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The Top 5 Most Innovative Airports in the World

Whether it be efficient ‘starfish’ designs, robotics and automation, sports facilities, or green technology, many world-leading features are being adopted by some of the most innovative airports in the world. Read on to find out how these features are improving user experience, sustainability, and airport efficiency across the board.

1. Singapore Changi Airport (SIN): The Ultimate Customer Experience

Renowned for its cutting-edge facilities and services, Singapore Changi Airport (SIN) consistently ranks as one of the best airports globally.

One of the most striking elements of Changi Airport is the Jewel Changi Airport complex, a nature-themed entertainment and retail hub that has redefined the airport experience. The centrepiece of Jewel is the world’s tallest indoor waterfall, the Rain Vortex, standing at 40 meters high. The airport is also home to a unique canopy park located on the top level of Jewel, offering various attractions such as walking trails, bouncing nets, mazes, and gardens. Not only this, but Jewel also features over 280 shops and restaurants, catering to a wide range of tastes and preferences.

Much like the Jewel complex, SIN also provides a truly seamless digital experience for its customers. The airport has a dedicated app with real-time flight information, terminal maps, and shopping guides. This app helps customers avoid long waits for shops and restaurants, helps them navigate the airport, and allows all essential information to be accessed in one central location.

2. Incheon International Airport (ICN): A ‘Smart Airport’ with Green Technology

Incheon International Airport (ICN) in South Korea is often labelled a ‘smart airport’ due to its technology initiatives that include impressive advancements in sustainability.

Self-service check-ins have become the norm in ICN, allowing passengers to check in quickly and independently with multiple language capabilities. Biometric data is also used throughout the airport including facial recognition and fingerprint scanning to help the entry and exit processes. Not only does this speed up immigration processes but it also improves security before boarding. RFID tags for luggage have also been introduced, allowing passengers to track their possessions in real time.

The aviation industry is constantly looking ahead and, recognising the need to increase sustainable practices, ICN is leading the way when it comes to green technology. Solar panels have been installed on the rooftops of the airport which provides renewable energy to power its facilities. ICN also uses energy-efficient lighting and cooling systems throughout its terminals and comprehensive recycling programmes have been rolled out to reduce landfill waste.

3. Beijing Daxing International Airport (PKX): Designed for Peak Efficiency

Beijing Daxing International Airport (PKX), also known as the ‘Starfish,’ is an architectural and technological marvel. Opened in September 2019, it quickly became a benchmark for modern airport design and operations.

Designed by the late renowned architect Zaha Hadid, Beijing Daxing’s terminal is shaped like a starfish, with five arms stretching out from a central hub. This design minimises the distance passengers need to walk to reach their gates, with the farthest point being no more than an eight-minute walk from the centre. The central hub houses all main passenger services, including check-in, security, and baggage claim, making the airport highly efficient.

This starfish shape allows PKX to handle a huge amount of air traffic. In fact, it is designed to handle 72 million passengers and 2 million tons of cargo annually by 2025. It features 82 gates, 4 runways, and the capacity for 100 million passengers and 4 million tons of cargo per year, placing it as one of the busiest airports globally​.

Such huge capacities make flight logistics extremely complicated and the most efficient airports tend to rely on specialist companies to organise vital aspects such as flight planning, fuel management, or crew travel.

4. Hamad International Airport (DOH): Innovative Architecture

Located in Doha, Qatar, Hamad International Airport (DOH) is celebrated for its architectural beauty and innovative features.

The airport sports a contemporary design with high ceilings, lots of natural light, and expansive spaces. The design of the terminals incorporates elements of Qatari culture and heritage that create a welcoming and aesthetically pleasing environment. Not only this but there are also many iconic airport installations, making it a cultural destination in its own right:

  • The ‘Lamp Bear’ by Urs Fischer is a giant yellow teddy bear with a large light, serving as a popular meeting point.
  • Damian Hirst’s ‘The Miraculous Journey’ is a series of 14 bronze sculptures that depict the various stages of human development from conception to birth.

The airport also features a range of wellness activities including a spar, swimming pool, gym, and squash courts. Travellers needing rest before their next flight can rent a sleep pod overnight.

5. Tokyo Haneda Airport (HND): Robotics and Automation

Tokyo Haneda Airport (HND) was renovated to accommodate the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and has continued to develop since. Now it is particularly known for its integration of robotics and automation.

HND employs robots to execute some of the more repetitive jobs throughout the airport which helps improve efficiency by keeping costs down:

  • Cleaning robots can be seen navigating the terminals, ensuring they are clean and hygienic. They are equipped with sensors to avoid obstacles and can operate independently from human intervention.
  • Information robots assist passengers with directions, flight information, and general inquiries, and they can communicate in multiple languages.
  • Baggage-handling robotic systems are being used to streamline the process by reducing errors and improving efficiency.

In combination, these different types of robots are an innovative step as they allow more resources to be allocated to other areas of the airport which ultimately only increases the customer experience and satisfaction. We can only expect to see more robotic functionality in the future.

For their own individual qualities, these 5 airports are at the forefront of aviation and airport innovations. By staying ahead of the curve, these airports are able to continually improve sustainability practices, passenger experience, and overall efficiency. We can expect to see more of these features being incorporated into more airports in the future as we look toward a more automated and environmentally-friendly aviation industry.

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