12 New Features You’re Going to Start Seeing in Airports

These new features and technologies can reduce the stress of travel.

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Travelers rushing through one of Chicago O'Hare airport terminals.
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Airport advances

Some airports have aquariums and movie theatres, but most travellers don’t require such audacious amenities. What frequent and first-time fliers alike could stand to see are new airport features that make the time spent in terminals more pleasant, and the hectic nature of travel less cumbersome. Here are a dozen new features you’re going to start seeing more in airports.

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A general view of the interior of the new airport at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport on October 24, 2019 in Kenner, Louisiana.
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A more local airport experience

Instead of a placeless airport, with terminals designed for universal sameness, Ryan Ghee of Future Travel Experience believes that more forward-thinking airports will go the bespoke and more localized route, taking things, “a step further and look at how they can ensure everything—from the architecture to the food and beverages to the ambiance of the terminal to the activities on offer—reflects the destination itself.” One recent example of this localization trend is the new 35-gate terminal at Louis Armstrong International Airport. As USA Today puts it, “New Orleans finally has an airport worthy of the city. You can enjoy authentic French Quarter cuisine and cocktails while waiting for your flight.”

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close up of hand using a touchscreen
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Touchscreens and self-checkout

Since we’ve become acclimatized to self-checkouts at the grocery store, airports shifting to this model should be an easy transition for travelers needing that $4 protein bar and $5 bottle of Fuji water. More touchscreens at airport restaurants and snack shops are popping up and soon, we’ll be dealing with iPads more often than with people when we fly.

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A woman walks her dog at a new outdoor pet relief area within the "sterile area" of Terminal 2 at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), Los Angeles, California, November 22, 2016.
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Pet relief areas

A square patch of AstroTurf punctuated with an artificial fire hydrant is a fairly common airport feature these days but soon, more airports may start to emulate the best dog-friendly airports in the United States. You will start to see terminals featuring doggy conveniences (and luxuries) like Denver’s private restrooms for pets and its Paradise 4 Paws pet resort with massage therapy, flat-screen TVs, and on-site medics.

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Green wall, eco friendly vertical garden
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Indoor gardens

Cruise ships have, over the past decade, transformed themselves from primarily a mode of transport to a destination unto themselves. It is possible that airports could make a similar if less drastic shift. “Part of this means ensuring they are attractive, environmentally-conscious places to visit — which is why airports are increasingly bringing the outdoors inside with elements like waterfalls, indoor woodland and even walking trails that will give passengers with pleasant places to relax and reflect, and further take the stress out of air travel,” says Ghee.

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A traveler stops to look inside the new Yoga Room at San Francisco International Airport's terminal two on January 26, 2012 in San Francisco, California.
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Yoga studios

Often times, the worst part of travel is the actual travelling. Airports are beginning to understand the role they play in adding to the hectic nature of life. Travel and Leisure notes that, “If you have ever felt the need to do a little deep breathing or stretch into a lotus pose to calm any travel-related stress, we understand. So do airports, which are increasingly offering yoga rooms to fliers—safe spaces where they can stretch, meditate, and relax.” The magazine adds that at least six U.S. airports offer yoga rooms. That modest number should rise steadily over the coming months and years. Getting connected to your own inner peace is important… as is hopping onboard the airport Wi-Fi to finish that report for your client.

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People walk through the north concourse of the new Tom Bradley International Terminal during its unveiling at Los Angeles International Airport on March 6, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.
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New terminals in Los Angeles and Orlando are leading modern airport design into the light, literally. According to Airport-World.com, travellers passing through LAX’s new Tom Bradley International Terminal will be, “bathed in daylight and afforded expansive views to the outdoors as well as a variety of integrated media displays, which project kinetic video installations of light and destination information as well as art and entertainment.” While in Orlando’s South Terminal Complex due to open in 2021, fliers coming from and going to Disney and Universal will be welcomed to spend time in, “Palm Court and Town Square—two keystone civic spaces within Orlando’s South Terminal—will lie just beyond security and be linked by a sky-lit pedestrian boulevard interspersed with plazas containing an array of amenities and entertainment. Palm Court, the grandest of these spaces, will house a garden-like setting that combines informal lounge seating, international retail, and dynamic media installations.”

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Tibetan musical instrument on yoga mat with lights in background
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Sound meditation

While some stressed-out travellers would think a quiet space for silent meditation might be what they want, influential wellness guru Maraliz Campos is bucking conventional wisdom, per Vane Magazine. One of Wanderlust’s Wellness 35 under 35, Campos believes that by, “Introducing calming sounds into the symphony of noise, she can reframe the ways we interpret or ‘listen’ to what we call noise pollution.” She is providing these accessible experiences, in public spaces like airports, “So that people who might not otherwise be exposed to these instruments or stress reduction methods might have a chance to explore something new and powerful,” insisting that, “If we hide behind clean studios and high-end events, we are stealing the opportunity for a broader audience to change their lives in this particular way.”

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Power outlets for electronic equipment in arms of chairs in airport lounge.
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Plugged-in seating

In a conversation with Airport-World, Paul Williams, the CEO of Zoeftig Group (one of the biggest airport seating companies in the world), said that, “In-seat electrical power continues to be a major conversation,” in regards airport seating trends. Expect to see (and feel) more comfortable seating in airport terminals and be able to charge your devices before your flight without having to sit on the floor next to that one pillar with a functioning electrical outlet.

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nursing suite sign in an airport
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Better lactation rooms

Thanks to the Friendly Airports for Mothers Act (FAM) of 2017, every commercial airport in the United States will be required to, “Provide lactation rooms at each passenger terminal building of the airport,” per USA Today. Before this piece of federal legislation, airports were adding nursing rooms for moms at their own discretion. “Now, not only are all large- and medium-sized airports required to provide them at each terminal, there are other lactation area provisions, too.” These include being available to the public and beyond the security screening, having a lockable door and electrical outlet with a place to sit and a flat surface, being accessible, and most importantly not be in a bathroom. Thanks to grants available to airports to help them renovate to meet these new requirements, expect to start seeing more, and better, breastfeeding rooms in U.S. airports.

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Luggage security x ray machine and computer monitor.
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Painless security screening

“Removing electronic devices, liquids and gels from hand luggage are among the top three ‘pain points’ of passengers when travelling by air,” reported Aviation Insights. But soon, they promise, “technology will soon rescue passengers from this hassle.” This will be possible thanks to artificial intelligence (AI) and other, “Technical advances in computed tomography scanners (CT scanners) that will screen luggage in a better way, without the need to remove the usual suspects from bags.”

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Authentication by facial recognition concept. Biometric. Security system.
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The future of moving through airports lies in biometrics. This seamless tech promises to give travellers a faster, more efficient check-in process and reduce time wasted waiting in lines throughout the airport. According to Passenger Terminal Today, “Fliers will no longer have to repetitively present boarding passes and passports at checkpoints such as immigration and VIP lounges, and boarding will take place much faster.” The proof of the impact of biometrics was in the pudding during a recent pilot program at Fraport Slovenija Airport in Ljubljana when “average boarding times were reduced by 75 per cent per passenger using biometric systems. In this pilot, passengers registered with a ‘selfie’ taken on a smartphone… and sharing data with airlines and airports only for the duration of the handling process and then relax, confident in the knowledge that the only place their data is held permanently is on their own device.”

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Yellow reusable glass water bottle being held under a water refill station spout
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Reusable water bottle refill stations

You cannot take your reusable bottle through security with water already in it, but once clear into the terminal, you will soon have plenty of opportunities to fill up in airports across the country as traditional water fountains—those stainless steel relics that no one wants to touch—are transformed into modern reusable bottle refill stations.

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Originally Published on Reader's Digest