Airport design can improve travelling experience

Long view of the inside of an airport building.Whether people fly once or twenty times a year, their stress levels are similar. And familiarity with airports does not reduce stress. Many other factors add to increase tension and negative responses. Travel excitement can easily become travel stress. Long waits in security lines, and getting lost in the terminal are just two stress factors. But airport design can improve the travelling experience. 

Some airports are improving their services for people with a range of disabilities, but some stressors are common to everyone. Airport design has a major role to play in reducing stress levels for travellers. A research study looked at how stress levels are affected by different scenarios within the airport, and what conditions help alleviate this stress. More importantly, what design features create or alleviated stress.

The study found that security screening was the most stressful. Stress reducers were found to be additional seating, art, signage and access to live greenery. Ready availability of charging points for laptops and phones and more personal space also help to reduce stress.

Improving the Air Travelers Experience Through Airport Design is a thesis that has a lot more detail on airport design including security screening, wayfinding, use of colour and visual information. Most people are able to deal with the stressors of air travel, but for those who can’t, improved design elements might make air travel possible. 


The purpose of this research is to understand what aesthetic and spatial conditions contribute to a passenger’s stress within an airport terminal. The atmosphere of the airport terminal typically promotes stress, increased tension, and negative emotional responses for the many millions of airport travelers. As Symonds (2012) states, “airports can be highly emotive places.” Air travel excitement can easily be replaced with high-stress levels the moment it looks as though one’s flight may be canceled, one may be running late for a flight due to a long security line, or one gets lost in the terminal due to poor directional signage. Although the recent coronavirus pandemic has temporarily caused a drastic reduction in air travel, it is expected that air travel will again reach its prior level of use when the pandemic subsides. Therefore, it is important to examine the relationship between airport design and its impact on the emotional experiences of air travelers. This research aims to understand (1) how stress levels are affected by various scenarios within the airport and (2) what conditions and features help to alleviate stress within the airport. To what extent can airport terminal design reduce stress among all travelers? More specifically, what design features within airport terminals have either a positive or negative impact on traveler stress? Multiple methods of gathering information included a literature review on airport terminal design, and related research on design elements that increase or reduce an individual’s stress level. Complementing the literature review was a survey completed by 88 air travelers, a focus group of six design experts, as well as previous information gathered through an interview pilot study of 42 air travelers. The survey of air travelers found that various areas within airport terminals had differential effects on stress levels. The most stressful area was the security checkpoint. Other design aspects such as additional seating, access to visual information, and access to live greenery resulted in stress reduction. Additionally, in contrast to an initial hypothesis, there were no differences in experienced stress between travelers who traveled less than 10 times/year and those who traveled more frequently (10+times/year). This suggests that universal design solutions addressing stress should be helpful to all travelers. The findings from this research resulted in design recommendations for improved security checkpoints as well as recommendations for the isUD certification program (innovative solutions for Universal Design) to improve the airport experience for all air travelers.