Food For Thought Series: The Future of Airports

Tuesday, March 1, 2016 | Cindy Tsai


Dr. John Kasarda shares his Aerotropolis model with UNC Kenan-Flagler students.

The Kenan Institute’s Food for Thought series continued at the start of this year with a number of thought-provoking presentations and discussions. One recent installment of the lunch series was with John Kasarda, Director of the Center for Air Commerce at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School.

Dr. John Kasarda

Kasarda’s presentation took an in-depth look at a topic that not many of us have considered: the aerotropolis, a city that is built around and for an airport. The development takes place in reverse fashion of what we are typically accustomed to; first an airport is built, and then a city is built around it.

Kasarda posed to the group that the aerotropolis be thought of as a business concept, a way to enhance the competitiveness of local areas through air connectivity. The airport has the ability to bring sustainable development to locations that did not previously have that capability.

Kasarda’s work, in which he deems airports as “the routers of aviation’s physical internet,” has been recognized by TIME Magazine as one of the 10 ideas that will change the world. Currently, 35 percent of the value of world goods trade moves by air. By 2034, world air cargo traffic is expected to triple. Kasarda’s presentation showed that cities around the world can tap into this service, and he demonstrated how edge cities are already forming around aerotropolis corridors of major airports. He discussed the logistics of building an aereotroplis and indicated the economic impact that comes from helping urban economies form and become a destination for people to shop, dine, eat, work, and even live around airports.

At the end of the presentation. Kasarda demonstrated how the aerotropolis is already becoming a part of mainstream culture, including a music video by electronic musician Ikonika as well as the song ‘Songdo Style’ by hip hop star Psy. He is ahead of the curve and we were fortunate to get deep insight into his proposal and process through the Food for Thought Series with the Kenan Institute!