Having flown all over the world, I’ve had my fair share of experiences at airports. From the worst to the best, here are my personal top 10 favorites. Granted, I have still not been to Australia/Oceania and Africa yet, so I’m sure the list will be continually growing. Unfortunately, none of the airports I’ve been to in North or South America made the cut, mainly due to poor facilities, long lines and lack of efficiency, and poor customer service.
Things I took into consideration when creating this list was my personal experiences on customer service, food and shopping options, features at the airport, cleanliness, efficiency of wait times, and transportation to and from the city. If you have any personal experiences you would like to share or feel like I’ve left some out, post in the comments section! I’d love to hear what your personal favorites are. To see official rankings by Skytrax, check out the 2014 winners here.
10) Suvarnabhumi Airport – BKK (Bangkok, Thailand)
Major Airline Hub: Thai Airways, Bangkok Airways, Orient Thai Airlines
The only airport on this list from a developing country, Bangkok does an outstanding job of showing what a modern airport should look like. Some features that make this airport nice are sightseeing tours for long layover passengers and a spa. However, beyond that, there are really no other amazing features besides the standard food and shopping options. Also, getting to and from Bangkok is not easy and can also take a lot of time as you are heavily reliant on how traffic is via taxi. Unless on an extremely long layover (over 6 hours), I would not recommend leaving to go into the city. Check out this article on some things to do at the airport by Bangkok Travel Ideas here.
Image Source: Jet Setting Times (left) and Wikipedia (right)
9) Charles De Gaulle Aiport – CDG (Paris, France)
Major Airline Hub: Air France, Delta
Although not known as one of the easiest airports to transit through or be on time (due to its sheer size and length), CDG does have amazing architecture with ceiling to floor glass windows and modern furniture. Just walking around will make you marvel at the various features of the airport from the furniture to the ceiling. As a video game geek, the best part about this airport is the Sony Playstation experience in Terminal 2. You can play on one of the many PSP3s and kill time while waiting for your flight. Check out some other notable features on Travel and Leisure in this article here. Overall, this airport is loaded with shopping options, seating, and food options, so it’s not hard to occupy your time.
Image Source: Cephas (left) and B-Europe (right)
8) Beijing Capital International Airport – PEK (Beijing, China)
Major Airline Hub: Air China, China Southern Airlines, Hainan Airlines
China’s made a lot of improvements on infrastructure for the Olympics and you can definitely tell with Beijing’s airport. Filled now with a clean, sleek, modern feel and with lots of shopping and restaurant options, it’s easy to enjoy your time here. Plus with being able to enter into the city now with a 72 hour transit visa (only available in 9 cities in China including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Chongqing, Shenyang, Dalian, Xian, and Guilin, read more here), it makes visiting and passing through China much better. Some fun things to do include going to the Entertainment Center where you can find a spa and playing ball in the mini basketball court. To see what some other features are at the airport, check out this Travel and Leisure article here. I also had a chance to go to the Air China loung and enjoy the beautiful view of the whole terminal below.
Image Source: Wikipedia (Right)
7) Kansai International Airport – KIX (Osaka, Japan)
Major Airline Hub: ANA, Japan Airlines, Peach
Osaka’s airport is located on an artificially made island in Osaka Bay. One of the best features of this airport is the Sky View Observation Hall, which has a panoramic view of the airport where you can watch planes take off and land. Otherwise, there are plenty of good Japanese restaurants and shopping options. Other unique features of this airport include an on-site doctor and dentist, post office, and pet hotel. To see a list of all the features, check out Kansai International Airport’s website here.
Image Source: Nikken.co.jp (left)
6) Copenhagen International Airport – CPH (Copenhagen, Denmark)
Major Airline Hub: SAS
Scandinavian design is prevalent throughout the airport. From the rustic feeling with the dark hardwood floors to the sleek white modern furniture and vast open ceilings, CPH is easily one of the best airports in Europe and the world. Also, each time I’ve been through here, processing times through custom and security are really fast and efficient. If you are flying SAS and get to go inside the lounge, it is ultra modern and comfortable. Copenhagen airport definitely wins points for being incredibly pretty and stylish, but in terms of overall things to do while on an extended layover, Asian airports tend to do much better in that category. Besides eating and shopping at duty free, there really aren’t that many unique features about the airport. You can always walk around and admire the Scandinavian appeal. Additionally, with the exchange rate of DKK to USD, food tends to be quite pricey, especially at the inflated airport price.
Image Source: Luxeinacity.com (left) and Bornoe.org (right)
5) Amsterdam Schiphol Airport – AMS (Amsterdam, Netherlands)
Major Airline Hub: KLM, Arkefly, Transavia.com
The best thing about Amsterdam’s airport is how ridiculously close and fast it takes to go downtown. By train it usually takes me no more than 15-20 minutes and the trains run very frequently. That means it’s incredibly easy to exit and explore Amsterdam even with a shorter layover. I’ve left on a 4 hour layover and had at least 2 hours to explore the city on foot. Customs is always a quick experience. Also, if you plan on leaving the airport for a layover, there are luggage lockers right by the customs exits inside the airport that you can rent for the day. Other unique features are a casino inside the airport and Holland Blvd., which is an area with shops and restaurants that feels like walking around outside Amsterdam. To read more about some cool stuff to do, check out this article by Terminalu.
Image Source: Wikipedia (left) and Look2Fly (right)
4) Narita International Airport – NRT (Tokyo, Japan)
Major Airline Hub: ANA, Japan Airlines, Jetstar Japan, Vanilla Air, Delta, United
Ok, every airport on this list has amazing duty free stores, but Narita wins with it’s products and impeccable Japanese quality customer service. Every mainstream Japanese item can be found here. Even if you’re here just for a layover, it’s easy to fill your bag with food goodies and cutesy Hello Kitty items to bring home to your friends and family and pretend that you were in Japan. Additionally, I like that there’s an origami museum within a paper store that you can observe. The airport lounges at United and ANA have self-pouring beer machines (another technological Japanese invention), fresh ramen and Japanese curry, sushi, and other delectable Japanese treats. Lastly, my favorite thing about this airport are Japanese toilets everywhere!
Image Source: Tokyojapanlife.com (left) and Commons.Wikimedia.Org (right)
3) Incheon International Airport – ICN (Seoul, South Korea)
Major Airline Hub: Asiana, Korean Air, Jeju Air
From endless opportunities to shop to free organized layover tours of Seoul, Incheon is a traveler friendly airport. It’s also extremely easy to get to the airport from downtown Seoul with several train line options. Immigration is super fast as well and customer service is excellent. Additional unique features include an ice skating rink, seven gardens, and movie theaters. To learn more about some awesome features, check out this article written by Seoulistic.
Image Source: Seoulistic
2) Hong Kong International Airport – HKG (Hong Kong, China)
Major Airline Hub: Cathay Pacific, Dragonair, Hong Kong Airlines, Hong Kong Express Airways
Hong Kong has made huge improvements from formerly being ranked as one of the world’s most dangerous airports with it’s old airport in Kowloon, Kai Tek International Airport (which closed in 1998) to a modern pinnacle of what airports should look like. Now sitting on it’s own island, Hong Kong has one of the best airports in the world. From super fast transportation to Macau or Hong Kong to now a free bag and airline check-in service in the city of Hong Kong, the airport focuses on quick convenience for it’s customers. Check out this article about the new bag service on Citylab. It’s clean, efficient, and easy to get to.
Image Source: Flickr (left) and Mawasholidays.com (right)
1) Singapore Changi International Airport – SIN (Singapore, Singapore)
Major Airline Hub: Singapore Airlines, SilkAir, Tigerair, Jetstar Asia Airways, Scoot
It’s easy to see why Changi is consistently rated the best airport in the world. It’s also one of the best airports to do a layover at, with multiple free tours of Singapore to transit passengers. Changi contains many ridiculous features, a giant slide, butterfly garden, koi fish pond, free massage chairs, and movie theaters. The best part is that the customs lines and security here is always fast and efficient. They don’t check your luggage and bags until you arrive at your gate. I’ve never experienced a line longer than 5 mins at customs. Staff is incredibly friendly and all speak English well. Plus there’s a lot of shopping options as well to get some unique Singaporean gifts, such as Pandan Cake, before leaving the country. Also, Singapore Airlines’ lounge is one of the best in the world when it comes to food and drink options and great facilities. Read more about it’s consistent worldwide #1 ranking in this Business Insider article.