Extreme makeover: 13 airport facelifts around the world

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Airports are constantly changing and evolving to accommodate a growing number of passengers, improve passenger flow and offer better amenities for travellers. Some upgrades and expansions are more utilitarian like building more runways or adding parking spaces. But other upgrades are decidedly more exciting. If you’re wondering what’s been going on in the world of airports, we have the scoop on some recent and upcoming renovations that will make air travel easier and time spent in the airport something to look forward to.

Singapore Changi Airport

Airport facelifts: The good, the bad and the ugly
Jewel Changi Airport (Image: Singapore Changi Airport)
Airport facelifts: The good, the bad and the ugly
Jewel Changi Airport Rain Vortex (Image: Singapore Changi Airport)

Singapore Changi Airport is already among the best in the world – if not the best – and it’s about to get even better. Changi is currently undergoing a massive $1.47 billion expansion dubbed “Jewel”. The complex is scheduled for completion by the end of 2018 and will have five storeys above ground and five below. Jewel Changi Airport will be a mixed-use complex featuring attractions, retail offerings, a hotel and general facilities for everyday airport operations. Since Singapore is known as the “Garden City” it should come as no surprise that Jewel will house one of the largest indoor collections of plants in Singapore. This will include the Forest Valley, a huge five-storey garden filled with thousands of trees, plants, ferns and shrubs. Travellers will also be treated to a 40-metre high “Rain Vortex”, expected to be the world’s tallest indoor waterfall. The top level of Jewel will also help you feel as if you’re not actually in an airport and feature a park filled with gardens, walking trails, playgrounds and restaurants.

John F. Kennedy International Airport

Airport facelifts: The good, the bad and the ugly
ARK reception area (Image: ARK at JFK)
Airport facelifts: The good, the bad and the ugly
ARK export stalls (Image: ARK at JFK)

JFK plans to open a $48 million luxury terminal in 2016 – but not just any terminal. This one won’t actually cater to humans. No, really. The new luxury terminal will be just for animals and the first of its kind in the world. The 16,536-square-metre quarantine and boarding facility will be dubbed “The ARK” and will have hay-lined stalls for up to 70 horses and 180 head of cattle as well as an aviary and holding pens for goats, pigs and sheep. There will also be a 1,858-square-metre area for dogs complete with a bone-shaped pool, flat-screen TVs and puppy massages. Oh, and cats will have their own trees to climb.

Toronto Pearson International Airport

Airport facelifts: The good, the bad and the ugly
Philip Tellis, Airport via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Both Terminal 1 and Terminal 3 at Toronto Pearson are getting a facelift. Why? Well, it’s estimated that by 2030, 60 million passengers per year will travel through the airport – that’s a lot of people passing through, which means a need for more streamlined services. With that in mind, these improvements are being put into place to improve passenger flow and introduce new and refreshed facilities and retail offerings. Upgrades to Terminal 1 started in 2014 and are expected to be complete by 2019. The Terminal 3 Enhancement Project is expected to be complete in 2017. Expect to see new and refreshed facilities, more retail offerings and new Automatic Passport Clearance kiosks and Global Entry Kiosks.

Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport

Airport facelifts: The good, the bad and the ugly
Chis Hoare, Mumbai CSIA via Flickr CC BY 2.0

Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA) unveiled a $2 billion new airport terminal, T2, in 2014. The design of the new four-level terminal combines international and domestic passenger services under one roof and was built to efficiently accommodate up to 40 million passengers per year. The terminal’s new retail space is four times the size of the original shopping concourse and, if you don’t feel like shopping, you can always look at the art. T2 is home to India’s largest art museum with more than 7,000 pieces of artwork and artifacts from every region of India.

Vancouver International Airport

Airport facelifts: The good, the bad and the ugly
Updates to YVR (Image: Vancouver International Airport)
Airport facelifts: The good, the bad and the ugly
Opening of designer Outlet mall at YVR (Image: Vancouver International Airport)

Vancouver International recently unveiled a 27,500-square-metre, $213-million expansion of the Domestic Terminal, the A-B Connector. This expansion provides improved passenger flow, increased gate capacity, new security and safety enhancements, 10 new retail offerings and the 665-square-metre Plaza Premium Lounge, the largest pay-per-use lounge in North America. In addition, the newly opened McArthurGlen Designer Outlet Centre is located just two train stops away from YVR’s main terminal. Opened in July, the centre offers 50 (and counting) stores. It’s also less than 30 minutes by train from downtown Vancouver.

San Francisco International Airport

Airport facelifts: The good, the bad and the ugly
Rendering of the Terminal 3 East project (Image: San Francisco International Airport)
Airport facelifts: The good, the bad and the ugly
Rendering of the Terminal 3 East Project (Image: San Francisco International Airport)

SFO is currently nearing completion of the Terminal 3 East project. The airport is set to open the concourse on November 18. Described as an “evolution from inside and out” the project means the concourse will soon have soaring skylights and stylish seating as well as hundreds of USB ports and power outlets. The new Terminal 3 East Concourse will also feature several works of art created specifically for the new space, including Amy Ellingson’s “Floating World”, photography from Bay Area Photographers Sanaz Mazinani and Vanessa Marsh and a ceramic translation showcasing the work of Louisiana Bendoff of the Gee’s Bend Quilters.

Tokyo Narita Airport

Airport facelifts: The good, the bad and the ugly
中岑 范姜, Narita Airport Terminal 3 via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0
Airport facelifts: The good, the bad and the ugly
中岑 范姜. Narita Airport Terminal 3 via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

Tokyo Narita Airport opened Terminal 3 in April of this year in preparation for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. The new terminal, dedicated to low-cost carriers, is minimalist in design, but there is one eye-catching feature. Instead of the standard illuminated signs and moving sidewalks that you might see in other airports, this terminal has been designed around an indoor running track that acts as a wayfinding system. Travellers passing through the new terminal will also be able to enjoy a 450-seat food court, the largest of any airport in Japan.

London Gatwick

Airport facelifts: The good, the bad and the ugly
Gatwick north entrance (Image: Gatwick Airport)

Gatwick will be making a series of important changes over the next several years with £1 billion already invested and an additional £1 billion committed for the next five to seven years. The South Terminal has already been upgraded and now plans are in motion for the North Terminal. In terms of specifics, a brand new North Terminal check-in area is in the works, including the world’s largest self-service bag drop zone. Travellers can also expect a better layout and more space that will increase peak check-in capacity from 3,000 to 4,350 passengers per hour. Shoppers can look forward to 2,787 square metres of new retail space, which, if you’re wondering, is equivalent to 10 tennis courts.

Los Angeles International Airport

Airport facelifts: The good, the bad and the ugly
Prayitnow, The new LAX International Terminal via Flickr CC BY 2.0

Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT) at LAX (opened to the public in 2013) includes a 13,935-square-metre Great Hall and 18 new aircraft boarding gates, half of which can accommodate the largest airplanes in the world. TBIT is also home to nearly 70 new dining and retail shopping outlets and public art commissions. The design of the terminal was inspired by the undulating waves of the Pacific Ocean.

Honolulu Airport

Airport facelifts: The good, the bad and the ugly
Plumeria Lounge (Image: Honolulu International Airport)

Hawaiian Airlines opened its new Plumeria Lounge for business class travellers in June 2015 at Honolulu International. The plush lounge offers free wine, local craft beers from Maui Brewing Co. and catered food options for travellers looking to relax while waiting for a flight. The 335-square-metre lounge is located on the third floor of the Honolulu interisland terminal and access is $40 a day for travellers booked on any Hawaiian Airlines flight.

Amsterdam Schiphol Airport

Airport facelifts: The good, the bad and the ugly
Rendering of Departure Lounge 2 upgrade (Image: Amsterdam Schiphol Airport)

Departure lounge 2 at Amsterdam Schiphol is currently going through a revamp set to be completed in late 2015. Once complete, the lounge will feature seven “worlds of experience” including Luxury, Family, Travel & Culture, Modern Dutch, See Buy Fly, Fashion & Lifestyle, and Care & Wellness. Each of these areas will have a distinct style all their own and offer retail, dining and services that fall under their specific theme. The Departure Lounge will remain open while undergoing renovation, but retail and catering outlets will be closed in phases.

Newark Liberty International Airport

Airport facelifts: The good, the bad and the ugly
Christian Rasmussen, NYC Skyline (Newark Airport) via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

A $120 million dollar renovation of Newark Liberty International’s Terminal C is already underway and it means good things for hungry travellers. The terminal is in the process of getting 55 new restaurants, but not just any restaurants. These are and will be stylish, unique offerings that are a cut above usual airport fast food. That’s in part thanks to the list of well-known chefs opening airport restaurants. Legendary Alain Ducasse has upscale French bistro Saison, Amanda Freitag has Nonna’s Meatball Kitchen and famed chocolatier Jacques Torres has Melange Petit Patisserie to name just a few. In addition, there will be 6,000 iPads added to the dining area and gate waiting areas and 10,000 power outlets throughout the terminal.

LaGuardia International Airport

Airport facelifts: The good, the bad and the ugly
Geoff Stearns, LaGuardia Sunset via Flickr CC BY 2.0

LaGuardia is getting ready to look very different. The airport, often described as outdated and inefficient, will be getting a $4 billion overhaul, expected to start in 2016. The current layout consisting of multiple terminals will be replaced by one unified main terminal in hopes of making travel through LaGuardia much easier and passenger friendly. This will be a larger structure, located closer to the Grand Central Parkway, and will include new terminal space and a new Central Arrivals and Departures Hall. It will also link to Delta’s Terminals C and D. Other upgrades include expanded transportation access, significantly increased taxiway space and lots of new passenger amenities.

Featured image: Prayitnow, LAX Tom Bradley International via Flickr CC BY 2.0

Extreme makeover: 13 airport facelifts around the world was last modified: April 20th, 2016 by Jessica Padykula
Author: Jessica Padykula (413 posts)

Jessica Padykula is a Toronto-based writer and editor who regularly covers travel and lifestyle trends. When she’s not writing or researching a story she can be found planning trips to places near and far in a never-ending quest to travel the world.