With views of the downtown skyline, the $1.1 billion new Indianapolis airport has been celebrated for its sense of place, and for treating its passengers as “guests,” much the way the hotel industry does. It has its own civic plaza, a light-filled central space with 35-foot ceilings that functions as the nexus of activity—every passenger, whether arriving or departing, passes through—where half of all the airport’s shops and restaurants reside. Customers routinely comment on the terminal’s calm feel, and on its efficiency and easy navigation. Though Indianapolis is a small city (population 843,000, but growing fast), it hosts what Chicas calls “the equivalent of three to four Super Bowls a year”—major sporting events like the Indy 500, the NCAA Final Four, the NFL combines, and, in 2011, the actual Super Bowl.
But even as passenger traffic balloons for these occasions, security checkpoints here are rarely clogged. What is Indy doing right?