Recently, Skytrax has named the top 100 airports of 2014 and of course, Singapore takes the lead.
What’s unfortunate about the ranking system on their official website however, is that no reasons are given as to why each airport was chosen. It’s simply a spreadsheet that names the hundred airports in order of their ranking on one side, followed by last years position on the other.
Since so many of our readers spend a great deal of time traveling internationally, we felt it was important to break down some of the reasons, we thought, each airport was selected. We’ve taken the top ten airports as selected by their critics and explained a little bit about what makes each of them so special.
Starting at the top and working our way down to the last place, here are the top 10 airports of 2014, as selected by Skytrax.
Singapore Changi Airport
The Singapore Changi Airport is a bustling interface of 5000 aircrafts that arrive and depart from its terminals every week. With service to and from over 200 global destinations, it provides a temporary home away from the skies for an astounding 80 international airlines.
When it comes to customer service and security, the airport has amassed more than 470 international awards naming it the best airport since it first opened in 1981. Sven Raphael Schneider visited the airport twice in the last 12 months, and while it is pretty clean, especially for Asia, it was a bit of a disappointment given the sheer number of awards.
At Changi airport, you can find complimentary massage chairs, a clean, spacious environment but the food options were rather disappointing. Check-in is smooth, and security worked flawlessly as well.
At over 750,000 square feet spread throughout its three main terminals it is anything but small, so you have distances to gates are not short.
Terminal 3 has, by far, the most retail space and the terminals offer services that include nap areas, spas and shower facilities. There are hotels, spas and other hospitality services right in the airport and for passengers in transit for more than five hours, Singapore Tours will grant a special pass for you to leave the airport for one of tour tours of the city.
There are six nature and wildlife reserves inside the hotel for those looking to “get outside” but can’t and a wide range of restaurants from fast food to international fine dining for those with a more discerning palate.
The airport surprisingly derives the majority of its revenue, not from air travel, but from duty-free shopping. The airport itself is the largest shopping center in all of Singapore and focuses on selling liquor and tobacco, cosmetics, and luxury goods. Each terminal is connected via an international transit area that features internet and arcades, religious prayer areas and, of course, a wide variety of other services and amenities. Most of the lounge areas in each terminal feature play areas for children and televisions that show a variety of programming from sports and news to blockbuster movies.
When all is said and done, the airport is a technologically advanced playground for travelers in desperate need of relaxation. It caters to most travelers and offers a vast array of amenities but distances are long, and many passengers have missed flights because they underestimated the distances. Also, food options are mostly fast food chains, which is typical for an airport, but even in Minneapolis you seem to find better food than in Singapore.
Overall, an impressive airport but if it is number one or not depends on your preferences. In any case, don’t expect a mind blowing experience because at the end of the day it is just an airport.
Incheon International Airport
Incheon is one of the largest and busiest airports in the world, operating just over 30 miles from Seoul. For almost years, it’s been rated the best airport worldwide by Airports Council International.
Despite being one of the busiest airports, it’s records are impressive. The average departure time is under 20 minutes with the worldwide average being an hour making it one of the fastest airports for customs processing in the world. Not only is it quick, but the airport boasts a consistent 0.0001% baggage mishandling rate.
When it comes to amenities, there is no shortage. The airport is well known for being Business Traveller Magazine’s favorite airport in the world for shopping. Some of the amenities in the terminals consist of an award-winning golf course, a full spa, private sleeping quarters for those looking to catch up, a casino with a variety of machine and table games, a museum, seven garden reserves and an ice skating rink.
It’s a remarkably advanced airport and one that any traveler should be happy to visit.
Next to Frankfurt, Munich is the busiest airport in Germany. Despite only having two terminals and two runways, the airport is capable of handling international airlines of all sizes, including the Airbus A380. Sven Raphael Schneider traveled to Munich twice in the last month, and food options at the gate were very limited. Check-in at the counter was slow, but Air France was also understaffed. On the other hand, security could have been faster.
On the other hand, Munich airport is especially good for families traveling with small children. From the Kinderland amusement park to educational terminals in the visitor’s center there is lots to do for young ones. The airport also features a vibrant park with a hill that poses as the perfect viewing podium for those wanting an unobstructed view of the airport’s apron. The security staff was very friendly and helped families with children including new-travellers who had never traveled before and did not know anything about security checks.
The quality of baggage handling and services, as well as staff courtesy and efficiency, are all excellent.
Hong Kong International Airport
With service from over one hundred airlines, Hong Kong International is a hub for international travel. A gateway to mainland China, the airport is home to one of the largest terminals in the world. Despite it’s grand size, the airport is best known for its convenience and ability to move passengers from one end of the terminal to the other in an orderly and timely fashion.
Sven Raphael Schneider tested it recently. The halls are grand and impressive and so is the line of people in front of the security line, but the airport staff was surprisingly fast in handling the masses so wait times were acceptable.
With free WiFi, over 280 retail shops and almost 100 restaurants, Hong Kong International is one of the best airports to stop and visit. At the gates, you find plenty of outlets so you won’t have to fight to charge your phone or laptop. It handles almost 70 flights an hour at peak times and maintains impressive passenger reviews on all of the major travel review websites.
Amsterdam Schiphol Airport
Despite having an area called “Terminal 4”, the Amsterdam Schiphol Airport is a single-terminal facility that has some facilities interconnected within the same structure. Sven Raphael Schneider has traveled via Amsterdam several dozen times, and overall it is a decent airport, with plenty of public space, sparkly tile and good food options, including local foods.
Home to over 100 carriers, it ranks among the top fifteen busiest airports in the world and has successfully maintained gleaming records of conduct since its inception. For many airlines, Schiphol is a hub, and so you have to take a bus to get on most connection planes to other European cities which is not always pleasant. Also, the WiFi is usually slow and nothing you can rely on.
Well known for its contribution to the arts, the airport is home to an annex of contemporary and classical fine art as well as a 1200 book library on history and culture. For those intrigued by media entertainment, there is an available library of films and music available for download by passengers visiting the airport.
There are hotel facilities, many dining and retail outlets and an extensive viewing area for aviation enthusiasts. The airport staff refers to the building as a city and prides itself on being much more than just a transportation hub for the rest of the world. It is, in fact, a tribute and testament to Dutch heritage and culture.
Tokyo International Airport – Haneda
Despite being one of two airports in Tokyo and focusing on domestic travel, Haneda is the fourth busiest airport in the world. It handles 90 million passengers each year and was rated by Forbes as being the most punctual airport in the world for two years in a row, with 94.3% of its flights departing on time and 88.6% arriving on time.
Japan is a fascinating country and Tokyo is definitely worth a visit as you can read here.
Haneda has three terminals, all connected via an underground walkway. Despite the aviation aspects being controlled by the government, each terminal is actually operated by a private company. With six stories of retail shopping and various restaurants, Haneda is an expansive range of luxury shops although the food could be improved. The free WiFi works well, and you will have plenty of outlets.
The Delta Club is very nice and definitely worth a visit if you have a longer layover. People are very polite, but English is not their strong suit. Everything is well organized, and you will surely have a good start to your stay in Japan when arriving at Haneda.
Beijing Capital International Airport
If you only count Terminal 3, it’s the sixth largest building in the world. Combine that with every other facility in the airport and it makes Beijing International the second busiest airport on the planet.
Initially built strictly to accommodate the needs of VIPs traveling privately, today it’s an ideal transportation center for business travelers. The restaurant center of the airport has been nicknamed the “global kitchen” and features more than 70 restaurants from fine dining to fast food. There’s obviously a wondrous supply of Chinese restaurants, but there’s also a wide variety of western cuisine with bakeries and ice cream shops. Also, there’re almost 200,000 square feet of retail space which the airport has mandated must meet the same prices as items sell for in Central Beijing; something not many airports can claim. On top of that space, there’s an additional 136,000 square feet of duty-free shopping and nearly 78,000 square feet of service amenities including banks and business centers.
Aside from shopping and eating, the airport is well known for its customer service, management and of course, making sure that flights leave on time, most of the time.
Zürich Airport is the largest international airport of Switzerland and the primary hub for Swiss International Air Lines.
Unlike many airports, Zurich has managed to offer all passengers the ability to access the same retail stores and restaurants. It offers great viewing platforms for aviation enthusiasts and if you are into watches or luxury goods, this is definitely the airport for you.
Being in Switzerland, the airport plays host to a number of luxury boutique stores, especially when it comes to watches and jewelry. Brands such as Rolex, OMEGA, IWC, TAG Heuer, Tissot, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Montblanc, Breitling, to name but a few, are ever-present in the shopping center neighboring an incredible number of other luxury brands such as Hermes, Tiffany & Co, Burberry, Gucci and Atelier.
All departing passengers are able to congregate in the same departure level before being segregated and moved through emigration at the gate. Prior to the gate lounges, there is a large shopping complex for guests with duty-free stores and a wide variety of bars and restaurants.
Overall a great airport.
Vancouver International Airport
Vancouver International Airport is the second busiest airport in Canada and features the most extensive collection of Pacific Northwest Coast Native art in the world.
What it’s really known for though is its accessibility. Canada is well known for its national building code requirements for people with disabilities and the airport has exceeded each and every one.
I’ve had the pleasure of traveling to this airport a number of times – once with an eight-hour stop in between flights. Not only was there plenty to do during my visit, but the staff proved to be exceptionally well trained and eager to assist travelers.
The airport serves as one of the biggest gateways between North America and Asia and attempts in many ways to make it easy for people with language barriers to get where they need to be. The airport uses various types of flooring that are specifically designed to function as a texturized guide of the terminal. Patterns help to identify various parts of the airport such as exits, gate locations, and retail space.
The airport is a direct correlation to the beauty of the city of Vancouver, which, in my opinion, is one of the most vibrant and lovely cities in Canada.
London Heathrow Airport
The five terminals that make up Heathrow are what draw so many visitors to the airport each and every year. The third busiest airport in the world, it is also probably one of the best-known airports. Sven Raphael Schneider has visited Heathrow many times and overall it was never a really pleasant experience.
Either wait times at security were really long or one had to walk through tiny corrodors that looked more like a contruction zone than an airport. The sheer size of the airport is probably one of its biggest weaknesses because it doesn’t allow for convenient or comfortable traveling.
Home to almost 100 airlines that fly to 170 destinations worldwide, the airport is the principle transportation hub of British Airways and Virgin Atlantic.
With such a diverse clientele of passengers from around the world, each terminal is home to a multi-faith prayer room and counseling office with Anglican, Catholic, free church, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim and Sikh chaplains. In addition, the airport is home to St. George’s Interdenominational Chapel in an underground vault adjacent to the old control tower, where Christian services take place.
The airport is also known for its impressive security forces after being the subject of a number of terrorist attacks and threats. Sven Raphael Schneiders laptop bad was completely taken apart once, and while that might not be pleasant when it happens to you, it is great to see that security is taken very seriously at Heathrow.
With hundreds of retails shops and restaurants, aside from impressive safety regulations, the airport is well known as a shopping portal. There is no shortage of boutiques, department stores and convenience marts for travelers of all budgets, big or small, but once you are at the gates, your food options are very limited.
Overall, Heathrow is not an airport that we would put on the Top 10 list and if you can we always suggest using different hubs in Europe instead.
We didn’t come up with this list. While we recognize that there are many airports in the world that deserve to be named in the top ten, this is simply a list of the winners from the internationally recognized World Airport Awards. Despite being very small and having few retail shops, I would still say that Palm Springs International Airport is my number one choice for travel. What’s yours?