We were curious about just which airports are most hated and beloved. In order to analyze this, we examined nearly 17,000 reviews of more than 700 airports on the airport ratings website Skytrax.
Though Skytrax offers their own ranking of the world’s best airports based on a “comprehensive” assessment that goes beyond user reviews, we decided it would be interesting to take a deeper look at the ratings users input on the website. We use this data to reveal how users rated 71 major airports on overall quality, length of lines, cleanliness, and shopping amenities (due to having too few reviews, many airports are not analyzed). These ratings come from 2007 to 2015 and are publically available.
Overall Ranking of Airports
We begin by ranking airports based on “overall rating.” Reviewers are asked to rank airports on a one to ten scale. The average score across all ratings is 4.3. The following table shows the 20 highest rated airports by Skytrax users.
The Singapore-Changi and Incheon (located in Seoul, South Korea) airports stand out on this list, with overall rankings almost one point higher than all the others. Some of the comments from users are positively rapturous.
By Skytrax user reviews, Dalaman Airport (located in Dalaman, Turkey) comes out as the world’s worst major airport. Many users complain about the “outrageous” price of food, and one reviewer goes so far as to claim his experience of this airport ruined his holiday in Turkey.
American airports generally rank poorly. Fittingly, The Economist has referred to American airports as “shabby” and unworthy as an entrance to the country.
Of the ten American airports in our rankings, none does worse than Newark Liberty International. Travel and Leisure magazine referred to the check-in and security lines at Newark Liberty “miserable”.
The highest rated American airport is San Francisco International (SFO). Outside Magazine agrees with these users, also naming it the “Best Airport” in the United States, highlighting its “abundant light”, Yoga room, and LEED Gold Certification.
The Waiting Game: Ranking Airports by “Queuing Times”
Perhaps no aspect of air travel is more stress inducing than waiting in lines. Check-in, security, and customs are all opportunities for substantial unexpected delays.
On a 1 to 5 scale, Skytrax survey takers are asked to rate their experience of waiting in lines at that airport (referred to as “Queuing times” in the survey; Skytrax is a British company). The average ranking is 2.7.
Given the importance of short lines to the overall experience of an airport, it is no surprise that 15 of the top 20 airports in waiting times are also in the top 20 overall.
There are some airports that perform exceptionally by waiting times, but not by other measures. For example, the Kiev-Borispol Airport in Ukraine, which is a middling airport by overall rating, ranks 12th by waiting time. One user explains that the airport is quite good at ushering airport goers to their terminal, but that a huge “drawback” is the lack of entertainment.
The Edinburgh Airport, which by most measures is ordinary, is one of the ten worst airports when it comes to lines. Many of the complaints about this airport concern long lines at check-in and security.
So Fresh, So Clean: Ranking Airports By Cleanliness
Given the ample opportunities for spreading sickness and the need to use public restrooms, many travellers are particularly concerned with the sanitation of airports.
Skytrax survey takers are asked to rate the cleanliness airports on a one to five scale. The average ranking for all cleanliness reviews is 3.4. This time, Incheon manages to squeak ahead of Singapore-Changi for number one, though only by decimal points.
The Beijing Airport, which is in the bottom half of major airports by overall rating, jumps all the way up to 10th by cleanliness. A city historically known for its dirtiness, the airport seems to be a beacon of hygiene. This cleanliness performance is particularly impressive when you consider that Beijing Airport is the second busiest in the world.
Liverpool airport, which survey takers generally find average, falls all the way to second to last by cleanliness. Only Sharm el-Sheikh Airport in Egypt performs worse.
Shop ‘til You Fly: Ranking Airports by Shopping Opportunities
In 1947, the world’s first duty-free shop was opened at the Shannon Airport in Ireland. From that time, airport retail has grown into big business. There was nearly $50 Billion in global duty free sales in 2014. People now expect to have good shopping opportunities at airports.
Survey takers are asked to rate “Airport shopping” on a one to five scale. The average rating for shopping reviews is 2.8.
Once again, Singapore-Changi comes out on top. The reviews are mostly glowing, pointing out the “affordable” range of shopping options, and the ability to do duty free shopping online before arriving at the airport, where the goods may be picked up.
You might think Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), which ranks poorly generally, might at least do better on the shopping metric. In fact, it does even worse. Many reviewers bemoan the lack of shops.
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