Not all airports are exasperating mood-foulers: These 10 make delays enjoyable
I'm lucky to have seen the top 4 airports in its list.
I first went to Munich Airport in October 2003 on my flight back to Manila. I went to Sweden for a 7-weeks training on "Sustainable Agriculture". After the course, I visited by bus Denmark, Netherlands (The Hague and Amsterdam) and Germany (Miesbach, about 50 kms. south of Munich, Bavaria). Then I went back to Munich airport in November 2008, after I attended a week-long seminar on "Local Governments and Civil Society" in Gummersbach, Germany (I landed at Cologne airport, then car to Gummersbach), sponsored by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Liberty (FNF).
I first went to Seoul in 1996 for a 2-weeks "Technology and Policy" seminar sponsored by KOICA. I was working at CPBO, House of Representatives then. Then I came back in 2002 when I joined the PDE-UPSE study tour in Seoul and a few cities, Incheon airport was only about 1 year old then. I came back again in 2006 to attend the Asia Pacific Taxpayers Union (APTU) meeting. In 2009, I went to Los Angeles, I took Korean Air, it naturally landed at Seoul-Incheon airport from Manila. But it was only a stop over, going to and back from the US.
Singapore, I've been there about 4x (2002, 2009 2x, and January 2011). Last year when I went to Jakarta (October 2010), I took Singapore Air so from Manila it landed first in Changi, then changed plane to Jakarta, same route coming back. Changi airport is really big and modern. The airport is itself a tourist attraction.
And Hong Kong, yes, among the busiest airports I've seen. I estimate there is one plane landing every 45 seconds I think, and another plane taking off every 45 seconds too. If you are seated window seat, try looking up after your plane has landed, you will most likely see 3 or 4 or 5 planes in the air on queue waiting to land.
4. Munich Airport, Munich, Germany
... Munich’s 1990s-era Terminal 1 is younger, fresher-looking and better organized than most terminal 2s and 3s on the planet. Its second terminal, home to Lufthansa and Star Alliance members, is arranged around a bright, central plaza that makes LHR and CDG look purgatorial.
Smack in the middle, the facility’s airy shopping and recreation area -- Munich Airport Centre -- is easily accessible to all passengers without feeling pushy.
A “Bavarian hospitality” ethos here means this is one of the few airports on either side of the Atlantic where a no-frills T2 passenger can enjoy free tea and coffee and a T1er can happily sit out a flight delay at Air Bräu, a micro-brew worthy of a college town.
3. Seoul Incheon, Seoul, Korea
At 10 years young, South Korea’s pin-up airport continues to wow passengers with its bright and airy arrival halls, its futuristic connecting train terminal, its Pine Tree and Wildflower gardens and its boggling array of amenities that include private sleeping rooms, free showers, round-the-clock spa facilities, ubiquitous Internet lounges, a golf course and an ice skating rink.
And all this without forgetting why most people actually come to airports: not so much to work on their double axels or putting, but to get somewhere else as quickly and painlessly as possible.
Crowned as the world’s top airport in the annual, customer-survey-based Airport Service Quality Awards, ICN is one of only three in the world with a full five-star Skytrax rating -- along with the next two airports on this list.
Why is Seoul number three? Bring Cirque du Soleil here and we’ll see about next year.
In the meantime, check out the traditional Korean music performances or acrobatic shows on the first floor open stage. And don’t forget to swing by the Korean Culture Museum.
“It was nice to see several cultural experiences placed around the terminal,” writes one airlinequality.com passenger. “How many of us go through an airport and learn nothing of the country we are in?”
2. Singapore Changi, Singapore
Is there a bigger compliment to an airport than travelers routinely scheduling more time here just to have fun and relieve stress?
Spotless, flawlessly organized and stocked with conveniences that continue to lock Singapore for the gold, silver or (in an off-year marred by constructing more improvements) bronze in every serious annual airport poll, here’s the place that re-invented what airports can be.
That is -- places with pools, whirlpool baths and massage tables, prayer rooms and rooftop bars, LAN gaming areas and free movie theaters, koi ponds and butterfly gardens.
Changi’s massive interiors may require some hiking -- on efficient travelators or shuttle trains -- to distant gates or between terminals. But as long as you’re not running to catch a flight, it’s no O’Hare or Heathrow-style headache. More like a tour of what an elite international airport can and should be.
Above all, it’s the mandated comfort factor here that’s most appreciated by passengers gravitating to relaxation lounges or, in a pinch, reclining slumber chairs with flat-screen TVs spread throughout the terminal floors.
Based on its four C voting criteria -- Comfort, Convenience, Cleanliness and Customer service -- Sleeping in Airports has granted SIN its coveted Golden Pillow Award for 15 straight years.
1. Hong Kong International, Hong Kong
Now that its place as one of the great land reclamation projects of the 20th century is, well, 20th-century, HKIA is onto newer benchmarks -- including entering the world’s 50 million annual passenger club (shared with only 10 other airports) and becoming the busiest freight airport on earth.
This kind of pressure might sink a less inspired or prepared facility (the airport currently has a multi-phase Master Plan 2030 in the works which will see it through the next couple decades), but Hong Kong keeps looking better and more five-star functional with everything thrown at it.
And not just for cargo carriers, but for more than 900 daily flights’ worth of satisfied travelers whisking through this foolproof hub -- offering loads of opportunities for lounging, golfing, fine-dining, 4-D movie theater-ing, free Wi-Fi’ing and simply wishing that this year’s Skytrax World Airport of the Year could be replicated in London, Paris, New York, Juneau … anywhere outside of Asia.
Considered one of the most accessible airports in operation today, Hong Kong’s swift and driverless Automated People Mover is both ultra-convenient and kind-of-forbidding.
Hong Kong’s express train service to/from downtown offers remote check-in and has reinvented just how simple it should be to reach or depart a remote-looking airport. That is, if you ever want to depart.
The next 6 most loved airports -- I have not seen them yet -- are: