Design with the Passenger in Mind

Orlando’s new Terminal C blends the elements of water, garden and light with technology to create a world-class experience



Some airport terminals are designed for airlines or aircraft. Orlando International Airport’s new South Terminal C is designed for passengers.

“The Greater Orlando Aviation Authority wanted its new airport terminal to be the beginning of a visitor’s vacation by bringing Florida’s trademark flora and fauna inside,” said Bill Brooks, PE, HNTB senior program director.

Inviting water, garden and light into the terminal buildings and grounds have long been the core elements of The Orlando Experience,TM a design theme found throughout the airport complex.

“The Orlando ExperienceTM is a blend of unique architecture, aesthetics and convenience amenities that capture the essence of central Florida,” said Phil Brown, GOAA CEO. “As architect of record, HNTB has brought those concepts into the 21st century, melding them with the state-of-the-art technology we are adding. When passengers arrive, they will know immediately they are in central Florida.”

From the subtle to the dramatic

Passengers will enjoy Florida’s world-famous sunshine during their South Terminal C experience. HNTB has designed a towering glass skylight atrium, known as The Boulevard, that runs the length of the new landside terminal to the airside concourse hub, serving as a subtle wayfinder throughout the main corridors passengers will be traversing.

Arriving passengers will discover a “flipped” terminal design. Instead of migrating to the terminal’s lower level to claim their baggage, domestic and international passengers will be reunited with their luggage in the sunny arrival hall on the terminal’s top floor. A new baggage conveyance system, selected for its lean, space-optimizing configuration, allows for an elevated system and facilitates GOAA’s inverted terminal concept, meant to celebrate The Orlando ExperienceTM for arriving passengers.

The elements of water, garden and light will be intertwined in two major art installations for the new terminal.

“Fin-shaped glass panels, extending from the wall in the baggage claim level, will shimmer like water when illuminated by sunlight,” Brooks said.

The Springs, a permanent terrazzo floor installation, will depict Florida’s natural freshwater artisan springs. The permanent exhibit will feature giant pools of crystal-clear turquoise water teaming with plant and animal life synonymous with Florida. Palm trees and cypress trees, dripping with moss, will edge the spring, creating a beautiful and calming welcome for international passengers arriving from long flights before they enter U.S. Customs and Immigration facilities.

“The GOAA’s design theme of water, garden and light matches the trilogy of architecture, which is masterfully mixing nature, art and society,” said J.C. Arteaga, HNTB’s architect of record. “To have architecture, you need all three.”

Project Scope

The new stand-alone South Terminal C program includes:

  • 15 airside concourse with international/domestic common-use swing gates
  • A landside terminal
  • New airfield apron, fueling and ground support equipment
  • Rental car facilities
  • Associated roadway, bridge and parking structures
  • Central energy plant and emergency power generator plant

Hi-tech ‘wow’ moments

GOAA has invested in three large-scale interactive digital electronic media exhibits to help communicate The Orlando ExperienceTM and create unexpected, wonderful vacation memories before passengers leave the terminal.

In the landside terminal, both arriving and departing passengers will encounter the “Portal,” the terminal building’s signature electronic media feature. A set of multimedia screens, featuring lifelike LED 8K technology, is mounted on a custom-built helix-like steel frame that spirals up through the terminal’s three floors, making the Portal visible to all. The video screens capture constantly changing images of central Florida’s natural beauty, attractions, activities and unique images of the region’s transformative history from agribusiness to space both known and unknown aspects of the region.

In Palm Court, the grand gathering hub where the airside’s north and west concourses intersect, passengers can relax among lanky palm trees and enormous pots spilling over with lush, colorful tropical plants. Palm Court features a 30-foot-tall, video spectacular, called the “Moment Vault.” Three large triangular-shaped, floor-to-ceiling panels with three giant video walls, viewed from outside or inside the Moment Vault, will show Florida’s beaches, botanical gardens — and perhaps even a NASA launch. As passengers watch the videos, cameras will capture their silhouettes and embed them into the iconic central Florida scenes, creating memorable moments worthy of family selfies.

In the north concourse, passengers will walk along “Windows on Orlando,” a 60-foot-long by 28-foot-tall wall of video screens. The three giant screens can work together or independently to make passengers feel as if they are swimming alongside manatees and features aquatic scenes of underwater reefs or walking along a beach with ocean waves washing toward their feet.

Greater passenger convenience is in the bag


Orlando International Airport’s South Terminal C will feature the first terminal-wide, high-speed individual baggage carrier system in the U.S. Benefits include:

  • 100% bag trackability. Each piece of luggage travels in a tote that is embedded with a radio frequency identification tag and a unique tracking number matching each bag tag, significantly reducing the risk of lost luggage.
  • Shorter wait times. The system is designed to meet the GOAA’s goal of 5.5 minutes in-system time with no bag taking longer than 15 minutes.
  • Early arrival bag storage. Thanks to an early bag-storage room, departing passengers will be able to check in and drop off their bags at the terminal as early as they wish for a hands-free experience. The space will hold up to 2,000 pieces of luggage.
  • No oversized baggage restrictions. The airport also will be the first in North America to accommodate a mixture of standard-sized and oversized baggage in one size of container, meaning golf clubs, strollers and wheelchairs will arrive by baggage carousel along with the passenger’s other luggage.

Beauty and brains

While the terminal design is aesthetically pleasing, it also is designed to be high functioning. Fifteen common-use, swing gates will serve both international and domestic flights. Further, airlines will be able to operate out of any gate for any length of time.

“Orlando is dominated by a diverse carrier mix responding to the needs of a strong leisure-based market with a rapidly growing business market as the region’s economy continues to diversify around technology, healthcare and logistics,” Brooks said. “GOAA is keeping the cost-per-passenger low with the inclusion of low-cost carriers that serve the region and offer competitive ticket prices to customers desiring to come through Orlando’s front door.”

Other design innovations include the U.S.’s first state-of-the-art radio frequency identification baggage handling system throughout the terminal, “bags first” processing at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Federal Inspection Station, 100% facial recognition for international passengers and the world’s first LEED® v4 certification of an airport campus.

Arteaga pointed out that “The success of the $3B South Terminal C program is built on a foundation of communication, collaboration and cooperation among the massive teams on site.” The design and construction team includes the Authority and its general consultant, Schenkel Shultz Architecture; a prime concept architect, Fentress; two construction managers at risk, Turner Kiewit, landside, and Hensel Phelps, airside; a design-build team, Vanderlande Industries, baggage handling system; a low voltage engineer, Burns; a program manager / owner’s authorized representative, GCI, Inc; and 41 design subconsultants on the HNTB Architect of Record design team.

Brooks added, “And we are very proud that the HNTB team reflects our community, and we have utilized minority, woman-owned and local developing businesses for more than 30% of the work to date.”

“Communication and teamwork are essential on a project as large and complex as the South Terminal,” Brown said. “HNTB’s partnership has been valuable in helping us build a world-class facility that will reinforce Orlando International Airport’s reputation as a premier global gateway.”

The halfway mark

GOAA celebrated the mid-point of construction this past summer with a topping-out ceremony of the soaring glass atrium. Crews hoisted and placed a horizontal architectural steel element known as the “Prow” that juts out from the landside terminal and extends over the arriving roadway.

The South Terminal C is on track for substantial completion in February 2022. It represents the largest expansion in the airport’s history.

Planes, trains and automobiles


South Terminal C is being built adjacent to a new, fully integrated intermodal transportation facility, another first for a U.S. airport. The South Airport Automated People Mover Complex and Intermodal Terminal Facility offers passengers immediate access to taxis, private vehicles, buses, shuttles and, in 2022, high-speed rail.

The intermodal facility will house a Brightline train station, where passengers can board and be in Miami in less than 4 hours. Brightline also plans an extension from the airport to a station at Disney and from there to Tampa by 2025. Brightline is the only privately owned and operated express, intercity passenger train service in the U.S. and the first truly seamless high-speed intercity rail service link.

HNTB is the program manager and construction manager for Brightline.

A design ahead of its time

HNTB’s terminal design reduces the number of touchpoints, serving airport employees and passengers well in a COVID-19 world:

  • Automated RFID baggage system
  • 100% facial recognition and iris scans for international arrivals and departures
  • Self-ticketing and self-bag drop
  • Advanced, touchless restroom fixtures
  • Delivered-to-your gate food from terminal concessionaires
  • Social distancing signage and crowding detection systems with agents dispatched to disperse clogs and long queues
  • Around-the-clock cleaning and sanitizing


Bill Brooks

Bill Brooks PE

HNTB's Senior Program Director

(407) 825-1589



J.C. Artega

J.C. Arteaga

HNTB’s Architect of Record

(407) 547-2998







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