Here Are The World's Coolest Revamped Airport Terminals

Photo: Courtesy of Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority

More than 92 million people flew through Atlanta in 2011, giving it the dubious honour of world’s busiest airport. This year is already looking bigger and better, thanks to a new terminal that can save up to 45 minutes in travel time.Atlanta’s $1.4 billion Maynard H. Jackson Jr. International Terminal is one of the much-needed new airport terminals whose innovations address the modern air travel experience—with its complex security procedures, crowded-to-capacity flights, and expectations of Wi-Fi and enough diversions to withstand delays.

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“Passengers are spending up to an hour longer inside the airport than they did just a decade or so earlier,” says Tom Theobald, architect and principal at Fentress Architects, which specialises in airport design. He noted that even as air travel has changed dramatically, too often that added time is spent in airports built in the ’60s and ’70s.

Forward-thinking city and airport officials worldwide understand that investing in infrastructure lures more tourists, and at least some are taking action to introduce new terminals, overhaul old ones—or, as in Doha, reclaim a piece of land and start an airport from scratch. A common goal is to improve passenger flow and efficiency, while considering aesthetics, sustainability, and the needs of today’s jet-setters.

You don’t have to go far to be able to charge your smartphone at Sacramento’s International Airport Terminal B, for instance. It was unveiled in October 2011 with 140 tables of two USB ports and a two-plug outlet each—more than any other U.S. airport, according to PC World.

At Liberia airport in northwestern Costa Rica, a new international terminal provides another kind of convenience: easier access to the beaches of Tamarindo, the Nicoya Peninsula, and national parks. It opened to meet growing tourist demand. Instead of assigned ticket counters, any airline can operate at any ticket space or gate location using pioneering common-use terminal equipment.

Even as they introduce new technologies, some terminals and airports are also incorporating decidedly local design elements and vendors. “Not only are the selections healthier, but airports like LAX are bringing in local spots, like Pink’s Hot Dogs, that you wouldn’t find anywhere else in the country,” says John DiScala, who spends 220 days a year on the road and founded

Ready to upgrade your next trip? We’ve listed the airlines that serve these new terminals, including LAX’s T6, and the innovations that will help make your airport experience more pleasant.

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Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson, International Terminal

Opening Date: May 2012

The world's busiest airport processed more than 92 million passengers in 2011, with more than 10 million of those on international flights. Anticipating a greater surge in international travel over the next few decades, the airport brass has been eagerly awaiting a new global gateway, which finally opened in the form of Maynard H. Jackson Jr. International Terminal. The 40-gate international air travel complex connects a new concourse F (and its 12 gates) with an existing smaller concourse.

Kudos For: A new system that makes picking up and rechecking bags between international and domestic flights obsolete; the change could save some passengers as much as 45 minutes in travel time.

Who Flies Here: Air Canada, Air France, AirTran/Southwest, British, Delta Air Lines, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Korean Air, Lufthansa.

Winnipeg Richardson International Airport, Canada

Opening Date: October 2011

Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh were the first official passengers to arrive at this terminal. They dedicated a time capsule (on display in the aptly named Queen's Court), to be opened in 2060. Master architect César Pelli--known best for his work on the Petronas Towers in Malaysia and the World Financial centre in New York--designed Canada's first LEED-certified airport to reflect the wide-open spaces of the surrounding prairies and vast Manitoba skylines. You can see through the building from check-in to airside--and right on through to the great outdoors. Even the passenger boarding areas are glass, so travellers feel connected to their surroundings at all times.

Kudos For: 50-five distinctive round skylights in its arrivals bag-claim area allow natural light to pour into the terminal by day and glow in electric blue ring shapes by night.

Who Flies Here: Air Canada, Air Canada Jazz, Delta Air Lines, Air Transat, United Airlines, Sunwing, WestJet.

New Doha International Airport, Qatar

Opening Date: December 2012

When the first airport purpose-built to handle the new Airbus A380-800 superjets opens this December, it should be ready for some serious crowds: up to 24 million passengers can coast in on two of the longest commercial runways in the world. By 2015, when the project is fully complete, it may host as many as 93 million passengers and take up two thirds as much land as the city it's meant to service. To prepare and reclaim the parcel needed for the new facility, engineers removed and relocated 6.5 million cubic meters of waste from an old landfill--it was the country's largest-ever environmental cleanup project.

Kudos For: The airport's oasis design theme, prominent even from the air. As aircraft approach, passengers will spot a rooftop shaped like a massive, undulating wave.

Who Flies Here: Air Arabia, Air India Express, Bahrain Air, Biman Bangladesh Airlines, British Airways, EgyptAir, Emirates, Etihad Airways, Flydubai, Gulf Air, Iran Air, Iran Aseman Airlines, Jet Airways, Jordan Aviation, KLM, Kuwait Airways, Lufthansa, Middle East Airlines, Nas Air, Nepal Airlines, Oman Air, Pakistan International Airlines, Qatar Airways, RAK Airways, Royal Jordanian Airlines, Saudia, Shaheen Air International, Sri Lankan Airlines, Sudan Airways, Syrian Air, Turkish Airlines, United Airlines, Yemenia.

Raleigh-Durham International Airport, Terminal 2

McCarran International Airport, Terminal 3, Las Vegas

Los Angeles International Airport, Terminal 6

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