Airport city

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An airport city is the "inside the fence" airport area of a large airport, 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 concepts of airport cities and aerotropolises are promoted in the works of John D. Kasarda, a professor who is also the CEO of a consulting company associated with these concepts.

General description[edit]

The airport city model considers the idea 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, the land holdings can present a real estate opportunity.[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 elements that reinforce each other. Services and facilities are designed to guide travelers through the airport transit process. Design of an airport city includes consideration of passengers, cargo, businesses, workers, and residents.

In 2011, Time named the airport city as one of "10 ideas that will change the world".[7]


In the chapter "The Way Forward" of his work entitled Global Airport Cities, professor John Kasarda describes his view of airport city drivers, predicated on available land and ground transportation infrastructure:

  1. The creation of non-aeronautical revenue sources as well as serving 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 at major airports worldwide, particularly in Europe, and some older airports are being redeveloped or expanded on large tracts of unused airport land. Some new airports in Asia are also being planned as airport cities or aerotropolises. North America, South America, and Africa all have airport city and aerotropolis developments.

A qualitative list of airport city characteristics 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.

Criteria include:

  • Assessment by Kasarda and his colleague Dr. Stephen Appold.
  • 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, "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-01-31. Retrieved 2011-07-29.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link).
  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 "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-01-13. Retrieved 2011-07-29.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link).
  6. ^ "What Is an Airport City?" from Global Airport Cities, "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-01-31. Retrieved 2011-07-29.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ Iyer, Pico (March 17, 2011). "10 Ideas that will Change the World: Think of Your Airport as a City – But Nicer". Time. Retrieved 2019-01-26.
  8. ^ Kasarda, John D. (2010). "The Way Forward" (PDF). Global Airport Cities.
  9. ^ Kasarda, John (3 November 2014). "Gateway Airports: Commercial Magnets and Critical Business Infrastructure" (PDF). McGraw Hill Financial Global Institute. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-02-05. Retrieved 9 September 2015.

External links[edit]