The Airport Terminals, Concourses And Gates ( What is the Difference? )

Some airports are designed like jigsaw puzzles, hard to navigate and even know what each sign means; and if it isn’t along ago that you heard about terms like concourse, gates, terminals and runways or you think the gates and concourses are the same thing?

Don’t worry .

I can still recall the first time I heard the word concourse I was startled because i never heard about it.

So that is why exactly I baked this post, to explain the differences between airport areas, terminals, gates, concourses and runways, so the moment you get to any airport you are already know where to go.

Sounds good?

Let’s dive right in. 

Starting with a simple demonstration of the airport areas.

What Is An Airport Terminal?

Airport terminal, concourses and gates

A terminal is a part of an airport and a group of concourses and gates.

It starts from the building you enter, where you will get your boarding pass ( if you did not check in online ), tag your bags and drop them, and go through the security checkpoint.

Some small regional airports they could have one terminal, but some airports are like small cities, they need to split and organize everything, and they could have up to 6 or more terminals.

For example Istanbul airport has one terminal, the New York JFK has six terminals and London Heathrow has five.

The terminals may be separated by a 20 to 10 minute drive, some airports offer free terminal transfer bus or train. 

Each terminal with its own passenger facilities and amenities, shops, lounges and restaurants, so passengers won’t need to go for long walks looking for a specific area.

Also travelers can determine easily which part of the airport they will find their concourse and gate.

But what are the concourses and the gates?

What Is An Airport Concourse?

group of people inside building
Photo by Riccardo on

Now as you know that the terminal is a side of the airport (or a small airport by its own).

The concourse on the other hand is a specific area in the terminal, where the gates are located.

Each terminal is separated into multiple concourses, the reason why the airports are split into multiple concourses is to have multiple gates and have many airplanes in one time, also used to connect the airplane with the gate, in most airports passengers do not have to use the airport shuttle bus.

What Is An Airport Gate?

man waiting for flight in airport gate
Photo by Kaique Rocha on

The gate is the area where you can wait and relax until it is time to board the airplane.

Most of the time gates opens only 30 minutes before a scheduled flight, and in order to get to the gate you will need to find in which concourse it is located first.

Let’s describe it this way.

It is like a funnel; everything is connected.

If you are in a giant airport you will need to make sure that you are in the right terminal first before you look to the concourse and the gate.

The airport signs will look something like this.

Terminal 1, Terminal 2.

Concourse A, Concourse  B, Concourse C.

Gate A1-> A55, Gate B55-> A101, Gate A101 -> C156.

Let’s assume that your boarding gate is B68, you will need to head to terminal 1 and find concourse B and then gate B68.

While the specifications of each gate differs from one airport to another, most gates are provided with seating areas where passengers can stay, relax until the boarding time is arrived.

But in general the gate is the last area you will leave in the airport before departing, and you go through a tunnel or a bridge and sometimes you can leave on a bus.

If you have a long time to wait at the boarding gate, you can do many things shop, eat, relax, and watch airplanes.

If you have a long time to wait at the airport, you can do many things, explore the area, shop, eat, relax, and watch the airplanes.

Tip: Check out this Travelpro Platinum Elite 21” Carry-On Spinner, a sleek and versatile carry-on that is designed to fit within the limits of most airlines, to save you from the hassle of the airports and the pesky airline fees.

What Is An Airport Runway?

white and black road sign on green grass field
Photo by Darli Donizete on

A runway is a rectangular area that refers to where the airplanes take off and land, even though runways are different with their own specifications.

There are multiple runways, and they are connected with the concourses with a taxiway, pilots follow the signs and with the help of the air traffic control until they get to the right runway to take off.

There are many variations of runways.

  • Single runway
  • Parallel runways
  • Open-V runways
  • Intersecting runways

Related: Here Is 08 Types Of Luggage Pilots And Flight Attendants Use

Final Thoughts

Airports are split into multiple areas, like terminals, gates, concourses, and runways, some prefer to refer to them as airside and landside.

If this is your first time hearing about these terms, you don’t need to figure everything out at first, you can always ask the airport staff and follow the signs until you get to your airline check in counter and they will help you until you get to the gate.

Make sure that you check your itinerary carefully, or contact your airline before heading to the airport, to make sure you go to the right terminal, as a some airlines operate from more than one terminal.

So ensure that you always get to the airport as early as possible.

I hope this was helpful.

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