Pittsburgh Airport getting a swank makeover

Pittsburgh International Airport is getting a $1.1 billion makeover that includes a new terminal with 51-gates, a modern check-in concourse and a new bag-claim system.

The pictures look so appealing that when the new terminal opens in 2023, they may have to seriously consider trading in the PIT airport code for something, well, prettier.

The new airport terminal will be built next to PIT’s current airside facility, between Concourses C and D, and is designed by award-winning architect Luis Vidal, who designed Heathrow Airport’s T2, and by San Francisco-based Gensler.

While some things may change as the project gets underway, airport officials say the new terminal building will have an emphasis on sustainability, with both indoor and outdoor green plazas and gathering spaces.

The new terminal brings together check-in, ticketing, security and baggage operations into one facility, with a separate level for departing and arriving passengers. There will also be an expanded TSA checkpoint, shorter walking distances and additional space for artwork, concessions and other amenities.

“This new terminal, inspired by the beauty, tech renaissance and people of our region will integrate seamlessly into the great design of the existing Airside Terminal,” said Airport Authority CEO Christina Cassotis. “In considering this design, we looked at function first, then form, to construct a building that will be both iconic, practical and affordable and that can be easily adapted as the technology and transportation needs of our community change.”

Let’s just hope PIT keeps the dinosaur, the Calder mobile, the shrine to Mister Rogers and the other amenities that make PIT a bit quirky and endearing.

(All photos courtesy of Pittsburgh International Airport)

World’s Best Airport: getting better


Proclaimed “World’s Best Airport” for five years in a row, Singapore’s Changi Airport is where you want to be if you’re ever going to be stuck at an airport.

There are shops, restaurants and attractions galore, but once the Jewel mixed-use complex gets built in the center of the airport, Changi will become even more of a destination all its own.

Scheduled to be completed in early 2019, Jewel will boast the world’s tallest indoor waterfall, a five-story garden filled with thousands of trees, plants, ferns and shrubs, a branch of the YOTEL hotel chain, shops, restaurants and a 164-foot-long Canopy Bridge with some glass flooring to offer great views of the waterfall and other attractions.

This week, we’ve learned that the attractions planned for Canopy Park (on level five) will include Sky Nets, Canopy Mazes, and Discovery Slides as well as well as an open play area called Foggy Bowls, where kids will get to wander through mists “as though walking among clouds.”




Photo Credits: Jewel Changi Airport Devt.

In progress: LAX new Midfield Satellite Concourse

You can’t say they’re not trying.

Ground has been broken phase one of the new Midfield Satellite Concourse (MSC) at Los Angeles International Airport.

When completed, sometime in late 2019, the $1.6-billion, five-level facility and an associated new baggage system will add 12 new gates, more amenities and greater flexibility for parking aircraft.

Designed as an extension of the Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT), the new 750,000-square-foot concourse will be located west of TBIT (the Tom Bradley International Terminal) and connected by a 1,000-foot-long underground pedestrian tunnel with moving walkways.  Buses will also be used to transport passengers between the concourse and other terminals.

Two of the new gates will accommodate the larger Airbus 380 and Boeing 747-8 jets, with the remaining 10 gates accommodating Boeing 777s and 787s, and the Airbus 330s and 350s.

Among a wide range of other new features, the new midfield terminal will be ‘smart’.

According to LAX, flight information displays will include scanners that allow passengers to receive personalized maps on their boarding passes.  Beacon technology will also be in place and will work with a new LAX app on smartphones to help passengers find their way around the concourse and find the concessions and amenities they are interested in – and to help LAX track how passengers use the concourse features.

And, looking forward, LAX says the concourse is being built with future technology enhancements in mind, including automated boarding gates that make use of biometrics, such as facial geometry, fingerprints or iris scanning for identification.

*All images courtesy Corgan in association with Gensler.

More on being old in an airport

Baskas had a tough time trying to lift a suitcase over the lip of the bag claim carousel while wearing an  'aging' suit

Here’s a bit more on my experience walking around Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in an ‘aging suit,’ with architects from Corgan as my guides.

The suit, developed in Germany and also referred to as a GERT (or Gerontological Test suit), is a collection of accessories that get attached to different areas of the body to temporarily add impairments that simulate being old – up to 30 years older than you are.

I wore spongy overshoes that made it hard to know when my feet were actually touching the floor; knee and elbow wraps, and a neck brace, to limit my movement and simulate joint stiffness; earmuffs to lower my hearing by about 10 dB; and blurred goggles to reduce my vision.

To make it even hard to walk around the airport, Michael Steiner, a senior associate at Corgan, added a heavy padded vest to my outfit, which brought the ensemble’s weight to somewhere around 30 pounds.

Wearing all that, I headed out into the terminal to experience being ‘old in an airport.’

The blurry goggles made it difficult to see which floor number to push in the elevator.
The spongy shoes made it difficult to know where I was stepping, especially when it came time to get on and off the escalator.

At baggage claim it was really difficult to lean over, grab my test suitcase and pull it up over the lip of the metal wall.

My walk through the airport was escorted, but in this age of “If you see something, say something,” here I was wearing a strange outfit that either made me look like I’d been an accident – or was out to hurt someone else – but no one approached me either to find out what I was up to – or to offer help.

True, I couldn’t quite see or hear other people with those decibel-reducing earmuffs and fuzzy goggles on, but that was exactly the point of putting the suit on in the first place, said Corgan’s Michael Steiner,

“An airport is an incredibly chaotic and busy place, even for someone who is perfectly healthy,” he said, “Take away some of the sensory inputs such as sight, hearing and mobility and couple those with a busy environment and you’ll get a different viewpoint of how someone decides to move through the space to get where they need to go.”

Or decides that they won’t bother to try to make their way through the airport at all.

Harriet Baskas wearing 30 pounds of 'aging suit' apparatus for test walk through SEA airport

(See my At the Airport column on this experience on USA TODAY)