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Jermayl Lund
Jermayl Lund

Airport City: The Ultimate Guide to Building Your Dream Airport

What is an airport city and why is it important?

Airports are no longer just places to catch a plane or pick up some duty-free. They are becoming urban centres that offer a variety of services and amenities for passengers, businesses and communities. These urban centres are called airport cities, and they are transforming the way we travel, work and live.

In this article, we will explore the definition and concept of an airport city, look at some examples of airport cities around the world, examine the challenges and opportunities for airport city development, and discuss the future of airport cities and aerotropolises.

airport city

Definition and concept of an airport city

The evolution of airports from transport hubs to urban centres

An airport city is the inside the fence area of a large airport, including the airport terminals and on-airport businesses such as air cargo, logistics, offices, retail, and hotels. The airport city is at the core of an aerotropolis, a metropolitan subregion whose infrastructure, land use, and economy are centred on an airport.

The concept of an aerotropolis was first used by New York commercial artist Nicholas DeSantis in 1939, who drew a skyscraper rooftop airport in the city. The term was repurposed by air commerce researcher John D. Kasarda in 2000, based on his prior research on airport-driven economic development.

According to Kasarda, airports have evolved as drivers of business location and urban development in the 21st century, in the same way as highways did in the 20th century, railroads in the 19th century, and seaports in the 18th century. The engine of the aerotropolis is the airport and its air routes, which offer firms speedy connectivity to their suppliers, customers, and enterprise partners.

The benefits of airport cities for passengers, businesses and communities

Airport cities offer many benefits for different stakeholders. For passengers, airport cities provide convenience, comfort, choice, and experience. They can enjoy a range of services and amenities before or after their flight, such as shopping, dining, entertainment, wellness, culture, or education. They can also access other modes of transport easily, such as rail, bus, or car.

For businesses, airport cities offer competitiveness, efficiency, innovation, and growth. They can take advantage of the proximity to the airport and its network of destinations to reach global markets and customers. They can also benefit from the availability of skilled labour, infrastructure, technology, and support services in the airport city.

For communities, airport cities offer employment, income, development, and sustainability. They can create jobs and generate revenues for local residents and governments. They can also stimulate urban development and regeneration in surrounding areas. They can also contribute to environmental sustainability by reducing emissions, waste, and energy consumption.

Examples of airport cities around the world

Oslo Airport City: A beacon of sustainability

Abu Dhabi Airports Free Zone: A business concierge service

Abu Dhabi Airports Free Zone (ADAFZ) is a comprehensive business park that offers a range of incentives and facilities for businesses that operate within the free zone area of Abu Dhabi International Airport, Al Ain International Airport and Al Bateen Executive Airport.

ADAFZ provides a one-stop shop service for registration, licensing, visa, property leasing and management, telephone and broadband, and other support services. It also offers 100% foreign ownership, 0% tax and custom duties, and a simple 7-working days registration and licensing process.

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ADAFZ caters to various sectors such as aviation, aerospace, logistics, cargo, light manufacturing, services, and trade. It also hosts a number of multinational corporations such as Boeing, Airbus, Etihad Airways, Rolls-Royce, GE Aviation, and Lockheed Martin.

Incheon International Airport: A sport, event and entertainment centre

Incheon International Airport (ICN) is the largest airport in South Korea and one of the busiest and best airports in the world. It is the main hub for Korean Air, Asiana Airlines, Jeju Air, and Polar Air Cargo. It also serves as a gateway to Seoul and other destinations in East Asia.

ICN is not only an airport but also a sport, event and entertainment centre that offers a variety of attractions and amenities for passengers and visitors. It has a golf course, spa, private sleeping rooms, an ice skating rink, a casino, indoor gardens, a video game centre and the Museum of Korean Culture. It also has a duty-free shopping mall that has been rated the world's best for three years in a row by Business Traveller.

Challenges and opportunities for airport city development

Environmental impacts and mitigation strategies

Airport cities, like any other urban development, have environmental impacts that need to be addressed and mitigated. These impacts include noise, air, water and soil pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, land use and habitat loss, and waste generation.

Some of the strategies that airport cities can adopt to reduce their environmental footprint are:

  • Using renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, or geothermal power.

  • Implementing energy efficiency measures such as LED lighting, smart meters, or green roofs.

  • Applying water conservation and recycling techniques such as rainwater harvesting, greywater reuse, or low-flow fixtures.

  • Enhancing natural and green spaces such as parks, gardens, or wetlands.

  • Promoting sustainable transportation modes such as public transit, electric vehicles, or bicycles.

  • Adopting waste management practices such as composting, recycling, or biodegradable packaging.

Planning and design factors for airport city integration

Airport cities also face planning and design challenges that need to be overcome to ensure their integration with the airport and the surrounding areas. These challenges include:

  • Ensuring compatibility and coordination between the airport and the airport city functions and operations.

  • Providing adequate and accessible infrastructure and services for the airport city users and residents.

  • Creating a distinctive and attractive identity and image for the airport city.

  • Ensuring safety and security for the airport city facilities and activities.

  • Balancing the needs and interests of different stakeholders such as airport authorities, developers, investors, tenants, customers, and communities.

Stakeholder involvement and collaboration for airport city success

Airport cities require stakeholder involvement and collaboration to achieve their success. Stakeholders are those who have an interest or influence in the airport city development and operation. They include:

  • Airport authorities: They are responsible for managing the airport operations and facilities, as well as providing land and infrastructure for the airport city development.

  • Developers: They are responsible for designing, building, financing, and marketing the airport city projects.

  • Investors: They are responsible for providing capital and funding for the airport city development.

  • Tenants: They are responsible for leasing or occupying the airport city properties and facilities.

  • Customers: They are responsible for using or consuming the airport city services and amenities.

  • Communities: They are responsible for living or working in or near the airport city area.

Stakeholder involvement and collaboration can help to:

  • Identify and address the needs and expectations of different stakeholder groups.

  • Create a shared vision and goals for the airport city development.

  • Enhance communication and information sharing among stakeholders.

  • Resolve conflicts and disputes among stakeholders.

  • Foster trust and cooperation among stakeholders.

The future of airport cities and aerotropolises

How technology and innovation will shape airport cities

Airport cities will continue to evolve and innovate with the advancement of technology. Some of the trends that will shape the future of airport cities are:

Digitalization: Airport cities will leverage digital technologies such as


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