The Best Airports in the World

Dubai Airport at 3am

In this post, we’re going to look at some of the best airports in the world. We’ve suggestions for the best one in every continent featuring some cutting-edge airports which more resemble giant malls or entertainment complexes than major air hubs.

There have been plenty of studies into this matter and anyone can go on google and find the average rating for any given airport. We’ve used that data as well as both edreams’ rankings and SKYTRAX’s World Airport Awards 2020 to form our opinions.

The Best Airports in Every Continent

Best Airport in Asia – Singapore Changi

Singapore Airport
Jewel Changi Waterfall via cattan2011, CC BY 2.0

The majority of the top 10 airports globally are in Asia, so there’s plenty of competition but Singapore Changi continues to hold the crown as Asia and indeed the world’s best airport. Just about every airport ranking list seems to come to the same conclusion with the Southeast Asian city-state continuing to set the standard for global air travel.

So what makes Singapore Changi so good? Well it truly is a destination in itself which wonderfully manages to combine nature and shopping to serve up the ultimate retail experience. That was the case even before the recent addition of Jewel Changi, a nature-themed entertainment and retail complex in the heart of the airport with links to three terminals featuring the world’s largest indoor waterfall.

Unsurprisingly this is about as popular a transit stop as it gets and few passengers complain about long layovers in Singapore. The airport has won more than 600 awards since opening 1981 and it quickly became one of the most popular and busiest airports in Asia. Changi continues to modernise and maintain incredible standards of cleanliness and quality.

Honourable mentions: Tokyo Haneda, Seoul Incheon, Dubai

Best Airport in Europe – Zurich

Serving Switzerland’s largest city, Zurich Airport rarely disappoints and scores well in just about every category making it a good all-round choice. Over a century old, it may lack the ultra-modern feel or state-of-the-art structures that some of its rivals may boast, but Zurich is sensibly run and everything just seems to go smoothly.

Unlike many airports in Europe, it is also very close to the centre of the city. Journeys take just 10 minutes by rail to reach Zurich Main Station in the heart of the city with departures every 5-10 minutes during the day and there are also good transport links to other Swiss destinations.

The ease of getting in and out certainly makes for a much more relaxed flying experience. Zurich Airport also boasts around 40 eateries meaning you won’t go hungry while anyone on a layover can freshen up by making use of the four four pay-to-use shower facilities.

Honourable mentions: Amsterdam Schiphol, Munich, Hamburg

Best Airport in South America – Quito Mariscal Sucre

South America is not a continent blessed with outstanding airports and few of the busiest airports in South America are popular with travellers.

8 year old Mariscal Sucre International Airport deserves a mention though. Its arrival couldn’t have come too soon with the old airport somewhat dangerously positioned in the middle of a windy, mountainous city. The new one is much more spacious and allows for smoother descents and a more relaxed experience for the growing numbers of passengers.

The immigration process is also usually quite simple. That’s in part because Ecuador has one of the most relaxed visa policies in the world with visa free entrance granted to the vast majority of nationalities.

Honourable mention: Bogota

Best Airport in North America – Vancouver

Vancouver Airport
Vancouver Airport via Wpcpey, CC BY-SA 4.0

North America doesn’t do a great deal better than South America when it comes to airports. In the United States, many are blighted by long queues at immigration and the welcome to the US is rarely a warm one from officials who take their responsibilities very seriously. Domestic flights are a slightly more pleasant experience and many of the best airports in the US are smaller ones with few international flights such as Tampa and Portland.

Mexico’s airports certainly aren’t any better and Toronto Pearson, Canada’s largest, isn’t a great improvement either. One exception is Vancouver. Located on Sea Island, only 12 km from downtown Vancouver, it is a well organised place and one that’s very easy on the eye compared to many airports which are simply large, ugly concrete structures.

Everything works as it should with good information systems and generally friendly staff. You also have a wide selection of options in terms of shopping and eating so Vancouver is certainly a strong contender for the crown of North America’s best airport.

Honourable mentions: Houston, Denver

Best Airport in Africa – Cape Town

best airports in the world
Cape Town Airport by Derek Keats, CC BY 2.0

South Africa has some of the best airports on the African continent and the pick of the bunch is Cape Town with Durban giving it a run for its money.

The fourth busiest airport in Africa, Cape Town has flights across the world with connections to the United States, Europe, Asia and Oceania. Serving so many long-haul routes as well as the incredibly busy Cape Town-Johannesburg domestic route, the airport needs to cater for all kinds of passengers and it does that pretty well with a good range of food outlets ensuring you can easily fill up before boarding your flight.

The stunning descent over Table Mountain earns it bonus points with visitors too, and while that’s not really anything to do with the quality of the airport, passengers generally land in a good mood, particularly if it’s their first visit. Artistic displays help maintain that positive first impression of Cape Town and while the organisation could be improved slightly, it’s certainly up there with the best airports in Africa and beyond.

Honourable mention: Durban

Best Airport in Oceania – Brisbane

Finally we head down under and it’s a tough call between Brisbane and Melbourne for the title of Oceania’s best airport. We’ve plumped for Brisbane which is slightly smaller and perhaps a bit friendlier.

According to the edreams ratings, it’s second only to Singapore globally, and while that’s perhaps a tad generous, Brisbane was voted Australia’s number 1 airport for quality of service 10 years in a row (between 2005 and 2014). Its international terminal has also been highly praised for its stylish architecture.

While recent reviews have been a bit more damning, much of that seems to relate to budget airline Jetstar. Overall the airport has a simple design and with getting around easy and intuitive, it’s generally a hassle-free experience.

Honourable mention: Melbourne

Top 10 Best Airports in the World according to Google Reviews (Major Airports)

We looked at the average google rating for each of the 50 busiest airports in the world (by passenger numbers). Here were the top 10 highest rated:

Ranking Airport Rating
1 Singapore Changi 4.7
2 Seoul Incheon 4.6
3 Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj 4.6
4 Dubai International 4.5
5 Delhi Indira Gandhi 4.5
6 Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta 4.5
7 Istanbul 4.4
8 Hong Kong International 4.4
9 Tokyo Haneda 4.3
10 Amsterdam Schiphol 4.3

Again it’s no surprise to see Singapore Changi come out on top. However there are a few surprise inclusions such as Delhi, Mumbai and Jakarta, none of which make the top 30 in Skytrax’s most recent rankings. The new Istanbul Airport also scores well having fully opened its doors in 2019 with all passenger services moving from the old Istanbul Ataturk Airport.

Las Vegas McCarran, Mexico City and Phoenix also scored 4.3. However it’s worth noting that google ratings are not necessarily the definitive measurement for whether an airport is good or not. Those used to travelling in the Middle East or Far East may have higher standards for example than people in Latin America. 4.3 certainly seems generous for Mexico City’s chaotic airport which may give some of the worst airports in the world a run for their money in some respects.

This look at some of the best airports in the world was published in June 2021.

Featured image of Dubai Airport via joiseyshowaa, CC BY-SA 2.0

The Best Airports in the World

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