Airports are busy and often stressful places. Everyone is either in a hurry to catch their flight or concerned about picking up a passenger who will be arriving. Sometimes even the drive to the airport churns up the anxiety level as family members, taxi drivers, bus drivers, and chauffeurs struggle for space to drive or park. Inside the airport, long lines of departing passengers moving through security or waiting for luggage to arrive complicate the noisy atmosphere and the entire traveling process.
Many have taken to avoiding airports entirely in recent years. In response, airports have worked harder to keep their business flowing by creating places for relaxation, dining, and enjoyment while passengers transition through the various travel stages. In the past, people simply sat near their gate, waiting to board their flight. If they had a layover with time between flights, the sitting seemed longer. It was something to endure.
But now, the best airports offer the kinds of amenities normally found in a first class hotel and provide entertainment of all sorts. Some are like shopping malls, while others are mini-cities with activities and luxurious services available. The following airports are the top stand-outs in 2016.
Changi International Airport, Singapore
The affluence of Singapore is evident in Changi International Airport. It includes a long list of popular spots. The movie theater is open 24/7. Several spas offer massage therapies for people who need to relax between flights. There is a rooftop swimming pool which is open for passengers to swim before or between flights. Some travelers prefer to watch the beautiful insects in the exquisite butterfly garden. For longer walks, the airport boasts five nature trails.
Seriously devoted to nature, there are five indoor gardens which are maintained full-time, by 11 horticulturists. Their job is massive because the gardens are home to 500,000 different plants. For those seeking a peaceful moment, the Koi ponds offer chances for quiet reflection. To help overcome the effects of pollution, a green wall filled with living plants provides extra oxygen.
The kinetic Rain Worlds sculpture is a fascinating experience which is soothing for art lovers. Technology buffs appreciate the Social Tree, which is a huge wall of screens which display passenger photos. The eight booths surrounding it have touch screen televisions which allow for interaction and photo sharing. Terminal 3 has a slide that is twelve meters high. Passengers can slide down it to reach gates more quickly.
There are many lounges with beautiful décor and spots to rest or visit. All of this inside an airport which is filled with 46.5 million passengers per year
Incheon International Airport, South Korea
This is a place which offers a wide range of enjoyable activities to help passengers pass time. It has many luxuries to experience:
- Private sleeping rooms
- Thai massages, a sauna and spa
- Observation deck with upscale seating
- Seven gardens
- Live concerts and performances
- Ice Forest ice skating rink
- A casino
- Free showers in hotel styled bathrooms
- A golf course
- The Museum of Korean Culture, showcasing Buddhist arts
- Numerous fine dining and casual restaurants
- Plenty of shopping
This airport, with its contemporary design and attention to detail is a traveler’s delight.
Munich Airport, Germany
This is the place to enjoy a layover with several extra hours between flights. A popular spot to pass time is the Visitors Park. It is outside, and filled with activities everyone might enjoy:
- Take a helicopter ride
- Play a game of miniature golf
- Try some surfing lessons at Surf & Style, the airports huge wave pool
- Play on swings, use sand box toys, and try the climbing gyms
- Visit the Holland Casino and the Airbrau Biergarten to sample its on-site brewery fare
Haneda Airport, Japan
The terminal is filled with dozens of shops and restaurants. There are two unique areas for dining and shopping. One is in the style of a traditional Edo village. Traditional Japanese foods are found along with French favorites. The setting is a garden, with sweet shops nearby. Anything Japanese made can be purchased in this area. One flight above, the Tokyo Pop zone has a planetarium with a café right inside. This is the spot for finding contemporary foods, a slot car racetrack in a toy store, Hello Kitty and JAL Airlines brand souvenirs, and artist designed accessories and clothing.
The international terminal includes airline lounges with common use showers, massage chairs, places to nap and rest, business facilities and internet access. Free to the public is an observation deck to view airport activity. There are indoor smoking cubicles, a children’s play area, a medical clinic, and high tech toilets with capacity for children, babies, ostomy showers, service dogs, and the handicapped.
Hong Kong International Airport
Sport simulators, SkyCity Nine Eagles golf course, an aviation discover center, and world class shopping and dining are the things that travelers enjoy about this airport. Some savvy tourists claim that it has the best shopping of any airport in the world. With over 50 million visitors annually, it must provide the best amenities possible or it could lose plenty of business. Business travelers are consistent in ranking it among the best year after year.
London Heathrow, United Kingdom
A branch of world famous Harrods is located in the international terminal. The art gallery in Terminal 5 attracts artistic visitors. The Molton Brown Travel Spa provides hydrotherapy sessions to help sooth travelers bodies. A mini-croquet area is available for active sorts. The lounges, first class restaurants and bars provide plenty of chances to visit with fellow travelers and have delicious refreshments together.
Hamad International Airport, Doha
The beauty of time spent here is the architectural design of the complex. The terminal is completely contemporary, with curved shapes on the exterior to represent the waves of water and sand dunes which are typical to the area. The clean and welcoming interior is filled with duty free shops. Luxe brand stores such as Gucci, Cartier, Versace, Giorgio Armani and more fill the terminal. Glass and skylights fill the space with views of the desert and light. There is a public mosque, beautiful water jet fountains, a spa, a health club and a public art program which features artwork throughout the terminal.
San Francisco International Airport, United States
Some view the travelers’ amenities at this airport as some of the best in the world. It has free WiFi, the chance to have a massage at XpresSpa, have a pedicure, eat at restaurants with real linen table cloths, de-stress in a meditation center, visit an accredited art museum, take a shower, browse through a book store that even has a children’s selection, use a workstation or recharge electronic devices at one of 350 electrical outlets, calm down in a special dressing area after surviving security, tank up at a hydration station, shop at the Gucci boutique, the first in an airport in the US, or find medical help at the full scale clinic. There are spaces for science and history exhibits, an aquarium, and a yoga room. The airport is fourth in North America for per capita spending of departing passengers on international flights.
Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Malaysia
The Forest Research Institute of Malaysia relocated a patch of the jungle rainforest to this airport. The rainforest delights visitors. The concept was “Airport in the forest, forest in the airport” and this environmental theme makes it a soothing place for many travelers.
There is also a massage and reflexology center available. A foot massage service and a putting green are available. The Plaza Premium Lounge is open to all travelers regardless of ticket class or airline. There are two locations, which operate around the clock. They have showers, massage chairs, comfortable seating, fresh drinks and foods, draught beer, in house movies, free local calls and internet access.
Sydney International Airport, Australia
A new building and focus on international fashion, watch, jewelry and sunglasses brands are tempting international travelers to stop and shop. Top brands such as MCM, Furla, Bally, Salvatore Ferragamo, Fendi, Jimmy Choo, Zegna, Kailis, and Girard-Perregaux fill the new fashion and accessories zone showcases. Coupling the shopping with gourmet meals developed by Australian chef Luke Mangan provide plenty of spaces to relax and recharge before boarding for flights.
International brands mix with top Australian brands, which helps travelers with more choices representative of the country and its culture. The contemporary terminal interiors are soothing neutral colors mixed with plenty of natural woods and plants.
2016 World Airport Awards
Every year since 1999, Skytrax has conducted a global survey of passengers traveling through the world’s airports. In 2000, 1.02 million passengers completed surveys. In 2015 – 2016 13.25 million passengers completed surveys. The results are compiled in order to award airports which customers consider to be the best, and the reward process is impartial, independent and global as Skytrax is completely not profit generating and funds the process.
The World Airport Awards presented by Skytrax are prestigious and annually select the top 100 best in the industry based on customer votes. The most recent survey was conducted between June 2015 and February 2016. It covered 550 airports around the world. There were 106 nationalities represented in the surveys. They evaluated things such as check-in, departures, arrivals, security, immigration, shopping and transfers. The results are known as the Passengers Choice Awards.
The airports listed here are Top 100 Passenger Choice Award winners.
Changi International Airport, Singapore:1st Place 2015, 1st Place 2016
Incheon International Airport, South Korea: 2nd Place 2015, 2nd Place 2016
Munich Airport, Germany:3rd Place 2015, 3rd Place 2016
Haneda Airport, Japan: 4th Place 2015, 5th Place 2016
Hong Kong International Airport: 4th Place 2015, 5th Place 2016
London Heathrow, United Kingdom: 8th Place 2015, 8th Place 2016
Hamad International Airport, Doha: 22th Place 2015, 10th Place 2016
Sydney International Airport, Australia: 21st Place 2015, 23rd place 2016
Kuala Lumpur International Airport: 19th Place 2015, 24th Place 2016
San Francisco International Airport: 36th Place 2015, 37th Place 2016
Written by Garrett Parker
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