With more people than ever flying, cities around the world are building new airports and upgrading old terminals to create facilities capable of handling tens of millions of passengers.
The results are modern, stylish architectural statements that banish the dark, crowded travel spaces of the past.
Here are 16 of the most exciting airport projects under construction or redevelopment.
Istanbul New Airport
Turkey has great ambitions to become a new meeting point between east and west. Its national carrier, Turkish Airlines, already flies to more countries than any other airline globally, and with the prosaically named Istanbul New Airport opening soon, the country now has a gateway to be proud of.
Replacing the older Atatürk Airport, it is a mega hub that will eventually be capable of handling 150 million passengers per year, perhaps even rivaling Dubai in terms of connecting travelers.
The airport’s official opening is scheduled for October 29, but the latest reports say it won’t be fully operational until the end of 2018.
Al Maktoum International Airport (Dubai)
Already open and handling cargo plus a small selection of passenger flights, Al Maktoum International Airport southwest of downtown Dubai is likely to one day be the largest and busiest in the world if plans are to be believed.
Al Maktoum – commonly known as Dubai World Central – will one day have five runways, three terminals and be home to the huge fleets of superjumbos operated by Emirates. It will boast shorter walking distances for passengers, and a high-speed rail link to the center of Dubai.
Singapore Changi Airport
The world’s favorite airport and Asian mega-hub, Singapore Changi, is eagerly working towards opening its new Jewel and Terminal 5.
The Jewel is an impressive glass multi-use area connecting the existing terminals and introducing shopping, eating and entertainment facilities for passengers and visitors to use. It will feature the world’s tallest indoor waterfall, and is set to open in 2019.
Terminal 5 will open to the east of the current terminals in the mid-2020s, with a capacity of 50 million annual passengers.
LaGuardia Airport (New York)
Coming not a minute too soon is the complete revamp and rebuild of the terminals and taxiways at New York’s crowded LaGuardia airport to create one unified terminal structure with more gates and more space, capable of handling the thousands of daily passengers.
The old low ceilings and cramped corridors in a confusing mix of different terminals will make way for light, airy spaces with plenty of windows and new amenities.
Other improvements include new parking facilities, taxiways, and a vital link to the New York City Metro.
Beijing Daxing International Airport
Another new airport for 2019 is Daxing International, which also has ambitions to become the largest and busiest in the world.
It will feature one of the largest passenger terminals in the world which simultaneously reduces the amount of walk-time passengers need to undertake compared to similar hubs.
It will soon become home to China Eastern Airlines and China Southern Airlines, which will move from the existing Beijing Capital Airport.
With a high-speed rail connection to the city and new motorway network, it has been built with the future in mind, with an eventual space for 100 million passengers per year and seven runways as China’s aviation industry continues to grow.
Western Sydney Airport
With Sydney’s existing Kingsford Smith airport restricted by its waterfront location and nighttime curfews to keep the neighbors happy, a new airport has been in the planning for a while.
Located at the very Australian-sounding Badgerys Creek, construction recently started on Western Sydney Airport, which is 27 miles from the city and is being planned to allow growth and offer relief to the existing airport.
It will open in 2026.
New International Airport for Mexico City
Designer of many airports around the world, Norman Foster (famed for London’s Gherkin) is behind the new airport at Mexico City. It is designed to replace the crowded airport used today, and construction started in 2015.
However, President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador has called a vote this month to decide whether construction will go ahead as costs threaten to cripple the project. If it is canceled, the existing airport will be improved as an alternative.
Berlin Brandenburg Airport Willy Brandt
In what has to be the most delayed new airport ever, Berlin Brandenburg is evidently coming closer to completion.
First set to open in 2012, development has continued for the past six years to overcome issues in safety and regulatory requirements. Combined with corruption and legal disputes, it has turned into an expensive embarrassment for the German government. Meanwhile, aircraft continue to land at the aging Schönefeld airport on the adjacent site.
The latest timeline sees a late-2020 opening for the airport, but many believe this could slip further to 2021. When it does arrive, it will boast a large, modern terminal and two runways, ready to combine the operations of Berlin’s two existing airports.
Carlisle Lake District Airport (England)
Britain’s newest regional airport has had a somewhat rocky start so far. Owned and operated by the Stobart Group, this northwest gateway on the edge of the Lake District National Park was a sleepy general aviation field until a new terminal was built and flights announced to Belfast, Dublin and London.
Delays in opening due to staff training issues have somewhat dampened the initial optimism and goodwill, but come 2019 locals and tourists alike will have the option of flying in and out of the region.
Newark Liberty International Airport (New Jersey)
All three major New York City airports are being improved. In the case of Newark Liberty International, over the state line in New Jersey, a $2.3 billion overhaul to mold and create some of the existing terminals into a new structure known as Terminal One is underway.
With three piers and 33 gates, plus new parking garages, food courts, plus a central arrivals and departures building, it will completely change the former dreary welcome passengers received at the airport, bringing it in line with other hubs around the world.
Due to open in 2021, eventually the other terminals at Newark will also be improved.
Pittsburgh International Airport
Once one of the major East Coast airport hubs, Pittsburgh has fallen by the wayside somewhat following the merger of US Airways into American Airlines in 2015. Passenger numbers dropped, and the once busy terminal has been left partly mothballed.
All of that is about to change as the airport spends $1.1 billion on remodeling the structure and making it fit for purpose.
The airside terminal building will be extended into the landside building, making one large structure, getting rid of the people mover and remodeling the gate areas. It should be completed in 2023.
Manchester Airport is Britain’s third busiest airport and it’s undergoing the largest expansion project in its history to better equip it for the future as it rides on the wave of new long-haul route additions.
The plans involve the partial demolition and rebuilding of the airport’s Terminal Two into what has been called a super terminal, with new piers, gates and passenger amenities.
The work is already a year into construction, and parts of Terminal One will be soon be demolished to create more space for the new terminal and aircraft taxiways.
Long Thanh International Airport (Ho Chi Minh City)
A new airport to replace the cramped, outdated facilities at Ho Chi Minh City’s existing airport has been needed for a long time.
Built during the Vietnam War, and surrounded by the city, it’s already handling five million more passengers per year than it was designed for.
With a growing number of visitors to the country, and the national carrier, Vietnam Airlines, growing its operations, the government has brought forward construction of a new airport to be known as Long Thanh International.
It will be located 25 miles to the east of the city, with an eventual capacity for 100 million passengers per year. It’s expected to open in 2025.
Warsaw Central Polish Airport
Warsaw’s main Frederic Chopin airport is becoming a crowded place which is increasingly unfit for purpose – especially as passenger numbers to the city grow, and low-cost airlines take hold of the country.
Rafal Milczarski, the boss of the national carrier, LOT Polish Airlines, is putting his hopes in a new Central Polish Airport to be built in Baranów, 25 miles east of the capital. It will be reached by fast train in 15 minutes and have the facilities and space to handle 45 million passengers annually.
Construction is set to begin in 2021, ready for the first flights to land six years later.
Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport
Passengers using Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport have been waiting patiently for their new terminal to open.
Already delayed twice, it will now also miss 2019’s busy Mardis Gras holiday in March. The revised opening date is tw months later in May.
Delays aside, this much-needed modern terminal, which has cost $1.029 billion, will revitalize the airport and its existing infrastructure. It comes at a time when the airport is experiencing growth, including new long-haul flights to London.
Murcia-Corvera Airport (Spain)
If you’re booked on a Jet2 flight to Murcia next year, you may be one of the first passengers to land at the new Corvera Airport near the Spanish city of Murcia.
To date, all flights to the city have used the San Javier airport, which is a military base with a passenger terminal added on. However, following a long-running battle the new airport at Corvera will replace the old airport from March 2019, with Jet2 and easyJet the first airlines planning to use it.
Situated between Murcia and Cartagena, it is linked to the motorway network and has convenient access to the nearby resorts, as well as modern facilities.
Matt Falcus is a British aviation writer, author, and editor of the Airport Spotting Blog which delivers daily news on airline and airport operations around the world.