International Airport

An international airport is an airport with customs and border control facilities enabling passengers to travel between countries. International airports are usually larger than domestic airports and often feature longer runways and facilities to accommodate the heavier aircraft commonly used for international and intercontinental travel. International airports often also host domestic flights.

Buildings, operations and management have become increasingly sophisticated since the mid 20th century, when international airports began to provide infrastructure for international civilian flights. Detailed technical standards have been developed to ensure safety and common coding systems implemented to provide global consistency. The physical structures that serve millions of individual passengers and flights are among the most complex and interconnected in the world. By the second decade of the 21st century, there were over 1,200 international airports and almost two billion international passengers along with 50 million metric tonnes of cargo were passing through them annually.

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The current trend of enhancing security at the cost of passenger and baggage handling efficiency at international airports is expected to continue in the future. This places financial burden on airports, risks the flow of servicing processes, and has implications for the privacy of passengers. International flights often require a higher level of physical security than do domestic airports, although in recent years, many countries have adopted the same level of security for both.

Most international airports feature a "sterile lounge", an area after security checkpoints within which passengers are free to move without further security checks. This area can have services such as duty-free shops that sell goods that have been selected and screened with safety in mind, so that purchasing and bringing them on board flights poses no security risks. In addition to employees, only processed passengers with a valid ticket are allowed inside the sterile lounge. Admittance into the sterile area is done in centralized security checkpoints in contrast to e.g. individual checkpoints at each gate. This allows for more efficient processing of passengers with fewer staff, as well as makes it possible to detect both delays and security threats well ahead of boarding.

To ensure the viability of airport operations, new and innovative security systems are being developed. For instance, the old security checkpoints can be replaced by a "total security area" encompassing an entire airport, coupled with automatic surveillance of passengers from the moment they enter the airport until they embark on a plane.

Passengers connecting to domestic flights from an international flight generally must take their checked luggage through customs and re-check their luggage at the domestic airline counter, requiring extra time in the process. In some cases in Europe, luggage can be transferred to the final destination even if it is a domestic connection.

In some cases, travelers and the aircraft can clear customs and immigration at the departure airport. An example of this would be that some airports in Canada, Ireland, and the United Kingdom, along with several other countries, have United States border preclearance facilities. This allows flights from those airports to fly into US airports that do not have customs and immigration facilities. Luggage from such flights can also be transferred to a final destination in the U.S. through the airport of entry.

Written by Tracie Cruz on in Misc