Airports are important elements of the air transport system because they represent interchange nodes among land transport systems and the air transport system, and also because they are the air traffic control centers. The main classification of an airport depends on the number of passengers and movements of aircraft and their routes.

In many countries, the location and characteristics of the airports are defined at the national level.  Every type of airport is defined, by law, as a place intended for the landing and takeoff of aircraft. The law also stipulates the buildings and rights of way needed to safely and effectively run the airport. However, the way they operate depends on the type of airport.

Under Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations, there are a wide variety of airports among the 3,300 airports in the United States that are open to the public and part of the FAA National Plan of Integrated Airport Systems (NPIAS).

Each airport category offers its own unique set of services and requires airport managers to take different approaches to management. Here are the different types of airports, as well as the facilities they use, the services they provide, and the overall capacity.


International Airports

International airports can have different features depending on the country. However, some of these standards are defined by aviation standards. It is obligatory to include immigration counters, security checkpoints, and customs posts, within these airports. The international airport can also be used for domestic flights often with a separate or connected terminal building. Passengers can fly abroad through direct or connecting flights.

Most international airports have many extra facilities as compared to smaller airports such as duty-free stores, lounge sections, comfortable waiting areas, baby care rooms, prayer rooms or tourism offices, etc.  In general, international airports are larger than domestic airports. The international airport standards are specified by IATA and ICAO.

As per FAA classification, the Commercial Service Airports may be privately or publicly owned that have a minimum of 2,500 passenger boardings per year of regularly scheduled passenger service.


Primary Commercial Service Airports

Primary airports are the airports that have more than 10,000 passenger boardings each year. They are divided into four different subsets. They are determined by the number of passenger boardings – more than 10,000 per year – and the percentage of annual passenger boardings nationwide.


Non-Primary Commercial Service Airports

These airports are non-hub airports that have at least 2,500 passenger boardings but no more than 10,000.


General Aviation Airports

There are over 19,000 airports in the United States. Among these, over 2,900 airports are what are known as general aviation airports. These airports are used for aeromedical flights, aerial firefighting, law enforcement, and disaster relief.

FAA reports that they are also used for:

General aviation airports are divided into four categories:

In the United States, all airport operations are governed by regulations promulgated by the FAA. Federal Aviation Regulations sets forth the specific requirements for the certification of airports and the equipment required. States and municipalities may also prescribe local operating requirements additionally.

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