Speaker Interviews

Discover more about the topics and technologies to be discussed at this year's conference, via a series of exclusive interviews with a selection of our expert speakers.


Keeping the heart and soul of 'America’s Best Airport'

Vince Granato, chief operating officer of Port of Portland, on expansion plans, designing for a distinct regional identity and creating an equitable passenger journey for all.

Describe your presentation.

How do you improve an airport so beloved that passengers write poems and songs about it? Hailed as ‘America’s Best Airport’ seven years running, Portland International Airport is increasing capacity by 65% to accommodate 34 million passengers over the next two decades. I will describe a series of transformative projects that will double the main terminal’s footprint and promise more food, more fun and more flow. I will also explain how, amid this growth, PDX is planning to maintain its uniquely curated local character cherished by passengers and employees alike.

Poems and songs about PDX? Care to share?

Here’s one of my recent favorites – an ode to Concourse A. For context, we asked travelers and employees to share their best (and worst) memories using #GoodbyeA before we demolish and replace their least-favorite corner of our airport:

“r.i.p., you beautifully tacky pdx carpet. you were a hashtag before hashtags existed, a city mascot that bonded portlanders before we had a forum to share pictures of our feet. but in all honesty, you were the best damn welcome home, and i’m thankful for this goofy tradition. most carpet patterns will never gain this much notoriety, but seeing you was a gentle sigh and a hand on my shoulder every time i landed. and terminal a, thank you for holding strong these last couple years. my rekindled love for traveling brought me to you and your bombardiers so often i feel like you were my second office. and in these last couple years, i often walked your way to see the carpet even if i landed in c. #pdxcarpet you’ll live on in our socks, our neck pillows, our neck ties, our decks of cards, our chocolate bars. imma miss you. sort of:) #goodbyea”

Our travelers and employees show their love for the PDX carpet in many forms, including poetry. The PDX carpet has even inspired its own hashtag (#pdxcarpet), website and NBA shoe.

How would you describe the airport’s ‘uniquely curated local character’ – and how will you ensure this isn’t lost?

PDX’s uniquely Portland vibe is a result of our friendly people (both travelers and employees), the local shops, the great food, and the extensive art and music programs that are celebrated within our airport.

It’s also easy to get places at PDX and passengers say it feels like home. To keep this character, the terminal expansion is imagined as a series of neighborhood spaces that reflect the walkability and livability of neighborhoods in the city of Portland. The expansion both maintains and furthers this notion by providing a variety of rooms for passengers to rest, recharge and refuel. Smaller plazas and carefully scaled pavilions give way to active corridors. Terraces on the North and South sides of the terminal connect travelers to the landmarks of the state, offering views to Mount Hood and the Columbia River.

We’re also looking for ways to surprise the traveler and create different types of experiences – that includes showing some of the quirky character for which Portland is known.

What tools are at your disposal to reduce traveler stress and show them that you care?

We conducted an extensive passenger journey mapping to understand the unique perspective and concerns of each passenger, whether a family, business traveler or solo adventurer. For every passenger we know there are certain high-stress points in their journey, so we have introduced ideas of connecting back to nature and providing positive distractions.

The expansion is inspired by a walk through a forest. We are fortunate to live in a beautiful part of the world, surrounded by trees, water and mountains. We wanted to bring those elements inside as well as connect passengers to the surrounding views to offer moments of calm and reduce stress. We are doing this through the introduction of plants, daylight and natural materials, such as a mass timber roof.

We are also utilizing clear wayfinding and environmental graphics to ease passengers in their journey.

Can you give some examples of the ‘more food, more fun and more flow’ you aim to deliver?

We’re adding more local restaurants, more creative art installations, and re-establishing connections to the beautiful Pacific Northwest landscape through natural materials, plants and views.

PDX has always focused on providing spaces for passengers to sit, relax and enjoy. This expansion provides new views to the airfield, comfortable seats, a community gathering area and a park-like setting where passengers can settle in before their flight, have great food and take a break.

Don't miss Vince Granato’s presentation, ‘Keeping the heart and soul of 'America’s Best Airport'’, part of the Airport Design, Planning & Development stream, on Day 1 of the Passenger Terminal CONFERENCE. The full program can be found here.

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