Accessible Airport – Practical Experiences from the Viennese Airport

Accessible Airport – Practical Experiences from the Viennese Airport


Elmar Fürst, WU Vienna, Christian Vogelauer, WU Vienna


Air transport has become a relevant part of personal mobility. However airports are not yet holistically accessible. This paper describes measures taken at Vienna International Airport to improve the situation in the newly built “Check-In 3”.


The amount of air travel has steadily increased over the last 60 years. While at its beginning, flight travel was a mode only available to well-endowed customers, it has now become a general means of transport for business as well as touristic trips. Following the worldwide trend towards deregulation of the industry and the markets including the expansion of “open-skies-contracts” and the related freedoms of the air, the degree of competition in the market has risen significantly and new concepts of co-opetition (alliances) as well as new business models (like low cost carriers) emerged. Consequently, air travel has become more affordable, supporting the development of increasing passenger volumes. Due to the better inclusion in today’s society, persons with disabilities also share the wish and need for business trips. Moreover, being a considerable part of society and having access to most parts of the labour markets, they also possess the economic potential to explore destinations only reachable through air travel.
With this increase in the potential target group, new challenges have arisen for airlines and for airports. While for the carriers there are quite strict and internationally applicable regulations put into place by the IATA, the EU, the US and other governmental bodies, airports are mostly only held responsible for the boarding and de-boarding stages of the trips. Concerning further requirements for a seamless trip such as reaching the airport, changing to other modes of transport or indoor navigation, they often suffer from a lack of sophistication and clarity in national building regulations.
With the opening of the new terminal “Check-In 3” (formerly called “Skylink”) in June 2012, Vienna International Airport (VIE) nearly doubled its capacity for passenger transport. The planning and construction of the completely new terminal took more than 10 years and cost an estimated 800 Mio Euro. Although the design team included a specialist for barrier-free design, the terminal building suffered from severe hindering elements when it was opened to the public. Those barriers included amongst others, missing or malfunctioning barrier-free toilets, badly legible signs and elements of guiding systems, monitors and airport plans, incorrect routings of tactile pathways etc. Having been approved by the responsible authority, the severe problems for people with disabilities led to a medial outcry among several associations of disabled persons.
In a long term process, a project group consisting of experts in the field of barrier-free design for various impairment groups (blind, deaf, sight impaired, hearing impaired, physically impaired, wheelchair users, cognitive impaired, etc.) was established in order to assist the airport management in identifying and resolving the existing problems. The goal of this task group was to holistically redesign the new terminal and develop solutions that could also be used in future revitalization projects of the older parts of the airport.
The proposed paper is firstly going to outline the process that was undertaken to assess the existing shortcomings of the new terminal building at the Vienna airport. Secondly a list of all identified problems and their impact on the passengers serviced will be provided. Eventually, the measures and solutions for solving them are presented and lessons that can be learned for and transferred to the new construction or refurbishment of other airports are derived.


Association for European Transport