Airports are a waiting game, either eagerly awaiting a flight or trying to pass the time until your loved one enters the arrival hall. In this day in age, traveling is among the most popular activities throughout all ages, making passing through and waiting at airports just another part of modern-day life. Airports and their staff are also the very first point of contact for people arriving into a new country, therefore it is important to make a positive first impression. Some have grasped this idea, whereas others are way behind the eight-ball.
In order to keep up with the sheer demand of travel, business or leisure, and no matter how big or small the city, local governments have had no choice but to continuously upgrade and maintain these spaces to simply cope with the growing numbers. While some governments have done just enough to set up a space that is sufficient…if that…others have gone the extra mile, sometimes even two, to exceed all expectations and create a masterpiece in an attempt to enhance the experience of its excited, yet weary passengers.
Below is a list of airports that aren't so great, followed by 15 most spectacular airports in the world, let’s find out together!
25 Avoid: Khartoum International airport, Sudan
This airport is among the world’s worst, and it is easy to see why. Answers Africa says Khartoum International is the main airport serving Sudan, and in its current state - is worse than ever - displaces any glimmer of hope that a renovation will change how people see it. Furthermore, there are no cafes or eating options, reports of dirty bathrooms which are not maintained, no flight status boards, and perhaps worst of all, one traveler reported on Sleeping in Airports that her traveling party was surrounded by ‘government officials’ upon exiting the airport, asking for their passports. As for airport staff, there may as well not have been any, as they restlessly waited 30 hours for their delayed flight upon leaving Sudan, with no updates or news at all.
24 Avoid: Bangui airport, Central African Republic
Located amongst a refugee camp and the main city, Bangui airport is not in the best location. The Economist reports that the fence that once surrounded Bangui airport has recently been stolen by locals, meaning that people from the nearby camp and city can easily make their way on to the runway, which in fact splits the middle of the refugee camp and city. It is not uncommon for locals to interrupt the landing of a jet, so The Economist says when landing, pilots always keep one hand on the throttle and a watchful eye for intruders in case they have to pull up and go-around, as to avoid injuring any unfortunate locals.
23 Avoid: Juba International airport, South Sudan
Juba International airport has so many things wrong with it that it should struggle to be classified as an airport. Africa News shares some horrifying images of the airport, and goes on to say that UN Advisor, Evan Cinq-Mars labeled it ‘an awful spectacle’. There are only a few rows of chairs, with no legs, mind you, and some seats prompt passengers to avoid the garbage and other debris lying around.
22 Avoid: Paris Beauvais-Tille airport, Paris
Located in quite an elegant city, this airport is nothing like its counterparts of Charles De Gaulle and Paris Orly. Paris Beauvais-Tille airport is a warehouse-style airport, built to assist with the growing crowds 10 years ago, per Telegraph UK. ‘Sleeping in airports’ has voted this airport the worst in Europe, which is a big statement. However, to back it up, seating and helpful staff are rare, it is dirty, no free Wi-Fi, and to top it off, it is a 2-hour drive to Paris.
21 Avoid: Lubumbashi airport, Democratic Republic of Congo
The Economist lists four factors, of which one or more, are usually found in…let’s say below average…airports. These are; danger, bullying, theft, delay. Unfortunately, like many others in its class, Lubumbashi airport in the Republic of Congo is notorious for taking bribes from, actually no, extorting passengers to even just get past security. It is said that security here moves so slow that passengers give in to their patience, and pay the guards, even just $1 USD, so they can swiftly pass through security.
20 Avoid: Ho Chi Minh Tan Son Nhat International airport – Vietnam
Ho Chi Minh International airport does not do its vibrant city justice. When people arrive in Vietnam, they are there mainly to relax and explore the varied landscape that is before them. Landing in Ho Chi Minh is perhaps the worst possible start to your Vietnamese experience, not just for its poor Wi-Fi and unhygienic bathrooms, but it is an airport well-known for bribes to take place. Several travelers have told Cheat Sheet that to even make it out of security, you need to pay the guards, or otherwise, you will find yourself in a dirty and highly unsanitary interrogation room until you pay-up.
19 Avoid: Jeddah King Adbulaziz International airport, Saudi Arabia
Jeddah’s International airport seems to be popping up on all of the ‘worst airport’ lists, so I did some further research. Turns out that it is justified to be on such a list, and Arabian Business proceeds tells us why. The airport lacks cleanliness (seems to be a common occurrence on this list), ill-mannered staff, as well as a lack of eateries and entertainment options. Being the main airport to serve Mecca, it becomes very busy at certain times, with the Hajj Pilgrimage passing-by, and this has to be one of the worst times to be present in the airport, however, there is free Wi-Fi, so that’s a bonus I guess.
18 Avoid: Islamabad Benazir Bhutto International airport, Pakistan
At number one on Sleeping in Airports’ no-go list is Benazir Bhutto International airport in Islamabad, Pakistan. A decade ago saw the airport compared to a Pakistani prison, with corruption, fights, restless passengers, and dirty, well everything, the whole kit and caboodle if you will. One traveler told Sleeping in Airports that the airport is like a prison, taxi drivers attempt to loot oblivious travelers outside the airport. The good news is that a new airport came in to replace this terrible building, and so far it has not received the reputation of its older sibling.
17 Avoid: Port Harcourt International airport, Nigeria
First things first, using tents as an arrivals hall is not a good first impression. Secondly, next to no seating and in a place with as much sun as Nigeria, not even one hint of air-conditioning. Cheat Sheet does mention that recent upgrades have seen walls and windows form rooms, what an achievement. The Nigerian Government has claimed to have invested $2 billion USD into the extension and upgrading of the airport, however aviation experts say that this may in fact not be true and the money is being used for other purposes.
16 Avoid: Kathmandu Tribhuvan International airport, Nepal
Compared to an inter-city bus station in a poor socio-economic area, Kathmandu International airport is one of the worst throughout the whole of the Asian region, says Sleeping in Airports. Passengers who have used this facility say that the maintenance of cleanliness is almost non-existent, no air-conditioning and they recommend to either use the bathroom before you arrive at the airport or hold on. One traveler even going so far as to purposely dehydrating himself before his flight so that he avoided the restrooms!
15 Worth It: Changi Airport, Singapore
Changi Airport in Singapore first opened its doors in 1981 and appears at number one on every list, no matter where you look, and it is easy to see why. According to International Airport Review, aside from the airport’s extensive shopping and eatery scene, it leads the way among competitors due to some space-age technology and customer service, especially to those who require mobility. The airport attracts over 55 million passengers annually, and is home to some amazing gardens, including its very own butterfly sanctuary! When planning your next trip, be sure to check out stop overs in Singapore, just the airport is worth a few hours layover, despite the amazing city outside!
14 Worth It: Dubai International, United Arab Emirates
Just like the city, Dubai International Airport screams money. Money Inc. says that Dubai airport is officially the world’s busiest airport, and being one of the few gateways from the Northern to Southern Hemispheres and vice versa, it is the busiest airport in international passenger traffic, anyone who has been there would agree. The airport only comprises of two runways, servicing over 400,000 annual aircraft movements, so efficiency is one of the airports most notable features. There are three breathtaking terminals, which have been expertly crafted with passenger comfort as a priority. If you happen to have a long layover or lengthy delay, there are 6 luxury hotels, as well as multiple passenger lounges, some of the world’s best duty-free shopping and even a flower center!
13 Worth It: Madeira airport, Portugal
Madeira airport itself may not be as grand as Dubai, or contain gardens like Singapore, but it is the unique runway which pushes it on to this list. Being a small island, the airport comprises of only 1 runway and a relatively small terminal, but since upgrading in 2000, Popular Mechanics claims the runway doubled in length by adding 70 foot pillars which extend from the existing runway to the water below. It truly is a sight to behold and definitely one of a kind.
12 Worth It: Incheon International, South Korea
In operation for 17 years, Incheon airport serves the South Korean capital, and has been voted one of the best airports in the world by Airports Council International, per eDreams. This is for a number of reasons, some including being the cleanest airport in the world, as well as containing some of the most advanced airport technology. What makes it unique are the sheer number of amenities it offers passengers. These include; a golf course, spa and beauty area, gardens, private rooms, and even a casino!
11 Worth It: Princess Juliana airport, St. Martin
Perhaps the world’s spectacular airport, Princess Juliana lies on the edge of the white sandy shores of the Caribbean island of St. Martin. Telegraph UK reported that unfortunately, the airport suffered significant damage during some recent hurricanes, and therefore had to be closed for a period of time. It has since reopened and oh what an airport it is. It may not have the amenities offered by the previously mentioned airports, but its location is enough to make its way on to the list. It is a great place for aviation enthusiasts to get up close and personal with the planes, whilst enjoying the warm Caribbean sun.
10 Worth It: Wellington airport, New Zealand
It is a well-known fact that New Zealand is an adventurers dream. From the most southern point, to northernmost, it is a country full of different landscapes wherever you look. It is much the same with Wellington airport. Popular Mechanics states that despite only having one terminal and serving only a fraction of the number of cities served by Dubai and Singapore, just like Princess Juliana airport, Wellington airport is set in a perfect location. As you look out your window (we all secretly love the window seat), surfers can be seen riding the waves into the gorgeous Lyall Bay.
9 Worth It: Adolfo Suarez Madrid – Barajas International, Spain
An old, yet modern airport, the Madrid-Barajas airport is the main hub in Spain. eDreams points out that it has been designed to convey an image of simplicity and flexibility, with the ultimate goal of giving travelers a sense of peace and calm in a rushed and stressful place such as an airport. This airport, aside from being well-known for its design features, is most notable for their environmentally friendly outlook, using bamboo and integrated steel in construction, leading to enhanced natural light for passengers.
8 Worth It: Vancouver International, Canada
The Independent suggests that Vancouver International airport is a place where surprisingly, you might want to spend a little more time exploring. They even go as far as to say it is worth a trip all on its own, even if you don’t have a flight! Seems odd…so I did some exploring. Upon further research, it turns out that there are several aquariums and even a sculpture exhibit within the airport. It is quite an amazing site, however, I’m not sure if taking a trip out to the airport to see some sculptures and aquariums is worth it, but I do think if you happen to have a flight departing Vancouver, arrive at the airport early to check out what is on offer.
7 Worth It: Munich airport, Germany
According to Business Insider, Munich airport doesn’t just do your normal airport stuff, like serving passengers. The airport is famous for its modern interior design and sleek lounges, and there is also an event space where different entertainment options are set-up throughout the year for passengers to enjoy. You might be wondering ‘it’s not Germany if there is no beer garden’…well, you will be delighted to know that the airport has basically been formed around this ideology, with a brewery on-site, over 50 bars and restaurants, old-fashioned plane display and mini-golf course! As you can imagine, all of these entertainment options would take quite a large space to offer these services. As a result, Munich airport is the largest enclosed airport in the world.
6 Worth It: Tokyo Haneda airport, Japan
Per Money Inc., Tokyo Haneda airport has recently risen up the world’s best airport rankings from 4th to 2nd. It is the closer of two major airports that serve the amazing city of Tokyo, one of the main reasons why it is right up there with the best. Business and leisure travelers who have passed by Haneda airport have left positive reports, highlighting the high-level of cleanliness throughout in all spaces, as well as the efficient manner of the staff. Oh, and we can’t forget the six-floor shopping and food malls in each of the two terminals!
5 Worth It: Courchevel Altiport, France
Yep, that’s right, altiport. Courchevel airport is located high in the French Alps, hence the name ‘altiport’, and boasts unforgettable panoramic views of the Alpine region. Carving a runway, let alone a small airport in to the side of a mountain is not easy, Popular Mechanics says this altiport’s main customers are the financially well-off, seasoned skiers, however if you are fortunate enough to hitch a ride to this airport, expect a bump or two on landing thanks to mother nature.
4 Worth It: Hong Kong International, China
Another main international hub, Hong Kong International airport attracts million upon millions of travelers each year, 68.5 million to be exact, according to International Airport Review. Despite the massive number of travelers, it is not this number that makes the airport so amazing. Perhaps the on-site US PGA certified 9-hole golf course, IMAX cinema theatres (largest throughout China) and flight simulator will do it? I think so. From personal experience, if you are connecting through Hong Kong to Europe from Australia or anywhere else in Oceania, there will likely be a 5+ hour layover, but this won’t feel so long thanks to the numerous activities available.
3 Worth It: Gibraltar International, UK/Spain
Located on Spain’s southern coast, but owned by the British, Gibraltar International is an airport that has had to build around its very cozy surroundings. Popular Mechanics describes the airport as a quirky design, pointing out that a major highway (Winston Churchill Avenue) which splits through the runway, meaning that just like train tracks in the middle of a road, cars must stop for planes when they are landing and taking off. Quite amazing if you ask me. With the infamous Rock of Gibraltar in the backdrop, and runway extending over the water, there are plans for an extension, however as it stands, cars must obey the traffic lights and give planes right-of-way.
2 Worth It: Doha Hamad, Qatar
Doha Hamad airport, just like its counterpart across the Gulf in Dubai, is a city inside a city. It took 10 years to build, spans 5,400 acres, and according to Business Insider, coming in at a cheap $16 billion USD. Thanks to recent and ongoing renovations and extensions, the interior of the airport can be compared to a quirky, modern art museum, being described by many as one of the most luxurious airports in the world. There are limitless shopping and eating options, as well as an array of relaxation parlors and lounges. Oh, I almost forgot to mention the big yellow teddy bear right in the middle of the airport creates a wonderful centerpiece which is said to bring all cultures together, embracing the airports’ status as a connector between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, per International Airport Review.
1 Worth It: Carrasco International, Montevideo, Uruguay
According to eDreams, the most recent addition to the Carrasco International airport in Uruguay is quite something. Designed by world-famous architect, Rafael Vinoly, the spectacular structure represents several important momentous occasions throughout Uruguayan history and celebrates what the country is well-known for; investments, architecture, innovative technology, as well as maintaining a high standard when it comes to services.