The future of airport infrastructure in a post-pandemic world | Pillsbury – Gravel2Gavel Construction and real estate law
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many service industries are reassessing their physical footprint, and the aviation industry is no exception. Opportunities abound for developers, designers and contractors to update and expand airport terminals to meet traditional needs while meeting the growing demand for more open spaces (including larger outdoor spaces in terminals and larger freight facilities to meet the needs of Amazon, FedEx and UPS).
The future of passenger terminals
In almost all service industries, safety and health policies are being reviewed, with particular emphasis on the desire for more space at all levels. Even before the pandemic caused a seismic shift in the way individuals interact with each other, airports and airlines had begun to reduce the number of unnecessary interactions between travelers and employees by introducing kiosks. self-service check-in and contactless ordering in restaurants. Automation inside the airport will only progress.
But the biggest challenge in a post-pandemic world remains the need for space – space between travellers, space for fresh air, space for implement new technology designed to keep everyone healthy. So what does this mean for airports, which, due to their location in and around major cities, typically have a limited physical footprint initially? Flexibility and adaptability – two terms that have defined the human experience of COVID-19 – will lead the charge to meet the needs of airport infrastructure, especially where expansion may not be possible. Spaces previously dedicated to the industry of yesteryear, such as the now long-abandoned counters for online check-in, offer an excellent opportunity for redevelopment.
Even airport construction projects that have been cleared to take off might consider adapting their existing plans to the changing needs of passengers and the industry as a whole. Pittsburgh International Airport, for example, recently received the green light to kick off its redesign, marking the first airport terminal designed with a post-pandemic world built right into its designs. Improvements include large outdoor gardens between the terminals, high ceilings and large windows to create the appearance of more space.
The future of cargo terminals
The need for space also exists outside the passenger terminal. While leisure travel has plummeted during the pandemic, cargo was and continues to be a financial lifeline for the aviation industry. Demand for air freight services from shipping companies like Amazon, FedEx and UPS is at an all-time high and will undoubtedly continue to grow as e-commerce drives the consumer experience.
The ever-increasing demand for cargo services within the airport will also increase real estate opportunities for properties surrounding the airports. Facilities are needed to store temperature and time sensitive products such as pharmaceuticals. Nearby warehouses are needed to unload goods for consumers across the country. Hotels and restaurants are needed to serve people handling goods.
Whether the aviation industry and surrounding infrastructure is focused on the inevitable return to full-capacity passenger service or the ever-increasing demand for consumer goods, property developers, designers and entrepreneurs have an exciting opportunity to respond to this increased demand for space across the board.