Recently more than 12 million travellers around the globe weighed in on Skytrax’s annual awards for the world’s best airports. Passengers from over 160 countries voted in the world’s largest airport passenger satisfaction survey, with categories including Airport of the Year, Most Improved and Premium Airport. The results of the survey show that while traditionally a layover has been a dreaded word among air travellers, these days a delay has become considerably less painful as airports around the world up their game. Savvy aviation hubs have traded bland food, outdated design and limited facilities for gyms, free Wi-Fi, sleeping pods, entertainment and plenty of top-notch nosh. If your delay is too long and you absolutely will not sleep in an airport, it’s easy enough to find last minute accommodation options. But if you only have a few hours, you probably won’t mind settling in and spending time at any of these seven superb airports!
An airport that’s garnered more than 400 awards, Changi Airport in Singapore received top honours in the latest survey. Being voted as both Asia’s and the world’s best airport, plus also securing the top spot for leisure amenities to boot, this is one terminal that’s kicking all the right goals. With a synthetic ice rink plus over 300 retail outlets, free movie theatres, wellness centres, a Balinese-themed rooftop swimming pool and the tallest slide in Singapore, there’s something in this airport to keep even the fussiest traveller happy. Recently Changi also added a live butterfly garden that boasts more than 1,000 butterflies, a waterfall and a multitude of native plant species.
A regular contender on Skytrax’s Top 10 list, Munich Airport is the perfect place to stop and enjoy the only in-airport brewery in Europe. Airbrau, the Bavarian-style tavern, has an indoor beer garden plus its own on-site brewery, and you can even spend time learning about how the beers are brewed. For children, the Kinderland area offers arts and crafts, movies and building blocks to play with, and the miniature golf course will go down a treat with the young and old alike. Surfers will be satisfied with the portable wave pool that was built in 2011, while design aficionados will be enthralled by the ultra-modern architecture of Terminal 2, which features massive viewing windows over the runway.
Making the list for the first time after its recent $8.6 billion renovation, Heathrow contains a restaurant by vocal celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay, high-end duty-free stores (think Cartier and Gucci), relaxing pubs and various day spas. A very British layover experience, the airport even has a giant Harrods store that spans more than 1,000 square metres and includes a café with tasty treats and yummy espresso drinks. Children will be happy with the free colouring books and crayons supplied by the information desk, while those needing to catch up on some shut-eye can book a hotel stay that includes free Wi-Fi and hot drinks.
With more than 250 retail stores, an education park, nine-hole golf course and an IMAX theatre, the futuristic-looking international airport in Hong Kong sits on its own man-made island off the Harbour and keeps passengers of all ages happily entertained. Sports fans enjoy the iSports simulator where they can practice basketball, soccer or car racing, and flight enthusiasts will happily while away the hours in the Aviation Discovery Centre.
Art lovers are well taken care of at Schiphol Airport, with the Rijksmuseum, an off-shoot of the famed museum in the city. Open daily, free to visit, and home to a permanent collection of 10 works from Dutch masters, the museum is the first in the world to be annexed in an airport. Travellers can also recharge at wellness centres, shop to their heart’s content, gamble in the casino, or find some quiet time in the library.
With a massive 114,000-litre aquarium containing more than 800 sea creatures, plus an indoor creek, revolving sushi bar, native art, day spas and swanky bars, it’s no wonder that Vancouver’s airport has been voted the best in North America. Its maritime vibe provides a pleasant distraction from air travel delays, and shoppers will soon be in heaven with the more than 4,000-square-metre outlet mall that is in development.
A mainstay on the top 10 list, Incheon International Airport has received many awards for staff service in Asia, and boasts a museum, observation deck, driving range, complimentary movies, interactive cultural activities and at least five gardens. Those on a longer layover can even take advantage of the tours on offer that have specific focuses on areas like culture, shopping and temples.
About the Author: Phoebe White is a travel writer and blogger with a passion for international vacations, five-star hotels and boutique shopping. She loves to keep up to date with the latest news and events in the travel industry and can often be found with her head in one of her favourite holiday mags.