Lately, we’ve started to feel like we spend more time waiting around airports than we do in our own home.
These days, booking a plane ticket doesn’t feel too different from getting tickets for a bus or train. We can do it online, and if we’re determined, the tickets can actually be pretty budget friendly.
If only a day of air travel could also be compared to the simplicity of getting on and off a bus. Instead we find ourselves doing an annoying routine of rushing, waiting, rushing, waiting, repeat, repeat, repeat.
But airports are basically unavoidable if you plan to travel very far.
Sometimes we are pleasantly surprised by the comfort and facilities at an airport – but most of the time these buildings are nothing but pure misery.
In fact, sometimes it seems like airports might even go out of their way to make their customers as uncomfortable as possible. So when we find the rare gem with entertainment, luxury, or even just fast Wi-Fi and plenty of places to charge your phone, we take note.
Below we’ve listed some of the best and worst airports we’ve been to. If you ever find yourself in these areas of the world, here’s what to expect:
The Good Ones
Singapore Changi International Airport
This airport is voted the best in the world and it’s very clear to see why.
It’s comfortable. It’s beautifully designed. It includes a few unique touches, such as butterfly and cactus gardens, massage chairs, and a cinema. It seemed as if it was put together by people well aware that waiting around the airport is mind-numbingly boring at best – so let’s give everyone something to do while they’re here.
If you’re in for a long layover, you can take advantage of the free 2-hour city tours. There are also sleeping areas, great Wi-Fi, music stations, a swimming pool, and play areas for the kids.
What to remember: Make this your connecting flight! Especially from Australia to, well, anywhere in Asia and Europe.
Natures a big part of the worlds best airport.
Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International Airport, Thailand
In a culture where most people are pretty laid back, often moving slowly and not worrying too much about the time, this airport is surprisingly quick and efficient. Check in takes minutes and you’ll whizz through immigration. The waiting areas are very spacious with plenty of seating, and before you know it, you’re on your flight. The facilities are good, the Wi-Fi is fast and the chairs are comfy. That, on top of the ease, certainly makes it a cut above many others.
What to remember: Don’t panic too much if you’re a little late. You should be fine. You can also let the staff know if you’re plane is boarding shortly, and they will usually help you out by getting you closer to the front of a line.
Its speedy in Thailand’s biggest airport.
Others we’d recommend
Brisbane International – Very efficient and on the ball. Impressive.
Melbourne International – Must be an Aussie trend, but their airports are spot on. Very organized which is the most important characteristic in an airport.
London Heathrow – A lot of bad press, but we think they do very well for the passenger demands – and there are some good restaurants here too!
We wish this list was longer, but these are the only airports that we believe can honestly be recommended. Many others are simply average.
Mumbai International Airport
Like many of India’s airports, Mumbai International is known to be a layover airport. Mumbai seemed to get half the message. They provide good Wi-Fi and plenty of opportunities to cure your boredom with restaurants, bars and entertainment stations.
But if you’re expecting comfort, get ready to be disappointed.
You’ll find the most horrible sleeper chairs that are only half upright, made from a wood-like leather material. It’s not good for a 7-hour nighttime layover.
However, it was our own fault for flying from Colombo to Bangkok via Mumbai! You only have to take one look at a map to see why this made no sense.
What to remember: Don’t expect to get much rest here. If it’s unavoidable and you really need some sleep, pack something comfortable to lie on and find a space on the floor.
Palma De Mallorca Airport, Balearic Islands, Spain
This one is just odd! The facilities are fine, it’s just strangely massive. You wouldn’t expect such a big airport for a small Spanish island. From check in to boarding, we were walking for about half an hour. The long empty corridors don’t really need to be there.
How to Prepare: Pack a scooter? A bike? Roller-skates? At least a pair of very comfortable shoes.
But even average is preferable to our next category. We bring you to the terrible few:
Kalkota International Airport
Simply dreadful! This airport is absolutely massive but has nothing in it. Once you’re passed security on the international side, there is just one restaurant. And their service is slower than a snail’s pace. We also found some shop that couldn’t serve because their one crappy till was broken. Apart from that, there was literally nothing else.
“At least there’s WiFi!” you might think. But if you don’t have a phone number where you can access your text messages (many international travelers won’t), you won’t be able to get on. Because for some reason you need to get a code to sign in. Why isn’t the passport information enough?
Overall, the airport just felt miserable. Not to mention we almost missed our connecting flight thanks to the one rude man dealing with a massive line at immigration.
Avoid at all costs. Easily the worst airport we’ve had the misfortune of being in.
What to remember: Pick another Indian airport to layover in. If not, find some food beforehand, because your next flight might be boarding by the time they get around to serving you.
The dreadful airport itself.
Surat Thani Airport, Thailand
It shouldn’t be too hard to avoid this small airport in the south of Thailand. If you ignore this warning, be ready for rude people who never should have chosen a career in customer service.
When you aren’t dealing with difficult staff, you’ll be stumbling over people and their luggage as they wait in unnecessary and poorly placed queues. No thought of organization seems to be put into this layout.
Finally, we have to talk about their chairs. They couldn’t have picked more uncomfortable seating if they’d tried. We compared them toilets – made of steel and stinking like sour drainage.
What to remember: Try other southern Thailand airports such as Phuket, Krabi or even Koh Samui. If you end up here, be ready to practice your patience.
We expected great things from Dubai, as it’s one of the most common travel hubs in the world and home of Emirates, an award-winning airline. You’d think comfortable layovers would be a top priority.
That didn’t seem to be the case.
The airport is huge. We didn’t see all of it, but the parts we did were poor. It was expensive as expected, but most businesses didn’t accept international currencies. The service was dreadful and the lack of facilities shocked us.
What to remember: Get some local currency if you want to eat or shop. Explore more and hopefully you’ll find something that we missed.
The let down that was Dubai International.
Others to avoid
Muscat International, Oman – For a city so immaculately clean, with such stunning architecture, they seemed to leave the airport behind.
London Gatwick International – It’s so crowded, you won’t be able to move, much less find a seat. For the love of pudding, make the airport bigger!
Kos International Airport, Greece – Had to throw this in from my younger days. Shithole!
Guangzhou International, China – Very bleak. The WiFi is a struggle and the restaurants have inconvenient hours. Just a strange atmosphere.
Airports are an unavoidable part of traveling. I’m sure in the future there will be many more to add to these lists. Have you had a terrible experience at an airport? Which do you think is the best or worst? Do you disagree with any of our thoughts? We’d love to know.