Both are narrow buildings with aircraft parked on both sides, so what is the main difference? terminal (image source)

  • $\begingroup$ And here you have the page on wikipedia: en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Airport_terminal $\endgroup$ – kepler22b Feb 17 '16 at 20:28
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    $\begingroup$ To me the difference in the image is quite obvious: concourses are connected with a bridge or tunnel while piers extend from the main building. But whether that is official classification I don't know—and I don't think it is, because I don't see a point in having official classification in the first place. $\endgroup$ – Jan Hudec Feb 17 '16 at 20:42
  • $\begingroup$ As pointed out on Wikipedia, there's quite a bit of flexibility on the terms. A concourse is not necessarily remote (basically, each of the areas of a terminal is usually called a concourse, whether remote or adjacent to the check-in/arrivals facilities). A remote concourse may or may not be called a satellite. $\endgroup$ – jcaron Feb 18 '16 at 10:31

In terminal designs, the main difference between a pier and a concourse is that a pier is connected by terminal buildings on one side, but a concourse has separate terminal buildings connected by transportation either under or over ground.

In practice, the terms "terminal" and "concourse" are often used interchangeably, with "satellite" being used in that specific case, and "piers" being referred to as terminals or concourses.


Small terminal with a few gates.


Longer than a simple terminal, with gates on one side. May be curved or straight.


Standard terminal with gates on one side, with additional linear terminals connected underground or by buses (occasionally by a bridge), each with gates all around. Each is generally designated as a different concourse.


A main terminal area, with long extensions having gates down one side. May be designated into different terminals depending on the size.


Like concourses, extensions with gates down both sides, but connected on one end by additional buildings. Each pier may be designated as a separate terminal.


A main terminal area connected to one or more smaller terminal buildings with gates all around. Generally connected underground, occasionally by a bridge. Each satellite is generally designated a different terminal.

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  • $\begingroup$ Just wondering, do you have a source for more info, or is this personal knowledge? $\endgroup$ – digitgopher Feb 18 '16 at 0:38
  • $\begingroup$ @digitgopher Based on the image above and the Wikipedia article along with personal knowledge... I'll see if I can find any good sources. $\endgroup$ – fooot Feb 18 '16 at 1:43

"Concourse" is not really a specific concept, but denotes some type of hangar remote from the main terminal. Such concourse has been required to extend the original integrated terminal when traffic has grown.

enter image description here

The building on the right is the main terminal, a standard simple terminal. The two concourses on the left are remote piers (facing rows) to extend the original terminal.

On the other hand a pier is the well known configuration used originally to moor boats, with two facing rows fed by a single central path:

enter image description here
Marina of La Rochelle, France

A main terminal can be a linear or convex (gates) unit. It can be extended by concourses of varying density, infrastructure type, or connection.

enter image description here
Source: Airport Engineering: Planning, Design and Development of 21st Century Airports

In the figure above a terminal can be:

  • An integrated terminal: linear (2c) or convex (3c).

  • Extended with connected piers (2c) or connected satellites (2b).

  • Extended with unconnected piers (3c) or unconnected satellites (3b).

  • Limited to the main building extended by apron (open air) stands (2d, 3d), requiring an interface between the protected area (terminal) and the free area used before boarding (apron). This interface is usually connected to a bus.

Today the trend is to plan an airport and its future extensions as an integrated building, and to start building only what is required at the time of the opening. This removes the complexity of remote extensions: Security, boarding interface, baggage processing, access to shops... maintaining passengers into a closed volume until they have boarded their plane.

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  • $\begingroup$ As used in the wild, "concourse" seems to refer to a group of gates with a common access route, i.e. it is about passenger nnavigatio. Rather than say gates 1-20 are to the left and 21-40 are to the right, it is simpler to say "A" concourse (gates A1-A20) to the left and "B" concourse (gates B1-B20, or rarely B21-B40) to the right. It doesn't matter whether those concourses are piers, satellites, remote, local, etc. $\endgroup$ – StephenS Jan 3 '19 at 9:31

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