Anyone who loves travelling, or loves someone who loves travelling, spends a lot of time in airports. Yet how often do you take the time to appreciate the complexity and scale of where you’re standing? Sure, we rate airports by the kind of hospitality and retail they offer. But what about what we don’t see? What aspects of the airport keep things ticking so smoothly whilst we’re enjoying our coffees and waiting for our flights to depart? Here we take a look under the surface of the airport, seeing the hidden efforts that make them so effective and so amazing.
Location, location, location
Airports are massive, practically the size of a small town when you account for the buildings and the runways. So when choosing the location of where it goes, a lot more thought is put into the decision than you might immediately think. The regularity of the weather, the topography and even the altitude of the stretch of land play an important role. So, too, does the convenience to the visitors. Next time you fly above an airport, take a good look at where it is.
Your baggage’s journey
For an automated system, it’s actually quite impressive that so much of our baggage lands both where we need it and on time. Horror stories and the occasional wait besides, more than 95% of all baggage taking off lands without incident. Take a look behind the scenes at Heathrow Airport. It’s a whole network of conveyor belts and automated systems ensuring that over 12,000 bags a day are processed.
In the sky
Taking a closer look at the different parts working together make it seem like an airport isn’t part of just industry, but many. It takes a lot to get a plane in the sky besides the plane and pilot. Aircraft refueler after refueler are needed to run all day to supply planes like clockwork between flights. A network of towers works together to check which aerial highways are clear and where planes can land. A collaboration of engineering, expertise and efficiency keeps even the smallest airport running.
Even in the shops there’s more going on than you might notice. Visual markers are used to herd you towards the retail section as soon as you enter the airport. The shops come before the restaurants, bars and coffee places. All to give you a nice, easy schedule before your flight departs. All kinds of free samples and easy luxuries are afforded. That’s because they know that relaxed customers are customers that spend more money. What makes good airports so relaxing and accommodating are the same things that make us pump more money into them.
There’s no denying that airports are incredibly impressive feats of industry. From everything to the placement of the airport itself to how they herd visitors without fail into consumers. Then, looking at the systems running under the surface, it’s remarkable that we’ve managed mass flight and made it work so good. That only makes the trip all the easier to appreciate.