Through trial and error, I figured out how to make an entertainingly profitable airport in a couple of days, with no cheats or modifications. If you're new to this game, I want to share with you how! This game changes frequently, so this guide may not always be accurate, but the same principles may hold true.
Starting from Scratch
This is intended to be a general guide and not a specific set of steps you must follow. Like Bob Ross, I encourage you to bring your own sense of creativity and do your own thing in your own airport, and any mistakes we make will be happy little accidents.
We'll start our game on an extra large map from scratch in career mode. Now we have a huge plot of land and a clean slate.
Before we do anything, let's open Research and click up on Finance. We'll thank ourselves later.
We'll need to hire some workers as well. I hire anywhere from 4 to 10 depending on how impatient I feel.
The first thing we'll need is a runway, connected by taxiway. A small one is fine, but you have enough money to succeed starting from medium as well.
To cut costs, we'll put the gate directly across from the runway.
Now we have the gate built, let's build the terminal backwards from it.
Notice we can still put in some comforts for passengers. These aren't just cosmetic, they all have a purpose. Happier passengers will allow us to charge more money to use the airport.
Let's expand left, towards the road.
In this one, I expanded the seating area a little farther back. Use your own style and judgement here.
We'll need a security area as well.
Now we've run out of room so let's expand a little further towards the road.
This is a good place to put our ticketing area and baggage claim. Wherever on the map this part ends up, let's relocate our Pickup and Dropoff zones near it as well.
But wait! The airport isn't usable yet. We need to remember to fence off the secure area and hire all the relevant staff.
We don't actually need to build any baggage infrastructure just yet. Our workers will carry the baggage around without it. Later, when the airport gets much busier, it will become necessary.
We're about to schedule some flights, but first let's add some lights to that runway, so we can schedule night flights.
Now remember that for every hour a plane doesn't use our airport we're losing money. So we want to keep the schedule completely full.
We also make more money when bigger planes with more passengers land. Even with the minimum airport, we can land the Boeing 737, which carries 140 passengers. This plane will make us a lot of money.
We should have a fully functional and profitable airport at this point with about $500,000 left in the bank.
Remember that we researched Finance earlier? Now we'll hire a CFO and build her an office. It doesn't have to be big.
Set her to work researching "Pricing." We'll just let the game run on 10x speed. Monitor the planes coming in and out, and observe the flow of passengers. Are they making it to the flights on time? Is there a security bottleneck? Let's just add more security, to be safe.
While we're waiting, let's take some of our money and make the airport a little more attractive to airlines. Start with a PAPI, which is a runway upgrade that is only $7,000.
When Pricing is complete, we can open the pricing menu:
Let's bump up the runway prices and double the passenger price. We can easily start pulling in a lot more money than the default with even the most basic of airport facilities. It will impact the airline satisfaction; experiment on your own to figure out what works. I've doubled or tripled it successfully. I think others have gone even farther.
What the heck. Let's get crazy.
With two gates, we can serve twice as many flights. We'll have to upgrade ticketing and security to match, and maybe build a control tower now, as well.
Having bumped up our prices, we should now be well on our way to making $50,000+ per day. This is a great time to leave the game on 10x speed and go get a coffee or make some food. On one of my maps, I left it on overnight and woke up to six million dollars. However, I imagine the dev may introduce some random events or something that can mess me up :)