). Doctoral dissertation. 328 pages. 2007. Retrieved from
  6. ^ "What Is an Airport City?" from Global Airport Cities,
  7. ^ Iyer, Pico. "10 Ideas That Will Change the World," Time, March 17, 2011,,28804,2059521_2059701,00.html
  8. ^ Kasarda, John D., “The Way Forward,” Global Airport Cities, 2010.
  9. ^ Kasarda, John (3 November 2014). "Gateway Airports: Commercial Magnets and Critical Business Infrastructure" (PDF). McGraw Hill Financial Global Institute. Retrieved 9 September 2015. 

External links[edit]