A Travel Evolution

By Bret Pilney, PE, LEED AP

When commercial flights began to take off, convenience of passengers wasn't much of a concern. Simply getting them from point A to point B was a feat in and of itself. As the years have passed, however, the needs and comfort level of passengers have come to the forefront as airlines and the industries that support them recognized the role of passengers in profitability.

In the early days of commercial flight, the passenger experience was simple. Because so few people could afford to fly and commercial airline accommodations were limited, commercial airports served a limited purpose: to allow the planes a place to take off and land. Passengers carried their own luggage and boarded planes on the apron. Eventually, stewards boarded flights to make the flying experience more comfortable and handled luggage before the flight — the early baggage handlers.

As commercial travel became less expensive and available to more people, the airport experience grew in importance. After World War II, airport design became more sophisticated, and terminal design began to evolve. Passengers were routed through terminals to board their flights, rather than simply walking or driving onto the apron. As air travel began to surpass rail travel, amenities for the traveling public and creating a transition from the terminal entrance to boarding areas became the standard for design.

During the boom of air travel, amenities during flight were an important aspect of making passengers comfortable. Progressing from airport arrival to boarding was less stressful in earlier times. With no baggage screening or security checkpoints, travelers walked throughout the terminal at their leisure. Commercial air travel was an experience in and of itself.

Today, travelers' comfort is at the forefront of the design process. Even before arriving at the terminal, people need to feel at ease with the process. Burns & McDonnell works with airline and airport clients to lessen friction from the first step onto the property through boarding at the gate. By working with all stakeholders, we make design and construction of terminal improvements as seamless as possible for travelers and airport staff alike. Whether the project is parking improvements, way finding, security or concessions, communication is key in creating a positive airport experience for passengers.

In the early days of flight, the stress of flying was primarily about whether you would arrive at your destination or not. Today, many travelers experience stress throughout their journey. Burns & McDonnell works with airline and airport clients to reduce passenger anxiety at every stage of their trip. After all, a relaxed passenger will spend more time and more money on travel. And that's good for everyone.

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