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Airports are investing billions to protect against an increasing threat — here’s what it means for travelers

Nobody likes travel disruptions.

Nobody likes travel disruptions.

Photo Credit: iStock

Our overheating planet is forcing airports to undergo major logistical changes.

What’s happening?

Across the world, airports are implementing significant design changes thanks to more frequent severe weather. 

John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York, for example, is now investing $19 billion in renovations that will help protect the airport from flooding and major storms, according to Bloomberg

Meanwhile, European airports are preparing for higher temperatures on runways as well as indoors, and melting permafrost is forcing Alaskan airports to fortify their runways.

Why is this important?

Unprecedented weather-related issues at airports worldwide are necessitating major investment in new infrastructure. 

As our planet continues to overheat, extreme weather events are becoming more common, from flash floods that drench runways in water (like a severe storm in Frankfurt that grounded numerous planes this summer) to heat waves that disrupt vital electronic systems that keep airplanes in the air. 

As long as global temperatures continue to rise, the weather will become more volatile around the world, drastically impacting the way we live our lives, including in the travel sector.

What’s being done to make airports safer?

As previously mentioned, airports are investing billions of dollars worldwide to ensure operations can continue as smoothly as possible, even in the increasingly frequent event of major weather disruptions. 

According to Bloomberg, recovering from the pandemic slowdown in air travel has provided a new urgency for airports to fast-track redesigns.

Some airports are improving their capacity to cool runways and indoor spaces. In contrast, others are being redesigned to withstand major storms and flooding events, with slanted runways to allow for water to run off and deployable barriers to protect structures from flash floods. 

And other airports are investing in methods of insulating permafrost to reduce melting, which can damage pavement on the runway and tarmac. 

Some airports are undergoing exciting changes that aren’t just intended to protect them from extreme weather, but to slow the planet’s overheating in the first place. 

For instance, the Dulles International Airport is underway with a $200 million clean energy project, while the Tampa International Airport is experimenting with electric vertical takeoffs for travel to and from the airport. The Dallas Love Field Airport, on the other hand, is working on using takeoff gusts to help power electric vehicles.

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