An international airport is an airport that offers customs and
immigration facilities for passengers travelling between countries.
International airports are typically larger than domestic airports and
often feature longer runways and facilities to accommodate the heavier
aircraft commonly used for international and intercontinental travel.
International airports often also host domestic flights. Some, such as
Airport in the United Kingdom, are very large. Others, such
as Fa'a'ā International
Airport in Tahiti, are quite small.
Buildings, operations and management have become increasingly
sophisticated since the mid 20th century, when international airports
began to provide infrastructure for international civilian flights.
Detailed technical standards have been developed to ensure safety and
common coding systems implemented to provide global consistency. The
physical structures that serve millions of individual passengers and
flights are among the most complex and interconnected in the world. By
the second decade of the 21st century, there were over 1,200
international airports and almost two billion international passengers
along with 50 million metric tonnes of cargo were passing through them
2 Design and construction
3 Operations and management
3.2 Flight logistics
Customs and immigration
3.4 Security and safety
3.6 Services and amenities
3.6.1 Customer satisfaction awards
5 Notable airports
5.1 By historical event
5.2 By passenger numbers
6 See also
8 External links
Qantas Empire Airways
Qantas Empire Airways International flying boat services arriving at
In August 1919, Hounslow Heath Aerodrome, in London,
England was the
first airport to operate scheduled international commercial services.
It was closed and supplanted by Croydon
Airport in March 1920.
In the United States, Douglas Municipal
Arizona became the
first international airport of the Americas in 1928.
The precursors to international airports were airfields or aerodromes.
In the early days of international flights, there was limited
infrastructure, "although if engine problems arose there were plenty
of places where aircraft could land". Since four-engined land
planes were unavailable for over-water operations to international
destinations, flying boats became part of the solution. At the far end
of the longest international route (which became the Kangaroo Route),
on-water landing areas were found in places such as
Surabaya and in
the open sea off Kupang. In Sydney, Rose Bay, New South Wales, was
chosen as the flying boat landing area.
International airports sometimes serve military as well as commercial
purposes and their viability is also affected by technological
developments. Canton Island Airport, for example, in the Phoenix
Islands (Kiribati), after serving as a military airport during World
War II, was used as a refuelling stop by commercial aircraft such as
Qantas which stationed ground crew there in the late 1950s. The
advent in the early 1960s of jet aircraft such as the
Boeing 707 with
the range to fly non-stop between Australia or New Zealand and Hawaii,
meant that a mid-Pacific stop was no longer needed and the airport was
closed to regular commercial use. Other international airports, such
as Kai Tak
Airport in Hong Kong, have been decommissioned and replaced
when they reached capacity or technological advances rendered them
Design and construction
Airports have to be designed to fit into the landscape (Nouméa
The construction and operation of an international airport depends on
a complicated set of decisions that are affected by technology,
politics, economics and geography as well as both local and
international law. Designing an airport even for
domestic traffic or as "non-hub" has, from the beginning, required
extensive co-ordination between users and interested parties –
architects, engineers, managers and staff all need to be
involved. Airports may also be regarded as emblematic of
national pride and so the design may be architecturally ambitious. An
example is the planned New Mexico City international airport, intended
to replace an airport that has reached capacity.
Airports can be towered or non-towered, depending on air traffic
density and available funds. Because of high capacity and busy
airspace, many international airports have air traffic control located
Some international airports require construction of additional
infrastructure outside of the airport, such as at the Hong Kong
International Airport, which included the construction of a high-speed
railway and automobile expressway to connect the airport to the urban
areas of Hong Kong. Construction of the expressway included the
construction of two bridges (the Tsing Ma suspension bridge and Kap
Shui Mun cable bridge) and the Ma Wan viaduct on Ma Wan island to
connect the bridges. Each bridge carries rail and automobile
Operations and management
A flight information display system screen at Charles de Gaulle
Airport's Terminal 2 showing flight arrivals
International airports have commercial relationships with and provide
services to airlines and passengers from around the world. Many also
serve as hubs, or places where non-direct flights may land and
passengers may switch planes, while others serve primarily direct
point-to-point flights. This affects airport design factors, including
the number and placement of terminals as well as the flow of
passengers and baggage between different areas of the airport. An
airport specializing in point-to-point transit can have international
and domestic terminals, each in their separate building equipped with
separate baggage handling facilities. In a hub airport, however,
spaces and services are shared.
Airport management have to take into account a wide range of factors,
among which are the performance of airlines, the technical
requirements of aircraft, airport-airline relationships, services for
travelling customers, security and environmental impacts.
Technical standards for safety and operating procedures at
international airports are set by international agreements. The
International Air Transport Association
International Air Transport Association (IATA), formed in 1945, is the
association of the airline companies. The International Civil Aviation
Organization (ICAO) is a body of the
United Nations succeeding earlier
international committees going back to 1903. These two organizations
served to create regulations over airports which the airports
themselves had no authority to debate. This eventually sparked an
entire subject of air travel politics. In January 1948, 19
representatives from various US commercial airports met for the first
time in New York City to seek resolution to common problems they each
faced, which initiated the formation of the
Airport Operators Council,
which later became
Airports Council International
Airports Council International – North America
(ACI-NA). This group included representatives from Baltimore, Boston,
Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Jacksonville, Kansas
City, Los Angeles, Memphis, Miami, Minneapolis-St. Paul, New
York-Newark, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, San Francisco and
International airports have extensive operations in managing flight
logistics, such as air traffic control. The latter service is provided
by ground-based controllers who coordinate and direct aircraft on the
ground and through controlled airspace.
Air traffic control
Air traffic control also
provides advisory services to aircraft in non-controlled airspace.
Customs and immigration
Passport inspection at Dublin
Airports with international flights have customs and immigration
facilities, which allow right of entry. These change over time but are
generally designated by law. However, as some countries have
agreements that allow connecting flights without customs and
immigrations, such facilities do not define an international airport.
Security and safety
At Shannon Airport, travelers to the United States can "pre-clear"
U.S. immigration (2008)
The current trend of enhancing security at the cost of passenger and
baggage handling efficiency at international airports is expected to
continue in the future. This places financial burden on
airports, risks the flow of servicing processes, and has implications
for the privacy of passengers. International flights often require
a higher level of physical security than do domestic airports,
although in recent years, many countries have adopted the same level
of security for both.
Most international airports feature a "sterile lounge", an area after
security checkpoints within which passengers are free to move without
further security checks. This area can have services such as duty-free
shops that sell goods that have been selected and screened with safety
in mind, so that purchasing and bringing them on board flights poses
no security risks. In addition to employees, only processed passengers
with a valid ticket are allowed inside the sterile lounge. Admittance
into the sterile area is done in centralized security checkpoints in
contrast to e.g. individual checkpoints at each gate. This allows for
more efficient processing of passengers with fewer staff, as well as
makes it possible to detect both delays and security threats well
ahead of boarding.
To ensure the viability of airport operations, new and innovative
security systems are being developed. For instance, the old security
checkpoints can be replaced by a "total security area" encompassing an
entire airport, coupled with automatic surveillance of passengers from
the moment they enter the airport until they embark on a plane.
Passengers connecting to domestic flights from an international flight
generally must take their checked luggage through customs and re-check
their luggage at the domestic airline counter, requiring extra time in
the process. In some cases in Europe, luggage can be transferred to
the final destination even if it is a domestic connection.
In some cases, travelers and the aircraft can clear customs and
immigration at the departure airport. As one example of this, are
United States border preclearance
United States border preclearance facilities.
This allows flights from those airports to fly into US airports that
do not have customs and immigration facilities. Luggage from such
flights can also be transferred to a final destination in the U.S.
through the airport of entry.
A crucial safety aspect of international airports is medical
facilities and practices. In particular, controlling transmissible
disease, such as SARS, is deemed important at international
airports. While these standards are regulated by
And Recommended Practices (SARPs) and WHO's International Health
Regulations (IHR), local authorities have considerable say in how they
Among the most important airport services are further transportation
connections, including rail networks, taxi and shuttle services at
curbside pick-up areas, and public buses. Large areas for
automobile parking, often in co-located multi-storey car parks, are
also typical to find at airports. Some airports provide shuttle
services to parking garages for passengers and airport employees.
Due to the very large scale of international airports, some have
constructed shuttle services to transport passengers between
terminals. Such systems operate for example, in Singapore Changi
Airport and Zurich Airport.
At some U.S. international airports, such as O'Hare International
Airport in Chicago, some seating and waiting areas are located away
from the terminal building, with passengers being shuttled to
terminals. These areas may be referred to as ground transportation
centers or intermodal centers. Amenities at ground transportation
centers typically include restrooms and seating, and may also provide
ticket counters, food and beverage sales and retail goods such as
magazines. Some ground transportation centers have heating and air
conditioning and covered boarding areas (to protect passengers
from the elements).
An internal motorized moving footway to transport passengers within
Adolfo Suárez Madrid–Barajas Airport, Spain
Curbside passenger pick up area at Terminal 3 Cairo International
Rail service at Terminal 2 of
Charles de Gaulle
Charles de Gaulle
Airport in France
Services and amenities
Standard amenities include public restrooms, passenger waiting areas
and retail stores for dining and shopping, including duty-free
shops. Dining establishments may be consolidated in food courts.
Some international airports may offer retail sales of luxury goods at
duty-free stores, such as at Terminal 3 at Indira Gandhi International
Airport in India. This terminal has been described as having
become a significant retail destination in India.
and access, offices for bureau de change (currency exchange) and
tourism advice are common, although the availability of service varies
across airports. Some international airports provide secure areas for
stranded passengers to rest and sleep. The more usual service is
hotels that are available on the premises.
Duty-free shops at Ben Gurion International
Airport in Tel Aviv,
For passengers stranded overnight, secure area at O'Hare International
Airport with dimmed lights, cots, pillows, blankets, and toiletries
The food court in the restricted area of Terminal 1 at Hong Kong
Customer satisfaction awards
Airport Awards are voted by consumers in an independent
global customer satisfaction survey. Singapore Changi
Airport has been
the first-place winner in 2006, 2010, 2013 and 2014. Other winners
include Incheon International
Airport (South Korea) and Amsterdam
Airport Schiphol (The Netherlands).
An aerial view of Hong Kong International
Loading passenger luggage at Lisbon Portela International Airport
Collecting offloaded passenger luggage from a baggage carousel at
Airport Bangkok, Thailand (2007)
Toponymy is one of the most common sources for the naming of airports.
A number of areas close to them have lent their names, including
villages, estates, city districts, historical areas and regions,
islands and even a waterfall. Cataratas del Iguazú International
Airport and Foz do Iguaçu International
Airport are named after the
Iguazu Falls in Argentina. Domodedovo International
Airport is named
after the town of Domodedovo. Sometimes the toponym is combined with
or renamed to incorporate another name from another source such as
from one of the following:
Aviators, such as pilots (civil and military) and others who played a
role in the development of aviation.
Airport is also known as
Kingsford Smith Airport, named after Charles Kingsford Smith;
Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport, in Chile,
is named after Arturo Merino Benítez.
Cultural leaders (poets, artists, writers, musicians) such as Leonardo
da Vinci–Fiumicino Airport, named after Leonardo da Vinci; Liverpool
John Lennon Airport, named after
The Beatles member and Liverpool
local John Lennon; Tom Jobim Airport, at
Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro named after
the composer Antonio Carlos Jobim.
Airport Prague, named
after writer/philosopher/statesman Václav Havel. Budapest Ferenc
Airport and Warsaw Chopin
Airport were both
renamed after musicians, the former after
Franz Liszt on the 200th
anniversary of his birth and the latter after Frédéric
Ethnic groups, such as Minangkabau International
Airport in Padang,
Indonesia, named after the local Minangkabau people.
Ideals in combination with toponyms, such as Newark Liberty
Mythology and religion, such as heroes of epics and myths, church
hierarchs and saints and similar names. Manas International Airport
(or Bishkek) in Kyrgyzstan is named after Manas in the Kyrgyz national
Politicians and statesmen, such as Heads of State, Members of
parliament and leaders of political parties as well as high-ranking
military personnel. Examples include: Paris-
Charles de Gaulle
Charles de Gaulle Airport,
named after Charles de Gaulle,
John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy International Airport
(in New York City), named after John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of
the U.S and Soekarno-Hatta International
Airport that serves Jakarta,
Indonesia (named after
Soekarno and Mohammad Hatta, who were the first
president and vice president of Indonesia respectively, as well as the
proclamators of Indonesia's independence). Franz Josef Strauß Airport
in Munich, is named after the famous Bavarian politician and
co-founder of Airbus. There are two international airports named
after Simón Bolívar, one in Venezuela, and one in Colombia;
Subhas Chandra Bose
Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport, formerly known as
Dum Dum Airport, is named after Subhas Chandra Bose and Québec
Jean Lesage International Airport, named after former premier
Public figures (advocates, engineers, doctors, teachers, journalists
or sportpeople), such as
George Best Belfast City Airport, named after
footballer George Best, who came from the city.
Royalty, such as King Fahd International
Airport at Dammam,
Chhatrapati Shivaji International
Airport at Mumbai, Tribhuvan
Kathmandu are all named after royalty.
Scientists such as Bologna
Guglielmo Marconi Airport, named after
Guglielmo Marconi and Belgrade
Nikola Tesla Airport, named after
A study found that 44 percent of the world's international airports
are named by toponyms: named for politicians (thirty percent),
aviators (seven percent), mythology and religion (three percent),
public figures (two percent), people of science (two percent) and
other (one percent).
Airports also use an IATA-3 letter code to abbreviate the names of all
the international airports.
By historical event
Hounslow Heath Aerodrome
Hounslow Heath Aerodrome begins operating scheduled
international commercial services from
England to France.
1933 Douglas International
Arizona is honored by Eleanor
Roosevelt as "the first international airport of the Americas", having
reached this capacity in 1928.
By passenger numbers
As of 2012[update], Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International had the
greatest number of travelers of all international airports with a
total of 95,462,867 passengers, 13.5 million more than the next
busiest airport which was Beijing Capital International with
81,929,359 passengers. The following year, Hartsfield retained its
place as the busiest airport but with only 94.4 million
Los Angeles International
Airport is considered to have the greatest
number of passengers who start or end their travel there as opposed to
continuing on to a connecting flight. Overall, LAX is considered to be
the 7th busiest airport in the world.
Airport is the busiest airport in the world by
international passenger traffic, with 83,105,798 international
passengers. Dubai is the third busiest airport worldwide.
Airport in Svalbard,
Norway is the northern-most airport to
which tourists can book tickets. It is primarily used for transporting
miners to and from a cluster of islands with a heavy mining
King Fahd International Airport, Dammam,
Saudi Arabia is the largest
airport in the world, encompassing over 300 square miles
Busiest airports in
Europe by passenger traffic
List of international airports by country
List of the largest airports in the Nordic countries
World's busiest airport
World's busiest airports by cargo traffic
World's busiest airports by passenger traffic
World's busiest airports by traffic movements
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