The National Academies

ACRP 03-05 [Completed]

Passenger Level of Service and Spatial Planning for Airport Terminals

  Project Data
Funds: $399,928
Research Agency: TransSolutions
Principal Investigator: Gloria Bender
Effective Date: 6/28/2007
Completion Date: 5/31/2011

As aviation demand continues to grow, increased traffic and passenger volumes will stress our nation’s airports. The past few years have seen rapid changes in airport terminals as more competing uses vie for a finite amount of terminal space. The result is that the passenger experience has worsened with increased congestion in terminals.     

Traditionally, airport terminal planning and design have been based on the expertise of the design team coupled with general guidelines obtained from various sources.   Limited research has been performed to quantify space requirements for passengers in the terminal functional areas; research is especially needed on efficient passenger flow and queuing.   Correlating terminal functional area space with the level of service (LOS) experienced by the customer (i.e., the passenger) is an area that needs to be explored.   The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has developed standards in this area, but these standards are often not applicable to airports in the United States and Canada, with their large number of domestic passengers (with typically less luggage than an international passenger) and, in some cases, the large volume of connecting passenger traffic.   Much of the research commonly used for understanding passenger behavior does not come from the airport terminal environment, but rather from terminal studies conducted at the Port Authority Bus Terminal and the Penn Station in New York City by John J. Fruin in the early 1970s. The airport passenger differs from the commuter passengers observed by Fruin, because an airport passenger is more likely to be carrying baggage, looking for connecting gate or baggage claim information, traveling with associates or family, and spending longer dwell times in the terminal.

Airport operators believe that a better understanding of LOS and passenger-behavior concepts is needed for more effective and efficient decisions on future terminal improvements.   Research is needed on passenger movement and queuing characteristics in the functional areas of the terminal and identifying LOS for various passenger levels.  This research will be used for many years to come as new facilities are built and existing facilities are expanded or renovated to accommodate passenger movements.

 The objective of this project is to develop passenger space allocation guidelines for terminal functional areas.   The guidelines are to be based on level-of-service (LOS) scales developed from data collected at a sample of 10 airports.   The guidelines will be used by airport operators, planners, and consultants in making decisions on development of new terminals and renovation of existing facilities.

Status:  The revised final report has been published as ACRP Report 55.

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