Travel website Sleeping in Airports posted its lists of 2014 Top 10 World’s Best and Worst Airports earlier this month.
The lists were compiled from the surveys done by more than 18,000 passengers between September 2013 and August 2014, who voted for their best and worst airports based on a criteria of four Cs: Comfort, Conveniences, Cleanliness and Customer service.
The Straits Times looks at the Top 5 on each list.
TOP 5 BEST AIRPORTS
Image: Lim Sin Thai
1. Changi International Airport, Singapore
This is the 18th year in a row that Singapore’s Changi International Airport has been voted the best airport in the world by the website.
Travellers lauded the airport’s friendly staff, as well as the range of activities for transit travellers. Besides a host of shops, the airport also has spas, a roof-top swimming pool, gym, lounges, playgrounds for children, themed gardens and even a free Singapore city tour.
Incheon International Airport in Seoul. — PHOTO: INCHEON AIRPORTThe airport’s amenities were praised too, with rest and relaxation zones, and over 800 mobile charging points for travellers to recharge their gadgets.
This top spot follows another accolade received by the airport in March, when it was named the World’s Best Airport for 5th time at the 2014 Skytrax World Airport Awards – the most prestigious awards in the airport industry. At that awards ceremony, the airport was also named the Best Airport for Leisure Amenities.
During that awards acceptance speech, Mr Lee Seow Hiang, Chief Executive Officer of Changi Airport Group, said: “We are honoured to be named Skytrax World Best Airport for the second consecutive year. We appreciate the support given to us by travellers from around the world. This recognition is great motivation for us and spurs us to continue to aim higher. At Changi Airport, we remain steadfast in anticipating the needs of our customers, which is the cornerstone of the Changi Experience.”
Image: Incheon Airport
2. Seoul Incheon International Airport, South Korea
This South Korean airport has been praised for its high levels of customer service, hygiene and generous number of armrest-free seats near travellers’ boarding gates.
Like the Changi International Airport, it also has gardens and a spa. Two features highlighted by travellers are the airport’s indoor ice rink and Korean Cultural Street, where traditional cultural performances are regularly held, and where travellers can grab a quick Korean bite.
The airport came in second place for the 2014 Skytrax World Airport Awards, just behind Changi International Airport. Last November, travel magazine Global Traveler named the airport the world’s best airport for the eighth year running.
“Winning the accolade is largely thanks to cooperation among the government, businesses in the airport, and workers under the same goal of providing the best service”, said the airport’s former President Jung Chang Soo last year. “Around 40,000 workers in the airport will continue to wow those who use the airport”.
3. Helsinki International Airport, Finland
Travellers said this airport excelled in all four aspects of the list’s voting criteria: Comfort, Conveniences, Cleanliness and Customer service.
Besides clean and comfortable relaxation areas, recliners and lounges, the airport also has a book exchange and an art gallery.
There are often new concepts springing up at the airport too, such as a new relaxation zone last year that offered beds and sleep pods. This year, the airport opened a lounge that offers travellers a chance to relax amidst the sounds of the Finnish forest. The airport also held pop up yoga and pilates classes. These initiatives have been the result of collected feedback from travellers.
Image: Munich Airport
4. Munich International Airport, Germany
Like the others in this list, this airport has been praised for its armrest-free seating, and its rest and relaxation zones. But what makes this airport unique is the types of activities it makes available to its transit passengers.
The airport conducts tours at its very own airport brewery that serves home-brew Airbrau beers, has a mini golf course, and even had a temporary wave pool for a few months, for transit passengers to try out surfing, complete with surfboards and wetsuits for loan. “Surprising our guests is particularly important to us. You will not find a wave like this at any other airport,” airport spokesman Michael Otremba told NBC News earlier this year.
Image: Vacouver Airport Authority
5. Vancouver International Airport, Canada
Passengers say they found this airport beautiful, comfortable, clean and friendly.
One of its interesting offerings is their four self-guided tours, one of which looks at the art and architecture in and around the airport. The airport also has an aquarium, and highlights the culture of the Pacific Northwest Aboriginal peoples through sculptures.
The airport also has ample armrest-free seating options, and offers seats with footrests.
In March, the airport was awarded #1 Airport in North America for the fifth consecutive year at the Skytrax World Airport Awards.
Said president and CEO of the Vancouver Airport Authority Craig Richmond on the award: “To earn a fifth consecutive ranking as the top airport in North America as voted by passengers all over the world is truly a remarkable feat. This award is about more than just YVR’s iconic art and architecture; it encompasses our superior customer care and efficient processes, our shopping and dining options and more. Ultimately, this award is a powerful testament to the commitment of the YVR community – 24,000 strong – to go beyond, every day.”
The others on the list are as follows:
6. Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Malaysia
7. Hong Kong International Airport, Hong Kong
8. Tokyo Haneda International Airport, Japan
9. Amsterdam Schiphol International Airport, Netherlands
10. Zurich International Airport, Switzerland
Sources: Changi Airport.com, Airport.kr, Finavia.fi, NBC News, Munich-airport.de, Yvr.ca
TOP 5 WORST AIRPORTS
Passengers waiting at the Benazir Bhutto International Airport in Islamabad, Pakistan on Jun 9, 2014.
1. Benazir Bhutto International Airport, Pakistan
Benazir Bhutto International Airport is Pakistan’s third-largest in terms of passenger traffic, and has been likened to a “central prison” by at least one traveller. Those who pass through have also complained about touts and taxi drivers, who allegedly “loot people” both within and out of the airport, reported sleepinginairports.net.
Passengers also criticised the airport’s inability to control crowds, dirty washrooms, and hostile security checks.
Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority has disputed the website’s findings, with the Authority’s Director General Air Marshal (R) Muhammad Yousaf quoted in Pakistani newspaper The Express Tribune on Oct 25 as saying: “We strongly contest the findings of that website’s survey. The problem is that no one here bothers to check the source of such information.”
He pointed out that the number of complaints by passengers has dropped by 40 per cent “over the past few months”, although he conceded that the airport did not meet the standards of an international one. “It is housed in an old building and over the years we have just kept on adding sections to it,” he said.
Nonetheless, this bad ranking may soon be a thing of the past, with a new airport slated to be completed in 2016.
At the King Abdul Aziz International Airport in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, which serves as the transit hub for the annual haj pilgrimage. Image : NYT
2. King Abdulaziz International Airport, Saudi Arabia
The world’s second worst airport according to this list is the King Abdulaziz International Airport, which is Saudi Arabia’s busiest and also serves as the transit hub for the annual haj pilgrimage.
Passengers listed its long immigration queues, lack of services for travellers, and rude and slow-acting immigration officers as some of their grouses.
But Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) has disputed these complaints, with its spokesman Khalid Al-Khaibari saying that the airport “has all the services needed”, and can cope with large numbers of passenger traffic.
“The Haj and Umrah complex at the airport receives and says farewell to more than 1.7 million pilgrims on more than 4,000 flights over a span of only eight weeks,” he told Arab News.
However, he also added: “We don’t deny there are some negatives that we hope will be removed when the new airport begins operating in the middle of next year,” he said.
Nepalese outside the entrance to Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Image : AFP
3. Tribhuvan International Airport, Nepal
The airport’s website describes it as being amid three ancient cities, Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Patan, which “possess smiling men and women,” but travellers do not seem to have much to smile about.
Nepal’s only international airport was likened to a “bus station in an impoverished neighbourhood”. Cleanliness was the biggest bugbear of travellers, with at least one traveller calling the toilets “filthy”.
Reviewers on Skytrax, an air travel review site, also urged travellers to get a visa in their home countries. The airport was criticised for having rude staff, and non-existent lines at immigration counters. The airport handles at least 40 international flights with more than 9,000 arrivals and departures daily.
Nepali newspaper The Himalayan Times said that when contacted, the airport’s general manager “refused to comment”.
An airport police office guiding a sniffing dog outside the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila, Philippines. Image: AFP
4. Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Philippines
After three years at the top of the list, Manila’s Ninoy Aquino international airport (NAIA) finally moved to fourth place. Described on its website as the “main international gateway to the Philippines”, it was built in the 1970s, and named after politician Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr, who was assassinated on the runway after returning from self-exile in 1983. There was a “slight improvement” in services that led to the new ranking. But it definitely was not enough for people who reviewed the airport on Skytrax.
From the lack of air-conditioning, to shuttle services within the airport that were not working, to half an hour baggage claim times, the airport left passengers aghast and wanting some fresh air.
According to travellers, overcrowding, lengthy queues, limited seating, unfriendly immigration/customs officers and smelly toilets were also common grievances.
There is a “rehabilitation” under way, that should end this year. And if you must, Terminal 3, where there are steps to reduce congestion, sounds like the best bet.
About 32 million passengers a year pass through its four terminals every year.
Tashkent International Airport in Uzebekistan.
5. Tashkent International Airport, Uzbekistan
Currently the biggest airport in Central Asia, it has about 2 million passengers passing through its gates every year. The airport infamously has no standard queues, with an even bigger lack of crowd control. In fact, it gets so bad that a traveller said: “The person behind you will be trying to cut in front by subtly ramming their baggage cart into the back of your legs. Hold your ground!”
There are also instances of having to bribe officers. Customs forms are also somewhat a nightmare, and travellers have to fill up one form for each hotel they are staying in, and also declare the amount of money they are bringing in and taking out.
The others on the list are as follows:
6. Paris Beauvais-Tille International Airport, France
7. Frankfurt Hahn International Airport, Germany
8. Bergamo Orio al Serio International Airport, Italy
9. Berlin Tegel International Airport, Germany
10. New York City LaGuardia International Airport, USA
Sources: Sleepinginairports.net, The Express Tribune, Arab News, www.ifly.com/tashkent-airport,Skytrax, www.manila-airport.net, The Himalayan Times
This article was first run in The Straits Times newspaper on Octover 29, 2014. For similar stories, go to http://www.straitstimes.com/premium/singapore. You will not be able to access the Premium section of The Straits Times website unless you are already a subscriber.
- Bergamo Orio al Serio International Airport
- Berlin Tegel International Airport
- Central Asia
- customer service
- Frankfurt Hahn International Airport
- General Manager
- Manila's Ninoy Aquino international airport
- Nepali newspaper
- new york city
- New York City LaGuardia International Airport
- Ninoy Aquino International Airport
- Paris Beauvais-Tille International Airport
- swimming pool
- Tashkent International Airport
- United States