Ranking airports – does the waterfall make up for the long queue?
The best airport in the world is in Singapore, according to a new survey. Second best is in Qatar. The third is in Tokyo. The fourth is in South Korea.
An American airport only appears in 18th place in the list, behind Rome, Helsinki, Madrid and even Istanbul.
We don’t have an airport rated higher than Istanbul?
Well, no, at least by the standards of this survey conducted by Skytrax, a UK-based ranking service. Skytrax asks its respondents to rate all aspects of the airport travel experience, from when you arrive to when you depart.
Known as Changi, Singapore Airport features a giant indoor waterfall, butterfly garden and IMAX theater, as well as over 400 food and shopping outlets. Qatar Airport offers city tours to transit passengers while waiting for their connecting flights.
Personally, I would be embarrassed to admit that I missed my flight because I was staring at butterflies. Or finish a movie. And if I wanted to see Qatar, wouldn’t I book a hotel there?
But all of this got me thinking about what you really need from an airport. I’ve spent a large part of my life on airplanes. I’ve been to every major American airport, every European capital airport and a number of Asian, Australian, Middle Eastern and African airports.
So I made my own list.
How to make the perfect place to fly
Here are some things you would NOT want to see in an airport.
1. A massive traffic jam of cars on the ramp to “Departures”.
2. Nobody at the Sky Cap kiosk.
3. A huge line at security, with a bored, scowling TSA agent saying, “Priority is closed.”
4. These yellow plastic mop buckets outside a bathroom that read, “Closed for Service.”
5. A floor in the men’s room that has more urine on it than in the urinal.
6. No soap in the dispensers.
7. No paper towels in the dispensers.
8. An “all purpose” store that sells pre-packaged turkey sandwiches for $17 each.
9. An airport that has A, B, C, D, E, and F concourses but never tells you how long it will take to get to them.
10. Moving walks that don’t move.
11. Airport trains that don’t run.
12. A lack of signs telling you which gate your plane is departing from.
13. A sign at your gate saying “On Time” if you have already passed your scheduled departure.
14. Gate agents refusing to tell you what’s going on while you’re seated during a long delay.
15. No seats at the gate.
16. A Starbucks worker and a line the size of Missouri.
17. Another one of those yellow bucket thingies—or is it the same thing just put out by an evil maintenance worker?
18. A door that doesn’t lead to the plane but to the tarmac where you have to brave wind, rain or snow to get to the plane and then drag your bags up a long flight of stairs.
19. Arriving at your destination and being told, “There’s no jetway yet, folks. We called for one. Hopefully it’s only a few minutes left…”
20. Spending half an hour staring at a baggage carousel spinning aimlessly with no baggage coming out.
It’s an airport, not a meeting point
You’ll notice that my list didn’t mention hundreds of shops, a movie theater, or any of those massage spots that are now very popular at airports.
Because when you fly, the aim is to reach your destination and not to spend a leisurely day between the G and H halls.
Speed and efficiency should be key when traveling. Which unfortunately isn’t the case and may be why no American airport made the top 17 and only Seattle-Tacoma cracked the top 20.
But we can dream, right? So if I could create an airport from scratch, here are a few things I would would To install.
1. An additional level where you could drop off and pick up passengers humanely without being scared away by ticket-loving police.
2. Rent-a-car stations INSIDE the airport – no need to take a bus – where your paperwork is already done and the keys are waiting for you.
3. Showers – clean, hygienic, private and cheap – that you can use on long travel days.
4. Water fountains at every gate – so you don’t go broke buying $4 bottles for your kids because the TSA won’t let you travel with liquids.
5. A national cap of $8 on an airport sandwich. Give me one reason these things must cost more.
6. Drugstores in every airport – where you can buy all those things that they won’t let you take through security.
7. TSA preflight is open 24 hours a day.
8. Mandatory manning of skycap stations and staff coming to your car and taking your bags like they used to.
9. Aid kiosks every 10 gates.
10. Money-back policy if you have to wait for a jetway to disembark or wait more than 10 minutes for your luggage to reach the baggage carousel.
Find me an airport that has all of these and you can skip the cinema, atrium or mall – this place is at the top of my list.
No offense. But if I wanted to see a beautiful waterfall, I would book a flight to Niagara.
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