Long-haul flights to international destinations can be taxing on travelers, both on departure and arrival. But the best airports in the world make the travel experience as carefree as possible, often with unusual amenities, such as showers in the bathrooms, entertainment and wellness facilities, and plenty of healthy eating options.
Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top hotels, resorts, cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Airports were rated on access, check-in and security, restaurants and bars, shopping, and design.
This year’s list of winners is dominated by airports based in Asia and the Middle East, with only two European airports — Amsterdam’s Schiphol and Zurich — appearing in the top 10. Though some fliers cited the “long walk between terminals” at Schiphol as an annoyance, the excellent signage, designer duty-free shops, and helpful staff outweighed the negative. And parents flying with little ones have an extra reason to be happy: “There are lots of places for families to relax without worrying that the kids are bothering other people,” wrote in one reader.
Given all the amenities that airports offer these days, you’d be forgiven for thinking they were cities unto themselves. The No. 2 winner, Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar, impresses with its Vitality Wellbeing and Fitness Center — complete with squash courts and an indoor swimming pool — and world-class sculptural art curated in partnership with Qatar Museums. No. 5 Hong Kong International Airport wows with its IMAX theater, simulated golf games, and new “East to West” Food Market, where fliers can taste everything from dumplings to charcoal-grilled roast goose.
For the fifth year running, Singapore Changi Airport takes the top spot, thanks to its ease of use, award-winning design, and an abundance of indoor flora, including a spectacular butterfly garden. (Not surprisingly, the airport’s home carrier, Singapore Airlines, is also a World’s Best winner.) “Efficient, with great food and shopping options, and free Wi-Fi at every customer service kiosk” said one reader. Added reader Steven Jay Thor: “Movie theaters and waterfalls…I wish that American airports could do this.”
Whether you’re making any of these cities your next destination, or you’re just passing through, build some extra time into your itinerary to take advantage of the wealth of offerings at the world’s greatest airports.
10. Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS)
9. Abu Dhabi International (AUH)
8. Ben Gurion International, Tel Aviv (TLV)
7. Haneda (Tokyo International) (HND)
6. Zurich, Switzerland (ZRH)
5. Hong Kong International (HKG)
4. Incheon International, South Korea (ICN)
3. Dubai International (DXB)
2. Hamad International, Doha, Qatar (DOH)
1. Singapore Changi (SIN)
With a free movie theater, napping lounges, a sunflower garden, spa, and a rooftop pool, Singapore Changi Airport continues to thrill our readers, and takes the No. 1 spot for the fifth year in a row. One particular benefit is the airport’s pre-customs, in-terminal hotels, which rent rooms in six-hour blocks. This timetable allows travelers to book a room for a long layover or to rest before an early morning flight. And “there are loads of eating and entertainment establishments,” said T+L reader Karen Pirotto. “One could live for days within the airport without being bored.”