It's fair to say that nobody actually looks forward to a layover. However, they can actually be enjoyable, as many airports offer amazing amenities for travelers. According to many sites or companies that have ranked airports--the Reader's' Digest Choice Awards, Conde Nast Traveler and J.D. Power come to mind--the best are mostly found abroad, in Europe and Asia. They are celebrated because they have few airplane delays and cancellations and TSA lines aren't interminable due to increased staffing, for example. But it's not just the logistics of flying that make these airports world-class. It's also what they offer. How about an airport with an IMAX theater to watch free movies? Or an observation deck on the rooftop to watch airplanes take off? Singapore's Changi Airport has a rooftop swimming pool with a lounge. South Korea's Incheon Airport has a 72-hole golf club and a skating rink.
Not all foreign airports are top-notch, though. At some, you'll still be dealing with long security lines and abysmal attractions. But in general, it is the airports in the US that are the worst. The most famous international airports, like JFK and LAX, are awful due to their disagreeable overall look and conditions, how unclean they are and how many delays and cancellations they've racked up.
It's too bad that American airports don't have the greatest reputations because they make an impression on foreign flyers who assume that the copious delays, the foreboding TSA security checkpoints and the beat-up terminals offering bad food at jacked-up prices, reflect the cities they're in. We've done our part of sifting through the bad and the good, too, so the next time you fly you'll know in advance what to expect. So here are 15 of the best airports to waste time in, and 10 of the worst airports that we should fly right through.
25 Waste Time In: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport - loads to do
If your flight is delayed at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, no worries, you have a lot of things to do. From live music series to the best concessions, the Atlanta airport stands out, especially since it includes an extensive art collection that will take your breath away. It's a public collection of more than 250 pieces, from African sculptures to beautiful installations. According to Thrillist Travel the exhibits from local artists and private collections rotate to keep the airport's museum fresh.
24 Fly Right Through: Paris Beauvais-Tille Airport - small, unclean, and zero ambiance
This airport located in Paris ranks low on many lists because it so far has not expanded or remodeled to take into consideration the throngs of crowds. BVA made some temporary changes, but that was ten years ago. So for now, the airport resembles a gigantic warehouse, with little to no ambiance. Also BVA lacks chairs for flyers, and, according to The Telegraph, it's not very clean. The airport's final problem is that it claims to serve the French Capital, but is actually two hours from the city's center by car.
23 Fly Right Through: Newark International Airport - most miserable airport
According to J.D. Power, Newark came in dead last among large airports and MilesCard.com came to the same conclusion, calling EWR the most "miserable airport" in the US. Yikes! EWR faces many problems. Food options rely on fast food chains and the waiting areas look as if they've taken a beating. When it comes to flying, EWR has significant flights delays, TSA lines seem impossible to get to due to a deluge of flyers, and it has one of the longest waits to takeoff. Travel+Leisure found similar results, and said that EWR is the worst because of "miserable check-in and security lines." Even worse is what Thrillist said, calling EWR “ugly and dirty."
22 Waste Time In: San Francisco International Airport - won't want to leave
For those traveling to Hawaii or to Asia, SFO is a common layover spot. Lucky for you, SFO has plenty of amenities that will make you forget that you're at an airport. There's free WiFi all over (unlike other airports), art exhibits, Freshen Up! (for showers), Xpress Spas (for everything from massages to waxing), the Aviation Museum and Library (free to the public), two kids' play areas, a medical clinic, a reflection room (for some quiet time) and, of course, the famous 24 hour yoga studio, the first of its kind at an airport, according to Business Insider. But the biggest attraction is Lilou, the nation's first airport therapy pig who assists travelers who have anxieties about flying.
21 Fly Right Through: Zurich Airport, Switzerland - limited water
ZRH is Switzerland's largest international airport and is the main hub for Swiss International. Known for its variety of shops--80 and counting--as well as its many restaurants and bars, ZRH even has its own grocery store, according to Global Heartbeat Travel. But it's hard to find water fountains or free hydration stations. We empty our water bottles to pass through security and we all expect we can fill them at the airport to save around six or seven dollars to buy a new water bottle. The fact that water is limited makes ZRH a place we would never want to hang around in.
20 Fly Right Through: Kathmandu Tribhuvan International Airport, Nepal - poor bathroom conditions
Just like JFK, KTM ranks low on the J.D. Power list and has been collectively called by several respondents who participated in the rankings as having a terminal that looks like a "bus station." If you've been to the Port Authority, you know what we're talking about. In addition, KTM's lackluster reputation is due to its bad bathroom conditions. According to The Cheat Sheet, here's how one passenger put it: “I had purposely dehydrated myself, so I wouldn’t have to use the restroom there. ” Yeah, we're never going to KTM!
19 Waste Time In: Vancouver International Airport, Canada - purchase a day pass for the spas and gyms for pennies!
Consistently voted one of the top airports, the Vancouver Airport is perhaps best known for its various aquarium exhibits, the largest holding 114,000 liters of water. You can spend a good deal of time trying to spot native species like wolf eels, sea urchins and jellyfish, to name a few, according to SleepingInAirports. This airport also urges you to relax. Here, you don't have to be a first or business class flyer to take advantage of the many lounges. You can simply purchase a day pass to use these lux rooms. You can also purchase a day pass to use the high-tech gym and one of the showers for only $18!
18 Fly Right Through: Los Angeles International Airport - leaving isn't the problem, it's getting there
Los Angeles is famous for its traffic, which means getting to the airport on time is nail-biting. It's for this reason that Travelbank ranked LAX at the bottom of its list. This is nothing new, as LAX--the nation's second busiest airport--has seen its share of negative criticism due to the fact that it's hard to get to, and difficult for an Uber or cab to drop off or pick up passengers because of the crowded ramps outside the terminals. The Los Angeles Times said LAX looked like a "1960s correctional facility," and CNN Travel said LAX is “eight terminals connected by a traffic jam.” But there's a silver lining. Mercury News reported that LAX has begun a $14 billion renovation, and Terminal 6 was recently remodeled, adding 21 new shops and restaurants.
17 Waste Time In: Central Japan International Airport - it has a bath house overlooking the runway
Central Japan International Airport is located in the outskirts of Nagoya. The airport is spacious and bright, with impeccable airport services and many restaurants to choose from, including a food court. It's famous for two amenities, according to Matcha. One, it has a bath house, the first of its kind in a domestic Japanese airport. As you relax and soak in the baths, you can watch as the planes takeoff and land from a very close distance. Two, after some quick guidance from instructors, you can ride a Segway, a way to see every inch of this phenomenal airport in a short period of time.
16 Waste Time In: Copenhagen Airport - most efficient airport
Copenhagen Airport, Kastrup is the main international airport serving Copenhagen, Denmark, the entire Zealand, the Øresund Region, and a large part of southern Sweden including Scania. The airport has to be good because it was named the third-best airport in the world for business travellers by Business Traveller. It has also won many awards for its restaurants and cafes, which are always busy and impeccably designed. You can spend a lot of time here, and it's one of the world's most efficient airports, from its central security checkpoint that has been named the best in the world, to its punctuality where flights take off on time, according to CPH.
15 Fly Right Through: Caracas Simón Bolívar International Airport, Venezuela - crazy chaotic
Good luck if you have a layover at CCS. Called "chaotic and uncomfortable" by SleepingInAirports, this airport lacks chairs for the abundant crowds passing through, its bathrooms are gross, the food choices are lackluster, and the customs lines have an interminable wait. To escape this "dull" airport, The Cheat Sheet recommends paying a fee for a day pass to stay in one of the two airport lounges where you can get away from the main concourse to relax and use the free Wi-Fi to entertain yourself since nothing at CCS will.
14 Waste Time In: Singapore Changi Airport - world's best airport
For the sixth year in a row, Singapore’s Changi Airport once again holds the title of being the world’s best airport. Singapore Airlines is part of the reason, as it offers frequent connections from the hub to dozens of locations in the region, according to Forbes. But the major reason is that it is beautiful in design and has a lot of top-notch amenities, making it less like an airport and more as a destination spot. There's an indoor waterfall, butterfly garden, and open-air decks and restaurants. There's even a rooftop swimming pool with a lounge, two-yep, two--free 24-hour cinemas to watch movies, free and fast Internet, and a play area for kids.
13 Fly Right Through: Ho Chi Minh City Tân Sơn Nhất International Airport, Vietnam - dirtiest airport
SGN is one of the dirtiest airports in the world, with bathrooms that look as if they've never been cleaned and litter not being picked up at each gate. There are also very few restaurants to choose from. Basically, it's fast food, with Burger King and Popeye's being your options. There's also spotty Wi-Fi, and allegations about corruption in the customs area. It turns out, as SleepingInAirports found out, many custom officers ask for bribes to make the line and the process go faster. There's also the fact that its difficult finding transportation from the airport. Yep, we'd fly through this airport fast!
12 Waste Time In: Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas Airport
Stunning and beautiful with glass panes instead of traditional walls and sloping ceilings, there are a lot of attractions at this Madrid airport. According to the Madrid Tourism website, there's a gallery featuring Spanish and Latin American paintings and sculptures, many airport shops (including designer stores) beside the Duty Free stores, restaurants that even finicky foodies would love, a children's play area to keep your kids entertained and free Wi-Fi zones. But the best feature is the elegant room rentals that are fully equipped, so you can sleep or rest in total Zen-like comfort.
11 Fly Right Through: John F. Kennedy International Airport -worst of the most traveled airports
JFK has always had its problems and even now they have not been rectified, making this airport something to just pass through. According to People, the airport suffers from significant delays, cancellations, extensive waits for connections and a long drive to and from the airport, especially if your starting point was Manhattan, which means taking a cab to JFK will cost you over $60 plus tip. It doesn't help that JFK ranked at the absolute bottom of Money's survey of 80 of the country's most traveled commercial airports.
10 Waste Time In: Incheon International Airport, Incheon, South Korea - spas, ice rinks, people could spend hours here!
There's a ton to do at the Incheon airport in South Korea. There's an in-house spa that offers massages, a sauna, showers, and private sleeping rooms. It may cost you, but as Tripzilla said, these things are the best way to prepare for a long flight. Also, there's a 72-hole golf club that's part of the airport to help you relax and which you can get to by riding a free five-minute shuttle bus. In addition, you can feel serene at the seven indoor gardens that all have different themes, watch a movie in the two cinemas and, for only five dollars, you can rent skates, gloves and a helmet and skate on the free synthetic ice skating room.
9 Fly Right Through: LaGuardia Airport, Queens - always problems when doing renovations
J.D. Power recently ranked airports based on customer satisfaction, how clean they are, what conditions they are in, and how many delays and cancellations they have. LaGuardia ranked at the bottom, the absolute lowest among all airports rated. Only about 72% of the airport’s arriving flights were on time in 2017, according to the Department of Transportation. And according to Time, LGA is always at the bottom of rankings because it is "stalling on small maintenance projects while it undergoes a major renovation."
8 Waste Time In: Hong Kong International Airport - they have a giant theater
One of the busiest airports in Asia is HKG, where you'll find lots to do while waiting for your flight. The airport boasts an on-site movie house that's the world's only airport IMAX and the largest cinema in the Chinese territory, according to CNN Travel. If you want something wild, head to the Aviation Discovery Center where you can practice landing a plane with interactive rides and simulators. The airport even boasts real and simulated golf, a nine-hole golf course and a virtual golf simulation room.
7 Waste Time In: Munich International Airport - it has a brewery, need we say more?
The Munich airport is famous for it microbrewery, the Airbrau. In fact, MUC is the world's only airport with a brewery. Both locals and travelers come here to enjoy freshly brewed beer since 1999. With bargain prices, there are eight different types of beer that are brewed at the Airbrau. According to the Munich International site, the brewing sessions take place in the main restaurant where "350 people can sit around the brew kettles and observe the process of brewing, following the beer's storage in 530-gallon kettles." There's even a brewery tour. In addition, the airport has many fine gourmet restaurants to choose from.
6 Waste Time In: Denver International Airport - a bridge overlooking the planes
One of the finest attractions at Denver International Airport is the functional pedestrian bridge. Spanning 345 feet, travelers can get an up-close look at the planes beneath them while also gazing at the jaw-dropping views of the Rocky Mountains. In fact, according to Business Insider, it's the only passenger bridge in the country "where you can watch an airplane taxi beneath your feet." Perhaps the most environmental-friendly airport in the US (there's an extensive recycling program in place) its white canopy roof allows for tons of natural lights, thereby reducing electric usage. And, according to The Points Guy, DEN is also a shopaholic's dream come true, featuring both high-end (Swarovski) and affordable stores (Sunglass Express).
5 Waste Time In: The Sydney International Airport - the most relaxing airport
The Sydney International Airport is the busiest airport in the nation and has three passenger terminals and provides flights to 48 international, 23 domestic, and 28 regional destinations, according to Travel + Leisure. Known for its Qantas First Lounge, this luxury facility boasts a 30-meter vertical garden and contains 8,400 plants. In addition to this enormous installation, there's a day spa where you can either relax or else take a refreshing shower. Also, the airport is known for its high-end shops and its many dining options.
4 Fly Right Through: Jeddah King Abdulaziz International Airport, Saudi Arabia - frequent flyers ranked it worst airport
SleepingInAirports ranked JED as the world's worst airport in the world back in 2016, and that was determined by a survey of frequent flyers who spent a lot of time in airports. Despite the backlash, in 2017 JED failed to make any changes, prompting one of Skytrax's reviewers to call JED "a painful experience, dirty, smelly. . . [T]he toilets were dirty and wet, the place is full of mosquitos, and if you can avoid [JED] then avoid it." According to Albawaba, "All aspects of the terminals need serious improvement" and while the airport announced that a new terminal would be built, nothing so far has happened. The worst thing is that there are no amenities at JED. The terminal lacks restaurants, shopping and any sort of entertainment.
3 Waste Time In: Dubai International Airport - so much to do
OMG. If you're stuck at DXB, you're not going to want to board your flight when the plane is finally ready! The airport is designed to pamper travelers, according to The Points Guy. There are the Timeless Spas (for massages and manicures), two indoor zen gardens (for free reflection and meditation), 10 Snooze Cubes (for rest at only $21 per hour) and free (!!) showers (to freshen up.) But the best things are the airport lounges. For a small fee, any traveler can use the rooms, which feature work stations, sleep rooms, inclusive food and drinks, free Wi-Fi, and shower stalls.
2 Waste Time In: London Heathrow Airport - basically a shopping mall, with spas
London Heathrow Airport is the busiest airport in Europe and is the primary hub for British Airways and is a base for Virgin Atlantic. Terminal 5 (there are 5 terminals) was named the second best airport terminal in the world by Skytrax. According to Conde Nast Travel, LHR is known as a shopping destination with many of London's High Street boutiques having outposts here. There's Harrods, Burberry, Thomas Pink, Fortnum & Mason and many more. And like other world-class airports, you can fly economy and still have access to the best airport lounges around by buying a day pass. There's even an art gallery of world-class art.
1 Tokyo International Airport Haneda - anime and Hello Kitty everywhere
Tokyo International Airport Haneda is a great place to hang out if you get to the airport early or if your flight is delayed. Inside, there's a 25m long, half-size replica of the Japan Bridge across the Nihonbashi River, according to Time Out. The fourth floor is dedicated to Edo-koji, with 21 restaurants serving everything from yakitori and oden to udon and green tea. The fifth floor is dedicated to Japanese pop culture with anime, manga and character paraphernalia. Say hello to Hello Kitty here! At the international terminal, there's a rooftop observation deck that stays open for 24 hours for a panoramic and breathtaking view of the city. At night, the lights come on for an even more terrific view (see above).
Sources: Travel+Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler, Thrillist CNN Travel, SleepingInAirports, The Cheat Sheet, JD Power, Time, Tripzilla, The Telegraph, Business Traveller, Business Insider, Forbes