Photo Credit: Rich Taylor Photography

Leading airports around the world are investing in cutting-edge audiovisual technologies to improve the passenger experience, present digital graphics and videos, increase advertising revenue opportunities and improve wayfinding. In summer 2018, Charlotte Douglas International Airport in North Carolina upped the ante with its new Concourse A, which features three massive LED displays, the largest of which measures 140 feet wide by 10 feet tall, filling an entire walkway.

The airport introduced the displays in coordination with renowned digital artist Refik Anadol, who brought his unique vision of “data sculptures” to life, merging art, data science and audiovisual technology for the delight of airport visitors. All three displays captivate visitors with digital graphics that constantly evolve throughout the day as the airport’s data flow changes.The main display is visible from both inside and outside the terminal in one of the airport’s most brightly lit areas, which requires advanced LED technology to outshine the sun and run efficiently 24 hours out of the day.

“The largest display runs down a big part of the new Concourse A, which has windows lining the other side so it can be seen by people driving past,as well as walking up to the airport from the outside,” says Marcus Mitchell, Program Director for the City of Charlotte’s Arts and Science Council, whom oversaw this project.“The fact that the displays provide such a high-definition image viewed up close, as well as the brightness to be seen outside by people in cars whizzing by, provided us with the greatest possible impact.”

While some audiovisual installations are intended to be artistic or playful, others are used for practical applications such as generating non-aeronautical revenue. Heathrow Airport in London partnered with Financial Times magazine to install digital billboards that deliver targeted ads to passengers traveling to six pre-selected U.S. cities,reaching a captive audience with valuable targeted advertising.

“Airport advertising creates significant brand awareness and sales by helping advertisers reach highly coveted audiences such as the affluent frequent flyer and the key business decision makers around the world,” says Morten Gotterup,President of Clear Channel Airports.

Other leading airports leverage varying forms of digital wayfinding to communicate a sense of place and direction within the airport. At JFK International Airport’s JetBlue terminal, glowing blue walls not only provide guests with a branded experience, but they also guide passengers to key activity points and urge them down long hallways or up stacked escalators.

San Diego International Airport features The Journey, an audiovisual art installation composed of 38,000 suspended LED pendants that stretch 700 feet down the terminal’s ceiling. Beyond being a visual spectacle, the art installation also serves a functional purpose: to open up the terminal space, provide a sense of place, and guide passengers from the main hall to their gates.

Video and lighting displays may be the most visible and attention-grabbing technology for visitors,but directional audio is also proving to be a valuable tool for airports.At Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, speakers at the beginning of the security line play music, while speakers closer to the checkpoint broadcast instructions. According to airport officials, passengers are better prepared and less stressed during the security process and TSA agents are no longer required to yell instructions repeatedly — a win-win for travelers and TSA employees.

The airport experience is more technologically connected than ever,and with the help of modern audiovisual installations, airports will continue to bring delight and wonder to their visitors while increasing revenue opportunities and improving traffic flow with more accessible wayfinding and airport information.