Airport Master Planning

Definition of Airport Master Planning

Master Planning is a standard procedure in the airport industry: For the planning and design of new airports as well as the restructuring or developing of existing airports, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and other global organizations set up principals. These include advice on how the managing authority of an airport should act in the planning process and which documents are necessary to fulfill governmental requirements. Additionally they define certain Levels Of Services (LOS) for each handling procedure in the terminal to ensure a certain quality level at all airports around the world (e.g. waiting times at counters). The manuals also present recommendations on the relationship between the number of passengers using the airport and the necessary space the airport needs to provide for being able to guarantee a smooth handling on the basis of the mentioned service levels (Jones and Pitfield, 2007 1).

Therefore the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for example, set the following standards based on the number of typical peak hour passengers (TPHP):

Facility Space required per TPHP (m2)
Ticket lobby 1.0
Waiting Rooms 1.8
Immigration 1.0
based on Jones and Pitfield, 2007 1)
Perth Airport Master Plan (image embedded from [] on 12 October 2011)

Since the aviation industry did not change largely before the 1970s, airport planning still fitted into those slow evolving manuals. The industry until then was rather defined by:

  • Long term relationships with airlines
  • Stable route structures (once routes were given up by an airlines, another airline took over) and
  • Long lead times for technological changes

All of these implications meant that changes in the industry structure, if they occurred, only happened over a long period of time. Within this timeframe it was even possible for airports as inflexible infrastructure objects to adapt to these developments (Neufville, 2008 2).

1. JONES D and PITFIELD D (2007). The Effectiveness of Conceptual Airport Terminal Designs.
Transportation Planning and Technology. Vol. 30, No. 5, October 2007.
2. NEUFVILLE R (2008). Low-Cost Airports for Low-Cost Airlines: Flexible Design to Manage the Risks.
Transportation Planning and Technology. Vol. 31, No. 1, February 2008.

Want to know more?

Challenges within the Master Plan Process
This AviationKnowledge page explains challenges and possible solutions within Airport Master Planning.
Guidebook for Airport Master Planning
Example of a guidebook for Airport Master Planning published by the Florida Department of Transportation
Melbourne Airport Master Plan
Example of an Airport Master Plan

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