Mega-hubs around the world may have seen traffic dwindle this spring, but years of investment in the passenger experience are still paying dividends for global travelers. The world’s top hubs keep one-upping each other with premium lounge facilities; on-site amenities including movie theaters, pools, and botanical gardens; and easy security and immigration processes that make long-haul travel more seamless. This year, to nobody’s surprise, airports in Asia and the Middle East were big hits, with readers praising them for their ultra-efficient terminals that seem drawn from a science-fiction utopia.
Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top hotels, resorts, cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Readers rated airports on access, check-in/security, restaurants/bars, shopping, and design.
The world’s best airports, readers said, remained largely the same as last year. Four are in Asia, among them No. 4 Hong Kong International and No. 5 Incheon International, which serves Seoul. “I purposefully plan layovers through Incheon so I have a chance to do some skin-care shopping and enjoy the fantastic bars and restaurants,” raved one voter, who’s clearly a K-beauty devotee.
Also among the favorites this year were No. 2 Hamad International, which held onto its runner-up status from last year. The Doha hub for Qatar Airways is a popular stopover for travelers headed to Africa as well as India and Southeast Asia. “It was a pleasure,” said one reader, who added: “I'm no aristocrat, but I was treated royally every step of the way.” Multiple voters praised the lounges, and one particularly called out the “extensive” shopping options as an asset.
Elsewhere, No. 7 Zurich moved up three spots from last year, as readers said it excelled at customer service and organization. “The signage and directions are so immaculately posted, and everything is clean — it always blows me away,” one reader said. “And who can forget the little cow noises in the air tram; so adorable and funny.” And No. 9 Copenhagen Airport made the top-10 cut this year: “It’s by far the most peaceful airport I've ever been to. Quiet, efficient, and well-lit, it’s a great welcome to the country,” one voter said.
Still, the developments at Singapore Changi Airport over the past few years have ensured its longevity in the top spots. Read on to find out what makes it so special in readers’ minds and which other airports join the ranks of the best international airports.
1. Singapore Changi Airport
Changi has taken the top spot in this T+L’s World’s Best Awards list for eight straight years — since the category debuted — but the global hub hasn’t been resting on its laurels. In April 2019, the opening of Jewel Changi Airport, a massive stand-alone complex, added some extra sparkle to this top-flight facility. Jewel’s indoor waterfall, children’s playgrounds, street-food–style vendors, and numerous shops are cool enough that even locals make day trips to this airport for fun — high praise by any standard. Voters had much to applaud, as well. “I could’ve taken a vacation in the airport alone,” one reader marveled. “It’s the best airport I’ve ever been to,” said another, who continued by saying, “I had a long layover and part of it was spent exploring the airport as well as the city. It’s absolutely beautiful and the food selection is great.” Interestingly, Singapore Airlines, a major presence at Changi, was this year’s top international carrier — for the 25th straight year. Seems when it comes to air travel, Singapore simply does everything right.
2. Hamad International Airport, Doha, Qatar
3. Dubai International Airport
4. Hong Kong International Airport
5. Incheon International Airport, Seoul
6. Haneda (Tokyo International) Airport
7. Zurich Airport
8. Abu Dhabi International Airport
9. Copenhagen Airport
10. Amsterdam Airport Schiphol
Source: Travel and Leisure