Sep 14, 2022 - Technology

Welcome to the country's most high-tech airport terminal

Orlando International Airport's new Terminal C.
Photo courtesy of Orlando International Airport

High-speed, automated checkpoints. Robotic bag storage. Biometric boarding. When Orlando International Airport's new $2.8 billion Terminal C opens to passengers next week, it'll offer one of the country's most tech-forward airport experiences.

Why it matters: Anyone who suffered through the summer of air travel hell knows that anything that can be done to make airports a better place to spend some time is very welcome.

Driving the news: Passengers flying with JetBlue, Breeze, Aer Lingus and other airlines will use Orlando's new Terminal C, which is set to open on Sept. 20. Designed by Fentress Architects (which also did Denver International, Incheon International and more) and HNTB, Terminal C is packed with the latest in airport passenger tech, including:

  • Automated Transportation Security Agency lanes, which expedite the screening process in part by feeding empty bins from the end of the lane to the front for queued-up passengers.
  • A robotic bag storage system allowing travelers to store their luggage ahead of their flight and explore the airport unencumbered, with room for more than 1,700 bags.
  • An RFID system that uses radio frequencies to track passengers' checked bags to prevent lost luggage.
  • Facial recognition for boarding international flights, eliminating that last-second where's-my-passport scramble.

There are amenities aplenty for travelers looking to kill some time too:

  • There's the "Moment Vault," a digital art display from studio Gentilhomme with three massive 32-foot-tall screens where viewers can "interact" with sea life, watch a rocket launch and more.
  • Each terminal seat has a pair of USB ports, plus a 120v outlet for charging electronics.
  • There's a nursing station, "serenity room" and pet relief areas — all of which are table stakes for new terminals these days.

And there's behind-the-scenes tech too, like "virtual ramp control," which uses cameras and sensors to make it easier for controllers to see which gates are open, with the goal of reducing waiting-for-gate delays.

What they're saying: Orlando is a departure- and final stop-heavy airport rather than a connecting hub, says CEO Kevin Thibault, and Terminal C was designed with that in mind.

  • "We're looking at, what are those amenities that we need to provide for our business travelers, as well as those that are leisure travelers but are residents. They are not going to go to the Disney Store, for example, or the SeaWorld Store because they live here."

Yes, but: Fancy, comfortable airports can make air travel a little smoother, but they can't solve problems like staffing issues that led to this past summer's chaos.

The big picture: Airports around the country are getting big upgrades — New York's LaGuardia just got a major revamp, and similar projects are underway at Newark Liberty, Denver International and others.

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