The global pandemic of 2020 has massively reduced the amount of air traffic in our skies. However, there are many reasons why a career in the aviation sector can still be fulfilling. You can help to design airports that allow for safer travel, protecting against biological threats.

Singaporeans are one of the few nationalities that can enjoy a day at the airport. Singapore’s Changi International Airport is a destination in its own right with a giant slide, kinetic rain sculptures, a butterfly garden, a sunflower garden, free massages, a huge swimming pool and some of the island nation’s best shopping. In early 2019, its new “Jewel” addition opened, offering a lush five-story terraced garden, a 40-meter-tall waterfall, a sculpture made of four gigantic slides and other attractions dreamed up by architect Moshe Safdie as a “magical garden.” Changi has been named the world’s best airport six years in a row by Skytrax. Other airports are taking a similar approach as their operators take cues from the hospitality industry and shift toward more customer-friendly features and designs. The Seoul Incheon airport in South Korea has its own indoor skating rink, you can catch a movie at the Hong Kong airport’s IMAX movie theatre, and the San Francisco airport has a yoga room. In the near future, many airports in larger cities will likely expand these kinds of amenities as they attempt to rebrand as community hubs.

Biometric identity verification systems that will make the process of checking in and going through security a lot smoother, albeit in a way that stokes privacy concerns among some travellers. You might not have to go through a security line at all, as airports integrate technology that constantly scans you and your bags as you walk through the complex. Theoretically, that means airports will be more secure from the moment you walk onto the property. Heathrow Airport in London is already testing biometric identification gates that use facial recognition to match flyers to their passports, immigration photos or visas, and British Airways has expanded the use of these gates to airports in New York, Miami and Orlando. The airline claims this process allows them to board twice the customers in the same amount of time as traditional methods. Delta has already integrated facial recognition into some of its bag drop stations, Dubai is using the technology at security checkpoints by passing flyers through face-scanning tunnels and JetBlue offers a biometric ID process in which customers step up to a camera and take a photo to board. All of this means airports could be able to devote a lot less square footage to queues, opening that space to alternate uses – like making the rest of the facility more comfortable.

Just like customers at any other business, air travellers want speed, efficiency, cleanliness, pleasant ambiance and great service, and that includes the choice to either use self-service kiosks or interact with an attentive and friendly customer service agent if they need more help. Some airport executives stress a desire to treat passengers more like “guests,” regardless of the class of their ticket or their frequent flyer status. That may mean doing away with grand lobbies full of individual airline check-in counters and all of their snaking lines in favour of a more open system of kiosks and employees scattered around, approaching people who seem like they could use some assistance. Travelers already prefer self-check methods to interacting with agents before they fly. Some airports are even experimenting with “virtual” boarding agents that are just holograms. As lobbies shrink, airports could expand their small, uncomfortable gates – where passengers spend the majority of their time – or shift their layouts altogether to make navigating these often massive facilities a lot easier. That might mean pod-like mass transit systems instead of trains to get you straight to your gate a lot faster. Dubai’s redesign will involve a format that eliminates the need to ever walk more than 400 meters (about 1300 feet) to catch a connecting flight. And while it wasn’t selected for the final design, UNStudio’s proposal for the Taiwan Taoyuan airport teases a highly efficient terminal design with a small footprint for the shortest possible walking distances.

One thing airports could do with all that newly available space is pay a little more attention to aesthetics without sacrificing functionality. New airports in major cities (with the budgets to match) will likely get even more complex in their designs while incorporating passenger-friendly features like natural light and plenty of air-filtering vegetation. Gates may be larger and more comfortable, ceilings higher, the ambiance more pleasant. We could see more parks, some of them even inhabited by birds or other wildlife, like at Singapore’s Changi. In Bangkok, a new terminal will focus on offering a forest-like environment full of lush greenery and even a cascading waterfall. Rather than the warehouse-like boxes they’ve been in the past, airports of the future could be showcases of modern architecture, perhaps celebrating the talent of local firms – as is the case at Croatia’s Zagreb Airport, which chose native firms Kincl + Neidhardt + Institute IGH – or becoming living works of art by world-class talent like Zaha Hadid Architects. The latter firm’s newly completed international terminal at the Beijing airport is the largest in the world. Above all, airports of the future will probably have to be as flexible as they can be to continue adapting to a constantly changing world.

eVTOL stands for Electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing. It’s also sometimes referred to as VTOL. It is a type of aircraft that uses electric power to hover, take off, and land vertically.

This technology came about thanks to major advances in electric propulsion and the growing need for new vehicles for urban air mobility; including air taxis. Examples are in development by companies such as Boeing, NASA, and Airbus.

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Opportunities in Airports Design, Engineering, and Construction include:

  • Master Plan Designers
  • Terminal Building Architects
  • Airfield Planners
  • Airfield / Pavement Engineers
  • Design Managers
  • Project Managers
  • Construction Managers
  • Construction Cost / Contracts / Claims Experts
  • eVTOL vehicle engineers

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Career opportunities in airports, eVTOL, hyperloop, rail, smart cities, architecture, engineering, construction, project management and more.