Thursday, 6 March 2008

What Makes a Top Airport?

According to eTurboNews, a survey by the Airports Council International has named the top three airports in the world as:
  1. Seoul Incheon, South Korea
  2. Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Malaysia
  3. Changi Airport, Singapore
The rankings were derived from a survey of 34 service aspects of airports, from check-in to departure, as judged by 200,000 respondents.

The only one of these airports I've experienced personally is Changi, many many times in transit between Australia and Europe.

Although the range of its facilities is impressive, it slipped considerably in my personal ratings last year, due to its annoying new rule that all cabin luggage has to be taken out of a plane in transit.

So, en route from Melbourne to London on the same aircraft, we had to drag everything out into the airport, then go through the laborious metal detector screening etc to get it back on again... even though it had been thoroughly screened in Melbourne.

Not only was this security overkill, but it didn't help the passenger's enjoyment of Changi's facilities, or the profitability of its shops.

When you're hauling around 8 to 10 kilograms of cabin luggage, you can't be bothered to walk too far - so most passengers just left the aircraft, entered the terminal, then stepped straight back into the queue to be rescreened so they could sit into the transit lounge to wait for re-boarding.

On the way back from Europe, my plane transited in the decade-old Hong Kong International Airport, a first for me.

Although the transit area had a slightly muddled, bureaucratic feeling - with dozens of smiling female staff members handing out lapel stickers which had something to do with your flight which was never explained - the airport officials felt relaxed enough to let our cabin luggage stay on board, freeing us up for a bit of a stroll.

And it's a great airport for that, with expansive views through huge plate glass windows, very welcome when you've been cooped up on a plane for 15 hours. And the natural light probably helped the body clock readjust a bit.

So what do you look for in an airport? The quickest way out, perhaps? Or are some actually worth spending time in? What's your favourite aerohaveno, and why?


  1. I'm entranced by that word 'aerohaveno' - which I keep reading as "aero haven o!"

    Airports are mostly not havens at all. They are brief respites in purgatory before the next bit of long haul flight.

    I retain a soft spot for the international airport in Aleppo. A bus shed on a tarmac. Talk about back to basics...

    Narrelle Harris

  2. My favourite is Merimbula.

    Arrive 10 minutes before the plane takes off, park at the door, and heave your luggage onto the old-fashioned scale with the dial on top. Doesn't matter what it weighs, they never charge for excess luggage.

    There is zero security and the only things to buy are trashy local papers, lukewarm coffee and mysterious packages of pre-mixed Asian spices.

    Watch out for roos in the evenings.

  3. The airport I really love is Narita. I love that the food stores and restaurants are divided into two sections, "Japanese food" and "Western food". Of course, the Japanese side is the one you want - the sushi is better than anything you'll find in the centres of major cities outside of Japan, or a big bowl of ramen will fill you up for a long-haul flight without the calories.

    Apart from Narita, even with the silly airport security, Changi does well because of the spa in Terminal 1. Before the last trip back to London I managed to get a 15 minute neck and back massage - during the subsequent 13 hour flight, I think I managed to sleep for almost half of it. A first!

    You probably get similar things in HK, but I always get hassled by security staff about my insulin pens. They're the only ones in the world - apart from Australian domestic idiots - who do this to diabetics. Makes for a most unpleasant experience.

  4. My sympathies Ben. But US security is worse: 15 minutes to get through San Fran with a hip replacement compared to 15 seconds (literally) in Vancouver the same day. At least i din't have to drop my dacks (I would have - right there) as a similarly endowed friend had to.

  5. I have a soft spot for the newly-established Tiger Airlines terminal, in a little shed next to Melbourne Tullamarine Airport. The airline may be cut-priced, skeleton staffed and difficult to barter with by phone or 'net, and the building may be a stiflingly stuffy, featureless lobby to house a stationary queue of travellers, BUT there are tiger stripes on the observation tower. And that will get my money any day.