Free Research Paper On Airports And Urban Growth

Type of paper: Research Paper

Topic: Airline, City, Airport, Development, Town, Infrastructure, Urbanization, Growth

Pages: 9

Words: 2475

Published: 2020/11/19


Many factors contribute to the growth or development in urban communities. Some of these factors include an increase in population. One of the reasons why communities shift from rural to urban is due to the population (Liu, 2008). When many people live, migrate or relocate to a community, business organizations view this as an opportunity to expand their consumer base. “Airports not only encourage visitors to the local region, but also enable local residents to holiday abroad” (Graham, 2013, p. 278). Consequently, private companies build businesses in these communities to take advantage of the existing market. Local governments, on the other hand, also allocate budget or public funds to the development of public agencies and infrastructure such as offices, health care centers, and roads among others to address the basic needs of the growing population. The conversion of land to urban spaces facilitate the transition of communities resulting from the rapid development of public and private institutions and infrastructure (Liu).
Another factor that contributes to urban growth is the influx of tourists (Rogerson and Visser, 2007). Tourism plays an important role in stimulating urban development in the community. A community that hosts or is expecting to hosts a large population of tourists similarly need to invest on infrastructure to meet the demands of tourists in terms basic utilities such as water, electricity and telecommunications, accommodations, and most importantly transportation, among others (Burns & Novelli, 2008). Transportation is essential in migration and tourism and since both human activities contribute to urban growth, a robust transportation system (e.g. airport system) also contributes to urban growth (Sheller, 2012).
Considering the foregoing discussion, we may conclude that aside from population and the influx of tourists, another factor that contributes to urban growth is the development of airports and a robust transport system in general. According to Keast, Baker, and Brown (2010), “Transport infrastructure and its service provision have played a part in the shaping of urban form Urban growth has continued to evolve from transport induced innovation” (p. 93). The development of the railway system during the 19th Century and the construction of major roads since the 18th Century were instrumental in shaping patterns of urban growth.
Overall, due technological innovation and further economic growth for the past decades, airports have become one of the major infrastructure networks that contribute to urban growth. The succeeding discussion focuses on the contributions of airports to urban growth. To extend the scope of research, the discussion also focuses on different kinds of airports as well as the advantages and disadvantages of airport development as a means to facilitate urban growth.

The Development of Airports

Airport development as a mechanism to facilitate growth in the urban areas may be labeled as ‘Airport City development’ (Schlaack, 2010, p. 113). Schlaack argued that the term illustrates how the construction of airports facilitate the transformation of a space or community to a city. In this section, the impact or outcomes of constructing airports will be explored along with the other aspects that may affect airport development.
Airport development in urban communities may be based on different models. According to Schlaack (2013), different concepts influence airport development. During planning and implementation, developers choose between various designs including the ‘airport city’, the ‘aerotropolis’, the ‘airport corridor’, and the ‘airport region’. The ‘airport city’ is an airport built near a city. The ‘airport city’ is “the area immediately surrounding the airport, which is predominantly marketed by the airport authorities themselves and characterized by an economically integrated development of airport and real estate” (Schlaack, 2013, p. 115). In the ‘airport city’, business development and the partnership between the airport and businesses in the city lead to economic and thus, urban growth. In the ‘aerotropolis’, the airport becomes the root or foundation of an emerging metropolis. Within 25 kilometers of an airport, the airport authorities will work with its partners and stakeholders to build businesses and invest on real estate in this area (Schlaack).
In the ‘airport corridor’, a path is in between the airport and the city or the metropolis. The ‘corridor’ or path between the airport and the metropolis is lined with business centers and homes. It is through the involvement of business organizations in the construction of investments around the airport that a metropolis forms (Schlaack, 2013). In the ‘airport region’, the airport is part of the metropolis or region and is connected to highways or freeways to the city. Businesses and real estate developments surround the airport and occupy the ‘corridor’ into the city (Schlaack).
The foregoing airport designs illustrate how urban communities benefit from airport development. Airports serve as gateways and they facilitate movement or human activity in cities or bring about the formation of a metropolis. Airports may be designed to target urban development in some areas through a strategic location near communities, facilitate growth through economic development by facilitating business development, and provide a ‘corridor’ or a path to cities or urban communities.

Airport and Infrastructure Development

The development of airports depend on the capacity of the state to build necessary infrastructure. According to Keast, Baker, and Brown (2010), “Many types of physical infrastructure should be in place to enable airports to meet their new dual roles of transportation hub and regional economic facilitator” (p. 92). Infrastructure include hard or physical and economic infrastructure. The development of airports depend on the physical installations that provide a solid and adequate space for the airport infrastructure. Other hard infrastructure include those that contribute to airport development. “These hard or economic infrastructures include large scale installations that connect and service commercial, industrial, residential and cultural nodes of the region” (Keast, Baker, and Brown, 2010, p. 92). Examples of commercial and industrial infrastructure that contribute to the proper functioning of airports include telecommunications, power or energy supply system, and freight or transportation services among others.

Airport Development and Urban Growth

In some countries, experts believe that the development of an airport is necessary to facilitate economic growth. Nepal is one of the many countries in the developing world that would benefit economically from the development of an airport that would host local and international flights. Nepal has a poor transportation infrastructure. As noted by Muzzini and Aparicio (2013), there are various constraints at Nepal’s airport, the Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) that causes delays and similar issues when it comes to transportation and travelling. The local government and various investors plan to capitalize on the growing interest in tourism. Nevertheless, one of the main challenges has been Nepal’s poor airport infrastructure. Muzzini and Aparicio said, “The constraints at Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) in Kathmandu constitute a major impediment to economic development, in particular tourism” (p. 69). Nepali government introduced airport upgrades throughout the years but these were inadequate in meeting tourists’ demand, particularly in accommodating the high volume of tourist activity in the country. Most tourists find the travel experience to Nepal problematic so much so that TIA was voted as one of top ten most disliked airports in the world (Muzzini & Aparicio). To address this issue, the local government is planning to build another international airport in a different district.
One of the palpable signs of urban growth is an increase in employment. Many people from rural communities even choose to move to urban spaces to pursue employment opportunities. Within this context, we may also relate airport development to urban growth because the former stimulates employment in the community. Sheard (2014) conducted a study to measure the effects of airport infrastructure on employment in metropolitan areas. According to Sheard, airports, particularly large-scale infrastructure stimulate employment in urban areas. Marchettini, Brebbia, Pulselli, and Bastianoni (2014) also discussed the contribution of airports to local economic development through increased employment. In Europe, Marchettini, Brebbia, Pulselli, and Bastianoni noted that airports employ about 160,000 thousand people. Furthermore, airports all over Europe contribute 59 billion Euro to the region’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). “The airports are not only employers and [sic] creating jobs, providing a variety of services that include spaces, but also operations in themselves that generate demand for new services and innovative solutions to business open” (Marchettini, Brebbia, Pulselli, & Bastiatoni, 2013, p. 946).
Nijkamp and Blaas (1994) also listed the contributions of airports to economic development. According to the authors, continued operations of airports lead to the development of an efficient airport network, contribute to local and foreign trade, revenue via tourism, and to employment.
Overall, airports contribute to economic growth because it supports other sectors that uphold the economy. Airports, for instance, facilitate logistics operations of business organizations. Businesses that import or outsource raw materials and other commodities for their customers need to negotiate with airports. “The indirect impact of [airport development] is related to the chain of suppliers of goods and services to the direct activities, which includes utilities and fuel suppliers, food and retail good suppliers and construction and cleaning companies” (Goetz & Budd, 2014, p. 95). Airports also provide employment for people in the aviation sector. Similarly, other sectors support airports.

Problems and Issues on Airport Development

In some instances, however, the development of airports become a hindrance to economic growth instead of facilitating urban development in the community. Problems may arise due to poor planning of airports, poor and inefficient management and maintenance, and the detrimental impact of overpopulation that may occur due to convenient transportation to and from urban communities. Other discussions illustrate the detrimental impact of airports on urban communities in terms of environmental sustainability. In some situations, the development of airports lead to a lower quality of life for urban residents, which is why some argue that airports may bring about short term economic growth but could potentially lead to economic decline in the long run.
Schlaack (2010) discussed some of the problems that may arise in airport development. Schlaack stressed that airport development for the purpose of stimulating urban growth “often take place in the absence of overarching planning concepts and with little to no participation of communal and regional stakeholders” (p. 113). The results of uncoordinated planning among stakeholders include poor maintenance, and therefore, inefficient means of handling airport operations and facilities. Poor planning and management leads to weak infrastructure, which would necessitate additional budget from the government or private owners to maintain and facilitate continuous operations. The latter would force the government to spend on airport maintenance, which would then reduce revenue and increase spending.
Poor planning also raise environmental issues that necessitate airport management’s attention. Airport operations may place people’s lives in the community at risk. Environmental issues that arise due to airport development include the deterioration of the quality of air, water and soil after the construction of the airport. In addition, airports produce extreme noise that could be hazardous not only to airport personnel but also to people and businesses in the community.
Another issue that threatens economic stability involves the market power of some airports. According to Forsyth (2009), the privatization of airports in some countries including Australia and New Zealand transfer market power to entrepreneurs. Essentially, privately-owned airports operate to gain revenue first and foremost, instead of looking after the interest of customers. Since private owners control airport operations, they may influence or dictate cost of travel as well as the transportation system. One disadvantage of privatization in airport development is that the government is stripped off the power to implement regulations to ensure and protect the safety, wellbeing, and interest of consumers. In Australia, the government attempted to address the problem by offering incentives based on performance of airports. In New Zealand, the government implemented a policy to regulate operations and pressure airports into maintaining satisfactory performance. Both strategies were ineffective in addressing the problem. Hence, airport development becomes a problem and a hindrance to economic growth when privatization allows owners to dictate cost. The consequence of which is the limitation of travel for both migrants and tourists due to the high cost of transportation. In this case, the policies imposed by private owners limit the contributions of airports to the local economy due to the former’s market power (Forsyth).


The foregoing discussion illustrates the important role or function of airports in facilitating urban growth. Essentially, airports stimulate growth in urban communities because it is linked to hard and economic infrastructures that bring about revenue and overall progress in the community. As formerly noted, airports, including other forms of transportation, make migration and tourism possible. Consequently, migration and tourism bring about infrastructure development both in the public and private sectors. Organizations in the private sector take advantage of the large consumer base in cities by establishing businesses in urban communities. Other organizations, especially in the hospitality and food service sectors, also build businesses to accommodate tourists.
On the other hand, the local government contributes to urban growth through the allocation of funds to finance infrastructure development projects to similarly provide for the needs of the growing community. Examples of infrastructure development projects include power and water systems, transportation, health care, socio-cultural spaces such as parks and zoos, and other public institutions. Both the private and public sectors also stimulate employment in urban communities, thereby, drawing the attention of more migrants in these spaces.
Overall, urban growth is cyclical in nature and airport development is part of that cycle. Airports provide a means to not only facilitate migration and tourism, but also the inflow and outflow of commodities into the city. Consequently, the latter outcomes stimulate growth in terms of infrastructure development in the public and private sector. Infrastructure development then leads to transportation development, which includes the creation of airports. Nevertheless, while airports contribute to urban growth by stimulating economic progress, some situations lead to the opposite outcome. Airport development also bring about risks and threats to the urban community. As formerly noted, some airport development plans do not undergo careful planning and as a result of collaborative effort among stakeholders. Poor planning and lack of coordination lead to airport designs that are inefficient. Poor planning and inefficient management and maintenance are also detrimental to environmental sustainability and financial stability. The privatization of airports is another problem that puts the welfare and interests of customers at risk due to the owners’ market power over cost and operations.
Considering the foregoing issues that relate to airport development, it is highly important that all institutions from both the public and private sectors work together to address the potential problems and existing risks and threats. Airports significantly contribute to local economic growth, as mentioned beforehand. Moreover, airports facilitate urban growth, which then lead to infrastructure development and an increase in employment rates in urban communities. For urban communities to benefit from all these positive outcomes and advantages, airports, with the help of public and private institutions should endeavor to observe sustainability in operations and practices, regulate the market power of private owners, and create efficient and meticulously-made plans to prevent errors in the design and structure of airports.


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Forsyth, P. (2009). Airport Policy in Australia and New Zealand. In Winston and de Rus’ Aviation Infrastructure Performance. Brookings Institute.
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Goetz, A. R. & Budd, L. (2014). The Geographies of Air Transport. Ashgate Publishing Ltd.
Keast, R. L., Baker, D. C. & Brown, K. (2010). Chapter 7: Sustainable Airport Infrastructure: Balancing Infrastructures for the Airport Metropolis. In Yigitcanlar’s Sustainable Urban and Regional Infrastructure Development: Technologies, Applications and Management: Technologies, Applications and Management. Hershey, PA: IGI Global.
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Sheard, N. (2014). Airports and Urban Sectoral Employment. Journal of Urban Economics, 80, pp. 133-152.
Sheller, M. (2012). Sustainable Mobility and Mobility Justice: Towards a Twin Transition. In Grieco and Urry’s Mobilities: New Perspectives on Transport and Society. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd.

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