ICAO: Dynamic Flight-Related Public Information Displays

Air travellers often find themselves perplexed in unfamiliar airport terminal buildings by the variety of flight displays and information on these displays. This confusion can lead to disruptions in the traffic flow patterns, which increases the number of queries, missed flights and subsequently increases the number of airport personnel and costs.

This publication was authorised by the ICAO’s Secretary General and recommendations within the publication were approved by the Air Transport Committee in 1978 .[1]. It is a relatively old publication however some information can still be beneficial to travellers today. The purpose of this study is to introduce standardisation of airport display systems throughout existing airports.


1.1 [2] Passengers need to be informed of the various activities that are involved at an airport.

1.2 Flight information such as arrival and departures need to be updated continuously. A variety of flight displays are used to communicate information to both the travelling and non travelling public.

1.5 The amount of data shown on public information displays should be kept to a minimum for the reasons of economy, to minimise confusion and to minimise proliferation of redundant information.

1.6 The following types of public information displays were presented in this study.

  • Departure Display
  • Arrival Display
  • Directional Gate Display
  • Gate Position Display
  • Directional Baggage Claim Display
  • Baggage Claim Position Display

Common Data on Information Displays

Three types of data that appear on most of the six displays are:

Indication of Time
2.2 The time should always be the local time; it should be based on the 24-hour clock, therefore, expressed in four numerals, e.g. 0620 (for 6:20 a.m.). In order to save space in the TIME column, there should be no spaces, dots or commas separating the hours and minutes and all four digits are presented in the same size.

Indication of Place
2.3 The possibilities of displaying certain names of cities/airports in an abbreviated or truncated form to accommodate within the display column.

2.4 Truncations[3] should be used with extreme caution to avoid any possible misunderstanding by the public.

Indication of Flight
2.5 It is essential to identify each flight on the displays by using the two-letter airline code in conjunction with the flight number.

Departure Display

3.1 Heading Departures would be sufficient. However, in the absence of any general headings, the terms Flight Departures should be used.

3.3 People are used to reading from left to right in a large majority of countries throughout the world. Therefore, logic demands that three identifying items be placed on the left, with the gate information and remarks on the right.


3.4 Flight information displays should be arranged in chronological order to assist viewers.

3.6 The TIME column: the scheduled time of departure should always be indicated. If there is any deviation from the scheduled departure time, this should be included in the REMARKS column.

3.7 The TO column: this may be waived in situations where the cost of displaying all the points is excessive.

3.9 The REMARKS column: this column is normally needed on both the Departure and the Arrival Display. The following standard remarks should be used and kept to minimum, such as:

  1. Boarding
  2. Check in at Gate
  3. Wait here
  4. Delayed
  5. New time (followed by four-figure time group)
  6. New Gate
  7. Cancelled
  8. Not operating
  9. Ask Agent
  10. Diverted
  11. Landed
  12. Non-stop
  13. Charter
  14. Extra Flight

Arrival Display

4.2 This display is for someone meeting passengers at the airport. The items and preferred sequence of information should present as:


Directional Gate Display

5.1 The need for using Directional Gate Display has been established in the larger airports. Its purpose is to guide departing passengers from the check-in area through to the boarding gate. The items and gate information should present as:


Gate Position Display

6.1 A gate number should be positioned at the entrance of a gate on either a stationary sign or as a stationary number on a dynamic information display.

Directional Baggage Claim Display

7.1 The need for such displays occurs at airports with more than one baggage claim area. Its purpose is to direct the arriving passengers to where they may retrieve their baggage.

7.2 Directional Baggage Claim Displays should contain the following headings in the sequence below:


Baggage Claim Position Display

8.1 Baggage Claim Position Display should contain the following headings in the sequence below:


Language To Be Used on Information Displays

9.1 Apart from the national language(s), another language as determined by the authorities concerned could be used.

9.2 The content of the information displayed, much of it is in numeric characters, and some of the information in the Roman alphabet, such as place names, is fairly universal and generally understood.

Space Allocations on Various Displays

10.1 A certain number of space units need to be allocated to each column. It depends on local circumstance, e.g. the length of place names.

The table below endeavours to show a minimum requirement for each column.

Column Heading Minimum Number of Spaces
TO and FROM 10

Size of Alphanumeric Characters on Displays

11.1 It will depend on a variety of factors, such as colour contrasts, lighting, viewing angle, shape and stroke width of characters.

11.2 Because of the different factors involved, no standard formula for a size/distance relationship is offered.

Use of Flashing Signals on Displays

12.1 The usage of flashing should be kept minimum, too many characters or lights may easily confuse the viewer.

12.2 It should be saved for a special circumstance as to not distract the viewer unnecessarily. A combination of flashing characters and lights should be avoided.

12.3 The colour of flashing lights should be visible in all the light and ambient brightness conditions associated with the display location.

12.4 The flashing frequency should between 40 and 80 flashes per minute; a flashing frequency of one Hertz (1 Hz= 1 flash per second) at most airports.

Length of Time for Information To Be Shown on Displays

13.1 Display operators will be guided by economic and practical considerations. A generous length of display will ensure the information is conveyed to the maximum number of people, but an economic penalty arises as it prevents the operator from adding new information.

13.2 The length of information display time will differ according to its specific purpose.

13.3 As a general rule, a 60-minute advance and 45-minute post arrival display time are to be used.

13.4 On Gate Displays, the length of display time will depend on whether only one flight or more than one flight is being processed simultaneously.

13.5 Information on Baggage Claim Displays must be inserted just before the first disembarking passenger reaches the first of such displays.

Location of Displays in Terminals

4.2 The following points should be observed as a general rule when providing public information displays in airport buildings.
They should be placed:

a) so that they can be simultaneously observed and read by the largest number of viewers for which that display was designed.
b) as such locations where passengers have to make a decision as to the direction in which to proceed.
c) at such height that they are never hidden by circulating people.
d) away from other signs and from advertisements
e) away from highlighted backgrounds unless there is a continuous strong front lighting
f) away from points where they may create congestion or restrict circulation of people.
g) at places where it is relatively simple to carry out any maintenance and repair.

14.3 The list below is designed to provide a check list for the authorities concerned

Location Display Essential or Desirable Flights covered
Departure lounge Departure Essential Full
Departure concourse Departure Essential Full
Departure waiting areas such as bars and buffets out of view of main displays Departure Desirable Full
Pier gates Gate Position Essential Limited
Piers or fingers, etc. (departures) Directional Gate Desirable (if complex piers) Limited
Piers, baggage claim areas Directional Baggage Desirable (if more than one claim area) Limited
Baggage claim halls Baggage Claim Position Essential Limited
Arrival concourse Arrival Essential Full
Other arrival waiting areas such as bars and buffets out of view of main displays Arrival Desirable Full
Exit from baggage claim Arrival Desirable Full or Limited
1. ICAO-INTERNATIONAL CIVIL AVIATION ORGANIZATION (1978). Dynamic Flight-Related Public Information Displays.Doc 9249. ICAO (Montreal, Canada). 1978.
2. This number corresponds to the paragraph number in the ICAO's Document. Missing paragraphs deal with examples and other information deemed not too important of a synopsis.
3. This should be used after close consultation between the airport terminal operator and airlines.

Want to know more?

ICAO-INTERNATIONAL CIVIL AVIATION ORGANIZATION (1978). Dynamic Flight-Related Public Information Displays.Doc 9249. ICAO (Montreal, Canada). 1978.


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