Airports, airlines, and, yes, even the Transportation Security Administration want your journey to be as stress-free as possible. That’s why modern airports are quick to adopt new amenities and test new technology. From sleeping pods to spaceports, here’s what’s in store.

1. Smart(er) security lanes
Time-saving, stress-busting “smart” security checkpoints will be universal. Improved technology speeds up the bin-loading process and allows security officers to scan carry-ons and find prohibited items more quickly.

2. In-airport delivery
Food and merchandise comes to you, wherever you are in the airport. Newark Liberty International Airport’s tablet-centered ordering and self-checkout lanes are widespread, and at the Baltimore-Washington International Airport and San Diego International Airport, app-powered services such as Airport Sherpa and At Your Gate let you shop from your phone and have your purchases (food and goods) delivered to you.

Facial scans will soon make airport travel more efficient.

3. Your face is your ticket
Get ready for “single token travel,” when one facial scan and an initial look at your passport will be all that’s needed to check bags, pass through security checkpoints, board flights, and breeze through immigration on arrival.

Radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags and monitoring apps to track bags are ensuring fewer lost bags at the airport.

4. Where’s my bag?
Lost luggage is a bummer. But more bags arrive as promised thanks to the industry-wide resolution to employ tools such as radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags and monitoring apps to track bags from the time they’re accepted at the airport to the time they’re delivered at baggage claim.

5. Landing lights⎯for passengers
High-tech lighting systems guide travelers to open spaces in giant airport parking garages and help homeward-bound passengers find their cars. Airport restrooms are getting more high-tech too, with occupied/unoccupied signals outside stalls and technology that alerts maintenance teams to lavs that need cleaning.
More airports will be embracing digital currency as its popularity rises.

6. Count on cryptocurrency
Australia’s Brisbane International Airport led the way by letting travelers pay for purchases with cryptocurrency. Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport followed with kiosks that exchange foreign currency for bitcoin. Count on airports, the first and last stops for international visitors, to embrace digital currency as its popularity rises.
Short-stay sleeping pods and microhotels offer weary passengers rests inside airport terminals.

7. A nap or a night at the airport
Short-stay cocoon sleeping pods and microhotels from the likes of Minute Suites, Sleepbox Hotel, and Yotel offer weary passengers recharging rests inside terminals. For longer stays, look for more full-size airport-adjacent hotels, such as the InterContinental at Minneapolis−St. Paul Airport, opened in July, and the TWA Hotel at JFK International, due in 2019.

8. Airports become neighborhoods
No longer “just” transportation nodes, airports are branching out with full-service grocery stores, medical facilities, movie theaters, and entertainment centers. In South Korea, the observation deck at Incheon Airport’s new Terminal 2 offers virtual reality experiences, and at Singapore’s Changi Airport, the 10-story Jewel complex (opening in 2019) promises the world’s tallest indoor waterfall.



9. The rise of robots
Multilingual robots offer directions, answer questions, and entertain travelers. Trashbots sort recyclables as passengers discard them, and other airport robots transport luggage, keep floors clean, scan for trouble, and guide passengers to amenities and gates.

10. Cue the car rental
Silvercar, an Audi-only, app-driven car rental service, and car-sharing services such as Turo that deliver cars to renters, already let you skip the traditional rental counter. Up next: autonomous cars and, someday, “flying taxis”—passenger drones that arrive at “sky ports” when you do.

article continues below ad
In the future, some airports plan to double as spaceports.

11. Go to Miami⎯or Mars
As space travel and space tourism move closer to reality, some airports plan to double as spaceports, so travelers can cross an ocean or head out of this world.

>> Next: 6 Airports Where a Layover Can Become a Mini-Vacation