The World Airports Customer Satisfaction Survey seems to be the largest of airport surveys conducted so far. It compared the products and services at airports as well as the “experience factor” at over 500 airports all over the world.
The votes for the best airports in the world went to the best in Asia, Hong Kong International, Seoul Incheon and Singapore Changi Airport. Five stars were given to these three airports indicating the “ultimate approval” and highest quality standards.
Two of the airports that received the 2* rating were London Heathrow and Moscow Sheremetyvo. This rating is given for their poor Quality and performance below the industry average.
Overall, the smaller the airport, easier it will be to get through. Flights are not as crowded and the lines will usually be small. However, the airport may have very few facilities for travelers when compared to the bigger, busier airports. Also, the planes will be smaller and we may have to give up our carry-on before climbing up (yes, on makeshift ladders) to the plane. Our carry-on will be held in a special cargo area under the belly of the plane. This will be opened as soon as the plane lands and by the time we disembark, our carry-on will be placed on the ground for us to collect.
It’s a toss-up as to which airports are better or worse. Like the above Customer Satisfaction Survey proves, there are many airports that cannot be compared because if the size, the number of flights, the crowds, etc.
From my own experiences and from the reviews on forums, these are the worst airports in the world:
Port Moresby (Papua New Guinea) is probably the worst! Stay away from it since gang killings seem to be quite common! Unfortunately, airports in most countries where lawlessness is common should be first on this list. Remember to read all travel advisories for the country you are traveling to and also any opinions of readers in travel forums about that airport.
New York JFK – New Yorkers are known to be rude, but the gate agents are some of the worst I have seen. They have added a new terminal, but to get to that terminal, you have to take your luggage up the elevator, into the train, down the elevator and then through an open bridge (yes, even in freezing temperatures!) Really inefficient design of the “new terminal” at JFK!. Only one person helped me to through all this and to get to my flight on time. Of course, the wheel of the luggage trolley got caught in the train door rut and I had a pretty rough time getting it out before the doors closed since none of the passengers even bothered to help.
Frankfurt FRA – One of the worst airports in the world. Most airport employees do not know any language besides German. When we ask questions, they just stare back with a blank face. Although the facilities have improved a lot since the 1980s, the overall experience has not improved. European airports are known for their gangs of thieves who are actually operating inside the airports. Be extremely cautious of you bags and important papers. In an instant, they can take it all away by directing your attention to something else. Amsterdam Airport is also known for this modus operandi.
London LHR – Another stuck-up group of folks. Their attitude needs tweaking. Passengers are treated like herds of cattle, prodding and admonishing the ones that don’t understand their stuffed English accents. I have traveled through that airport multiple times in the span of 30 years, and not once have I had a positive experience dealing with any of the employees there. Crowded aisles, Security takes you straight into the shopping malls, planes are late and departure timings are barely viewable on tiny little screens.
Mexico MEX– The largest city in the world seems to have one of the smallest airports! Everything is in Spanish and if you don’t know Spanish, there is nothing much you can do to find your gate or luggage claim. Very crowded with almost all the passengers for all the flight vying for seats in a crowded area where and the gates are mentioned at the last minute. Continuous announcements drive you crazy most of the time. Same monotonous voice, repeating every second, stuff that you cannot understand anyway! !-)
Mumbai – BOM – What a dirty, rat infested airport. The domestic terminal seems to be is far better than the International. If you are a new traveler to India, choose any of the other airports. Mumbai airport is a mess, with its red pan saliva droppings and disgusting smells that greet a passenger who is in need of some rest and relaxation. Also, if you don’t watch out, your luggage may be stolen and if you forget to get a pre-paid taxi, you will be mobbed at the exit with no one to help you. Departure terminals are in slightly better condition than Arrivals.
Paris – CDG – After all the renovation that went on for years, who would’ve thought that the plan comprised of tunnels and escalators going nowhere? If you “donotunderstand” what is being asked by pompous immigration officials, you are in the red. Literally, they stuck a red sticker on my passport. If it wasn’t for a kind official who saw that I was no “zerrorist” , I would still be trying to make some sense of their fringlish! One advantage though– After running for hours to get to the plane, through the maze of tunnels and escalators, dragging my luggage behind me, I slept like a baby, right through the ten-hour flight to US!
Note that these airports are not comparable with many of the smaller airports in the world in the number of passengers or flights that go through it every day. Wherever people gather, there is the inevitable customer service lapses which add up when more and more people experience similar situations.
I am sure that there are many passengers who transit through this airport without facing any difficult situations. However, the airports listed above showed up on more than one blog (with LHR being the least popular in all!).
Again, take each of these reviews with a pinch of salt and go through them if you have to, but make sure that you clearly comment on these forums about your positive or negative experiences. As more of us give our inputs, the ratings may finally make some sense.
One thing for sure; all international airports should hire people who are multilingual and eager to serve the traveling public without racist attitudes!