What is a fun-sized airport?
Updated April 08, 2019 by CJ
Air travel is supposed to be enjoyable. You are not stagnating; you are moving, and moving is living. Why then do we worry about the traffic to the airport, or the length of the security line, or how far away our gate is? Some of these worries can be bought away with an upper-class ticket, however there’s another advantage that’s a little more accessible to the masses: Fun-sized airports!
What is a fun-sized airport?
Fun-sized is our preferred name for what others call a regional airport. It’s a low capacity, low complexity airport that conveniently serves a nearby town. A low number of flights means the airport can be located more conveniently (less noise restrictions). Those flights are also typically served by smaller planes - this means less passengers and less queues.
How airlines use them
Either as part of a hub and spoke, or in a point to point model.
In hub and spoke, airlines will use the smaller airport to feed their larger routes. When flying point to point, the airline will connect small fun-sized airports with other fun-sized airports.
Flybe is an example of an airline that appears to be transitioning from one to the other. Prior to its purchase, it operated point to point flights (e.g. Southampton to Newcastle). One of the factors in Virgin’s decision to acquire the company was so that Flybe flights could feed Virgin’s routes.
Facilities aren’t typically as abundant at fun-sized airports. A minimal approach is usually taken with few having more than:
- Airline counters and security (the necessities),
- A single cafe and/or bar,
- An airline lounge (usually operated by a third party).
Fun-sized airports are usually well connected and accessible with features such as cheap parking, bus stops, or train stations. The low number of passengers and flights means that transport often isn’t congested.
Why do we love them?
At a large airport, your time is eaten up by contingency:
- What is the average travel time to the airport, what if traffic is bad?
- What is the average time to clear security/immigration, what if there’s a lot of people?
- How far is my gate, what if it’s at the end?
Large airports often have a great amount of variability in these factors and more. Due to the significant consequences of missing a flight, planning often has to tend towards the worst case rather than the average. Samll airports reduce all these factors and give you back a lot of that time.
There are some large airports that get it right though: Hong Kong’s Chek Lap Kok and Singapore’s Changi should be examples to the world on how to ensure a smooth experience from city to plane.
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