A blue and grey waiting room filled with airport terminal seating

Up in the air…

How will the ongoing effects of COVID-19 impact airport terminal design and seating?

Experience is essential and often you will find that the seating in airports can play a significant role in the satisfaction and overall experience of passengers.

However, prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, the design of standard airport seating had not seen any significant change in over 50 years(1). With customers expectations changing so rapidly, it’s hard to believe that terminal seating has not evolved more.

Then Covid came along and forced airports to react and make effective change. Here are some of the ways you may expect to see terminal seating changing – not only in airports but across the travel industry.


Social distancing made us all reflect on the boundaries we have with our personal space and for many changed their behaviour in terms of where they would choose to sit in a public space. This new awareness of personal space and boundary setting will force terminals to adapt their seating configurations.

Terminals should be looking at how to create flexible, modular spaces that allow for personal space of their passengers and to also ensure they can react immediately and seamlessly to adjust to unforeseen circumstances like social distancing, changes in security measures and more(2). Suggestions such as temporary slip covers to encourage social distancing but keep seats usable so that families can sit together, or screens between back-to-back rows have been made to combat this(3).

In a recent article for Airport Technology, Scott Gorenc, studio design director for Corgan’s aviation studio, suggested that airport design will be more about the efficient use of the space available on both the airside and landside of terminal facilities, so that the usage of high-density areas such as holdrooms and concession seating can be improved(4).


The design of the seat and the way that it interacts with the space will play a huge role in the way terminals are designed/redesigned. Providing a variety of seating options could offer a more long-term solution when it comes to encouraging social distancing and offering passengers more personal space.

The introduction of personal, ‘phone-booth’ style seats could provide a safe space for solo travellers, while dynamic group seating which encourages passengers to face away from each other, alongside evolved beam seating, provides a space for larger groups and families(5) . There has also been the suggestion of family-style pod seating and separated seating zones based around the type of traveller i.e., business zones, family zones etc.(6)


Sanitisation became a huge topic of concern over the pandemic, and rightly so! Travellers are now more aware than ever of where they are sitting, what they are touching and how clean everything they come into contact is. Therefore, it is of paramount importance that terminals take into consideration the ease of cleanability when it comes to their seating.

The materials used in terminal seating may change dramatically because of this. While a trend prior to the pandemic saw more airports choosing woven materials for their lounge furniture(7) however these are much harder to clean. There will likely be a shift toward terminal seating being upholstered in vinyl or faux leather or crafted from metal or wood – all much easier to keep clean and disinfected. There are now also options for anti-bacterial fabric technology to be used to treat upholstery fabrics that will inhibit viruses and kill bacteria upon contact.


The pandemic had huge, devastating impacts on the travel industry and while people are keen to get back to travel, terminals must look at the changes that can be made to make their passengers feel safer when returning to travel.

Personal space will be a huge influencer in the design and layout of airport terminal seating and will also provide a more tailored experience for each individual traveller. Cleanliness considerations will also have impact on the design of the seat.

Bespoke seating options to suit your terminal space will be key and as specialists in bespoke seating design, Race Furniture can help these spaces to future-proof their seating and provide their customers with the safest, cleanest, and most comfortable experience.

Our experienced team can also talk to you about the fabrics and treatments, such as aguaguard365, you can choose to make your terminal seating cleaner and safer.

Talk to us today about futureproofing your terminal seating with advanced fabric options and innovative design.


1. https://apex.aero/articles/airport-seating-where-modern-ideas-classic-design-and-inside-the-pod-converge/

2. https://www.hok.com/news/2021-05/how-will-covid-19-change-airport-terminal-design/

3, 6 & 7. https://www.aviationpros.com/airports/buildings-maintenance/seating/article/21146258/switching-seats-covid19s-impact-on-the-terminal

4 & 5. https://www.airport-technology.com/features/airport-design-covid-19/