13 Different Types of Airports Explained

Different Types of Airports
Photo by dmncwndrlch on Pixabay

Air travel has been around for quite some time, and airports are essential to the experience.

Regarding air travel, there are many different types of airports worldwide.

Each airport has unique characteristics and services, from bustling international hubs to small regional airstrips. 

Airports are essential infrastructure for our society, allowing us to travel worldwide in record time.

But did you know that there are different types of airports? From international hubs to small regional airports, each serves a different purpose and offers a unique travel experience.

This post will explore the 13 different types of airports, what makes them unique, and what travelers can expect when flying to and from each type.

1. International Airports

International Airports
by Sergey Vladimirov is licensed under CC BY 2.0

International airports are some of the busiest airports in the world and play a significant role in connecting people across the globe.

They handle international flights and have customs and immigration facilities to allow passengers to clear customs and passport control.

Some international airports include Dubai International Airport, Heathrow Airport, and John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Different types of international airports include hub airports, focus city airports, and gateway airports.

Hub airports are airports where airlines operate as their primary hub, connecting passengers from different destinations to their network of flights.

Focus city airports are airports where airlines operate flights to destinations not served by their main hub.

Gateway airports, on the other hand, serve as the entry and exit points for passengers entering and leaving a country.

International airports offer various services, from duty-free shops to lounges and restaurants.

They also have a range of security measures in place, including security checks and baggage screening, to ensure the safety of passengers.

In addition to passenger traffic, international airports also handle cargo shipments, making them a crucial link in the global supply chain.

Whether traveling for business or pleasure, international airports are an important part of the travel experience.

Choosing the right airport for your needs is important with so many different types of airports.

There’s a perfect airport for everyone, from large hub airports to smaller regional airports.

2. Primary Commercial Service Airport

One of the most common types of airports you may encounter is the Primary Commercial Service Airport.

These airports handle a high volume of passenger traffic and typically have numerous commercial airlines operating. 

They are generally equipped with large runways, modern terminal buildings, and various support facilities to cater to the needs of travelers.

Examples of these airports include John F. Kennedy International Airport, London Heathrow Airport, and Beijing Capital International Airport.

As one of the busiest types of airports, the Primary Commercial Service Airport plays a crucial role in the global aviation industry.

They facilitate domestic and international travel, connecting people and businesses worldwide.

Airlines operate from these airports using a variety of aircraft, ranging from small regional jets to wide-body long-haul aircraft like the Boeing 777 or Airbus A380.

Despite the high traffic volume, Primary Commercial Service Airports strive to provide passengers with a smooth and comfortable travel experience.

They offer services such as shops, restaurants, and lounges to ensure travelers are comfortable before, during, and after their flights. 

Additionally, airports of this type employ highly trained professionals responsible for ensuring safety and security in and around the airport.

Overall, the Primary Commercial Service Airport is just one of the many different types of airports you may encounter while traveling.

While each type serves a different purpose, they all play a critical role in the global aviation industry and contribute to the world becoming more interconnected.

3. Non-Primary Commercial Service Airports

Regarding different types of airports, non-primary commercial service airports connect smaller communities to larger hubs.

These airports typically handle less traffic than their primary commercial counterparts but still provide essential transportation services to both passengers and cargo. 

Non-primary commercial service airports may offer a range of amenities such as restaurants, rental car services, and airport lounges.

Still, they generally need more international routes and a high frequency of flights than primary commercial airports have.

Instead, non-primary commercial airports are critical in the regional transportation network, connecting smaller cities and towns to major metropolitan areas.

One example of a non-primary commercial airport is the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport in New Hampshire, which serves as a hub for several airlines and provides direct flights to popular destinations such as Las Vegas and Orlando.

Other non-primary commercial service airports include Long Beach Airport in California, Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport in Georgia, and Akron-Canton Airport in Ohio.

Despite handling less traffic, non-primary commercial airports play a crucial role in maintaining regional connectivity and providing essential transportation services to a diverse range of passengers and cargo.

Whether traveling to a small town for business or visiting family in a remote location, non-primary commercial service airports are an important part of the global transportation network.

4. Cargo Service Airports

Cargo Service Airports
by manhhai is licensed under CC BY 2.0

When most people think of airports, they probably imagine busy terminals full of people waiting to board their flights.

However, there are many different types of airports, including cargo service airports.

These airports are designed to handle transporting goods and packages rather than passengers.

They may be located near major shipping centers or have extensive facilities for loading and unloading cargo.

Cargo service airports are often crucial for businesses that need to move goods quickly and efficiently across long distances.

They may be operated by major logistics companies or by individual businesses themselves.

One of the biggest differences between cargo services and other airports is their equipment.

These airports typically have specialized machinery for loading and unloading cargo, such as forklifts, cranes, and conveyor belts.

They may also have specialized storage facilities for goods that must be kept at specific temperatures or conditions.

While cargo service airports may not be as glamorous or exciting as their passenger-focused counterparts, they play a crucial role in keeping our economy running smoothly.

They ensure that businesses can move goods quickly and efficiently, which helps to keep costs down and keep the supply chain moving.

So next time you see a cargo plane taking off or landing at an airport, remember there are many different types of airports, each serving a unique and important purpose.

5. Regional Airports

As the name suggests, regional airports are smaller airports that primarily serve the air transportation needs of a specific geographic region.

These airports connect smaller cities and towns with larger cities and hubs.

They often have limited facilities and are mainly used by regional airlines. 

Different Types of Airports are within the category of regional airports, such as hub and spoke airports.

Hub airports are a central point for connecting flights, while spoke airports provide feeder services to larger airports.

Some regional airports may also have international connections but primarily focus on domestic flights.

The advantages of regional airports are that they are often less crowded and more convenient for passengers.

They also provide significant economic benefits to the regions they serve by promoting tourism, attracting businesses, and improving access to goods and services.

Overall, regional airports play an important role in air transportation and are essential for connecting smaller cities and towns with larger transportation hubs.

They may be less well-known than international airports, but they provide valuable services to local communities and businesses.

6. Seaplane Base Airports

Seaplane Base Airports
by craigemorsels is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

While seaplane base airports may not be as common as other airports, they still serve a very important purpose for travelers and businesses.

As their name suggests, seaplane base airports cater to seaplanes and amphibious aircraft that take off and land on water instead of traditional runways. 

Seaplane base airports are often found in remote areas or coastal regions where waterways are a common form of transportation.

In some cases, they may serve as a primary means of transportation for residents and tourists alike.

Some seaplane base airports may also offer scenic tours or sightseeing flights for visitors looking for a unique experience. 

As with any airport, seaplane base airports are regulated and maintained by aviation authorities.

However, the unique challenges of seaplane travel mean that these airports require specialized facilities and equipment.

For example, seaplane base airports must have docks or piers that allow for easy access to the water, as well as hangars or storage areas for aircraft when not in use. 

Seaplane base airports may not be the most common type, but they play an important role in transportation and tourism.

These different types of airports offer travelers and businesses a unique way to access remote locations and provide an exciting and memorable experience for those looking to take to the skies (or the water) differently.

7. National Airports

National airports are the largest and most well-known airports in a country.

They usually serve as the main hub for major airlines and provide a range of services and amenities, such as shopping, dining, and accommodations.

These airports can handle many passengers and flights daily and have multiple runways and terminals. 

In the United States, the busiest national airport is Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, which sees over 100 million passengers annually.

Other well-known national airports worldwide include London Heathrow Airport, Beijing Capital International Airport, and Dubai International Airport.

National airports play a crucial role in a country’s transportation infrastructure and contribute to its economic growth by facilitating business and tourism.

They are often heavily regulated and require extensive security measures due to their high passenger volumes and importance to the nation’s transportation network.

Overall, national airports offer convenience and accessibility that make air travel accessible to millions of people each year.

Whether you’re jetting off to a new destination or returning home from a trip, national airports offer a seamless travel experience and are a key component of modern air travel.

8. General Aviation Airports

One of the different types of airports is the General Aviation Airport, which caters to smaller aircraft and private pilots.

These airports may not have commercial flights but are essential for personal and business aviation purposes. 

General Aviation Airports are often used for training, emergency services, and corporate flights.

These airports can range from small landing strips to larger airports that offer amenities such as fuel, hangar space, and maintenance services. 

Due to the smaller size of the aircraft that use these airports, the runway length and overall infrastructure can be less extensive than in commercial airports. However, they are still subject to FAA regulations and safety guidelines. 

Some examples of General Aviation Airports include small municipal, regional, and private airports.

These airports are crucial in the aviation industry, and many private pilots and enthusiasts frequent them. 

In summary, while General Aviation Airports may not be as well-known or utilized as commercial airports, they play an important role in the aviation industry and offer a unique experience for those interested in smaller aircraft and private aviation.

9. Heliport Airport

Heliport Airport
by Tommy Japan 79 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Another type of airport you may encounter is a heliport airport. These airports are designed specifically for helicopters to take off and land.

They are often found in urban areas or on offshore oil platforms.

Unlike other airports, heliport airports typically do not have runways or taxiways. Instead, they have a designated landing pad or area for helicopters.

These airports are often used for emergency services, such as medical transport or search and rescue operations.

Private individuals or companies also use heliport airports for business travel. They offer a quick and convenient way to travel within a city or between nearby locations.

Overall, heliport airports are just one of the different types of airports. While they may not be as well-known as other airports, they are important in providing efficient and effective helicopter air travel.

10. Local Airports

Local or regional airports serve a smaller catchment area than larger international airports. These airports often cater to short-haul flights connecting nearby cities or towns. 

Local airports are crucial for boosting the economies of smaller towns and cities by providing convenient air transport access. Passengers can bypass larger, busier airports and save on travel time and costs. 

Additionally, business travelers often prefer local airports, offering faster check-ins, shorter security lines, and reduced wait times.

They also offer the convenience of shorter driving distances and more convenient parking options, saving valuable time for those in a rush.

While local airports may offer different services and amenities than international airports, they still provide basic facilities like passenger lounges, retail outlets, and food options.

11. Domestic Airports

Domestic airports are those that operate within the same country. They are typically used for commercial flights within the country’s borders.

These airports play a vital role in connecting different regions within a country and boosting the local economy by facilitating the movement of people and goods.

Domestic airports usually have many flights and airlines operating from them. They also have a higher frequency of flights, which means more options for travelers.

The facilities available at domestic airports may vary depending on the location, but most have amenities like restaurants, shopping outlets, and passenger transportation options.

In addition to commercial flights, domestic airports cater to private and business aviation.

These different types of airports have a separate terminal or section for private planes, allowing travelers to bypass the commercial terminal and access services that cater to their needs.

Examples of domestic airports in the United States include Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Chicago O’Hare International Airport, and Los Angeles International Airport.

Overall, domestic airports serve a critical role in connecting cities and regions within a country, facilitating travel and trade, and contributing to the growth of the local economy.

12. Reliever Airports

Reliever airports are a type of airport that provides congestion relief to larger airports.

These airports are designed to handle significant traffic, especially during peak travel periods.

Typically, reliever airports are located within 20 to 25 miles of a larger airport, which enables them to handle smaller private planes and general aviation aircraft. 

In addition to relieving congestion, these airports can provide access to important business and tourist destinations.

They may also serve as important training grounds for student pilots, who can practice takeoffs and landings in a less crowded environment.

Reliever airports may also be used for emergency medical transport and firefighting operations.

One of the benefits of reliever airports is that they provide access to smaller and more remote destinations that might not be accessible from larger airports.

Additionally, these airports often offer more affordable rates for aircraft parking and landing fees compared to larger airports.

Overall, reliever airports support general aviation and provide critical transportation services to commercial and private travelers.

They serve as a vital link in the national transportation network and help keep the skies safe and efficient for all types of air traffic.

13. Military Airports

Military airports, also known as air force bases, are owned and operated by military organizations, such as the United States Air Force.

These different types of airports are typically used for military purposes, including air support, training exercises, and military personnel and equipment transport.

While the military primarily uses these airports, some may also have commercial flights.

One example of a military airport is the Ramstein Air Base in Germany, the largest US Air Force base outside the United States.

It is home to approximately 54,000 people, including military personnel, civilians, and their families.

The base is a hub for military operations throughout Europe and the Middle East.

Military airports often have strict security protocols, restricted access, and extensive screening measures.

This is to ensure the safety of military personnel and prevent unauthorized access to sensitive equipment and information.

While military airports may not be accessible to the general public, they play a crucial role in national security and defense.

They provide an important transportation infrastructure for the military and serve as a strategic location for national defense and emergency response.


As we’ve explored, many different types of airports cater to different needs.

Whether you’re flying for business or pleasure, it’s important to understand what kind of airport you’ll be traveling through so that you can plan accordingly. 

From cargo service airports specializing in transporting goods to regional airports serving smaller communities and military and private airports with unique regulations and restrictions, each type of airport plays a crucial role in the world of aviation.

Next time you’re booking a flight or visiting an airport, take a moment to appreciate the diversity and complexity of the aviation industry and the vital role that different types of airports play in keeping us all connected and moving forward.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like