Long Live the Airport Marquee

Harkening to an earlier age.

December 3, 2020

I WAS IN Madrid the other day and was able to snap the photograph above. This is the old Terminal 2, built in 1954, when the field was known as Barajas Airport. Like many old airport buildings, it instantly evokes another time, another era. I can easily picture an Iberia DC-8, or maybe a Caravelle, parked below the control tower, passengers in hats and suits climbing a set of drive-up stairs.

What I love best, though, is the airport name up on the facade. This was a common flourish in decades past, a nod to the platform signs often seen at railroad stations. The purpose, in this case, isn’t for orientation; obviously the airline passenger knows what city he or she has arrived in. That’s not the point. Rather, it’s a matter of greeting. The thrill of air travel isn’t so much the journey as it is the destination, and like the title frame in the opening credits of a film, this is a way of welcoming the visitor with a bit of drama and flair.

And I’m happy to report that location signs still exist, even at some of the newest and most modern terminals. You’ll find them on the apron side, facing the runways, or on the roadway side where passengers enter and exit the terminal. The latter are perhaps more common — the enormous lettering atop the departure hall at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport being the most dramatic example. But it’s the apron-side marquees that I like the best, the ones glimpsed from the airplane window, adding a touch of excitement as you prepare to disembark.

I always get a picture when I can. Most of my collection is posted below. Readers are invited to submit photos of their own, and I’ll add the best of them to the page.


Welcome to Amsterdam.

Bucharest’s Henri Coanda – Otopeni Airport.

A Royal Jordanian A320 at Cairo International.

Dubrovnik, Croatia

The old terminal at BOM, seen here, was replaced 2014.

Dakar’s newly opened Blaise Diagne International.

Victoria Falls Airport, Zimbabwe.

“Town of the hurdled ford.”

Kenneth Kaunda International, in Lusaka, Zambia.

A down-home effort at Roberts Field, Liberia.

The Sudanese-style main building at Timbuktu, in Mali.

Once a bustling stopover point, Gander sits empty. If there’s a Canadian equivalent of tumbleweeds, there should be a few bouncing around the tarmac here.

The colorful terminal at Cheddi Jagan airport in Guyana.

Another shot from Cheddi Jagan. Notice the topiary.

Under the wing at Prague’s Vaclav Havel International.

Nnamdi Azikiwe is the airport serving Abuja, Nigeria.

John Paul II Airport in Ponta Delgada, on the island of Sao Miguel in the beautiful Azores.

Your favorite pilot at Amsterdam-Schiphol.


Fes (Fez), Morocco.   From Daniel Foster.

The old terminal at DCA.   From Itamar Reuven.

Valetta, Malta.   From Rick Wilson.

Tenerife South (TFS).   From Rick Wilson.

Vienna, Austria.   From Andrew Nash.

hciruZ ot emocleW.   From Andrew Nash.

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