In general, the terminal area designates the set of infrastructures inside the airport different from the aircraft movement area (apron, taxiways, runways). We can distinguish:
Auxiliary aeronautical buildings (control tower, fire extinction building, etc.).
Freight processing areas (freight terminals).
Aircraft processing areas (hangars, etc.).
Industrial and commercial areas (pilot schools, catering services, mail services, etc.).
Passenger processing and attention infrastructures (referred to as passenger terminal).
We will focus in what follows on the passenger terminal. An airport passenger terminal is a building at an airport whose main functions are:
Figure 9.8: Aircraft fed by a finger.
The interchange of transportation mode terrestrial-aerial.
The processing of the passenger before boarding: check-in, security controls, shopping, etc.
The processing of the passenger after disembarking: luggage claim, customs and security, facilities (car rental, for instance), etc.
It also fulfills a function of distributing the flows of passengers. Typically passenger reach check in in a bunch, but then they walk alone in small groups, and they reach the gate again as a bunch. Therefore, big lounges and long decks or walkways are needed to distribute the flows.
Give room to aircraft parking positions fed by fingers, as illustrated in Figure 9.8.
The terminal layout depends on many factors and typically differs from one airport to another. However, there are some patterns that are typically followed:
- Arrival and departure flows are separated, typically in different levels.
- Domestic and international flow are separated, typically in the same level.
Figure 9.9: Typical design of a terminal, showing departure (right half of page) and arrival levels (left half): 1. Departures lounge; 2. Gates and fingers; 3. Security clearance gates; 4 Baggage check-in; 5. Baggage carousels. © Ohyeh. / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0.
Figure 9.9 shows a typical layout of a medium size airport. We can observe how arrivals and departure flows are separated (typically in two different floors). We can observe that the departure passenger process starts by queuing to check-in, clearing security, waiting in the concourse and proceed to gate, clear the boarding security control, and finally embarking. Notice that aircraft are fed by fingers. On the other hand, the arrival passenger will disembark and go directly to claim luggage (notice that there is no customs on arrivals, so we assume this is the domestic part of the airport).
Figure 9.10: Typical terminal configurations. © Robert Aehnelt. / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA-3.0.
The configuration of the terminal is determined by the number and type of aircraft we want to directly feed with fingers. Figure 9.10 shows some of the typical configurations.
The standard configuration allows many aircraft, but the terminal must be long and therefore the distance to be walked by passenger. Another strategy is to use piers. A pier design uses a long, narrow building with aircraft parked on both sides. Piers offer high aircraft capacity and simplicity of design, but often result in a long distance from the check-in counter to the gate and might create problems of capacity due to aircraft parking manoeuvres.
Another typical configuration is to build one or more satellite associated to a main passenger processor terminal. The main difference between a satellite and a passenger processor terminal is that the satellite does not allow check-in, nor security controls, is just to give access to gate with walkways, concourses, and maybe duty free shops. The main advantage is that aircraft can park around its entire perimeter. The main disadvantage is that they are expensive: a subway transportation infrastructure in typically needed, also luggages must be transported to the main terminal building. Think for instance in Madrid Barajas with a standard linear terminal (T1 - T2 - T3) and a Terminal + Satellite (T4 + T4S), in which the satellite is not a processor. In this case a subway transportation infrastructure together with an automated system for luggages were needed and thus constructed.