The journey can often rival the destination, if you’re travelling through one of the world’s top airports
Airports do not always have to be soulless hubs of transit. Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport has the ability to make most travellers feel they can afford Chanel or Burberry, even while struggling towards departure gates with their off-brand carry-ons. Tokyo’s Narita International Airport can keep you happily engrossed for ages just with their amazing toilets, bizzare goodies and, believe it or not, McDonald’s Filet O’Fish burgers. Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur International Airport boasts a steamy rainforest and excellent sandwiches from DeliFrance Express. But to steer you through the bewildering list of layover hubs and specials, we asked Fiona Caulfield, the force behind the Love Travel guidebooks and a frequent flyer, to give us her verdict.
“I know that there are many challenges at Heathrow, but I find it interesting each time I visit. There’s constant innovation, such as having Alain de Botton as writer-in-residence, and the Love Actually lounges” she begins. In Amsterdam, it’s ‘the idea of shops with groceries and flowers that you can get on arrival before the trip home’ that appeals, while Hong Kong, according to Caulfield, has the best lounges. “Cathay does lounges better than anyone else. It’s actually a pleasure to be there—and I have a 12-hour layover quite often,” she says.
While there are no airports from South or North America in SkyTrax’s top 10, Caulfield recommends Denver in the USA, which has ‘architecture with a sense of place, in that the roof looks like the surrounding mountains,’ and Tierra del Fuego, off the South American mainland. “It’s basically a shed with a great view, but it made me want to skip the connection and start walking,” jokes the author who recently released two new editions in the Indian series of her guide books (see box, Book of secrets).
If you’d pick beauty over amenities, here are our regional suggestions:
Male Airport: Situated on the Hulhulé island of the Maldives, the airstrip runs out into the Indian Ocean, and you’re promised amazing aerial views of the cluster of islands
Paro Airport: Nestled amongst the mountains, Bhutan’s only international airport is renowned for being one of the most difficult for pilots to navigate. Lukla Airport: In the shadow of the Everest base camp in Nepal, this affords you an incredible glimpse of the Himalayas as you come in to land, as it is mainly used by trekkers.
Best of the rest
Thirteen million passengers have voted and the SkyTrax World’s Best Airport results are in. So the next time you find yourself booking a flight, think about the route as much as where you are heading to. Munich, Zurich, London Heathrow and Amsterdam fly the flag for Europe SkyTrax’s Top 10, but Asian airports dominate, with two each from Japan and China, one from South Korea, and, of course Singapore.
Three Indian airports made the top 100 of the world’s best airports for travellers this year, with Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi ranking highest, at 58, and Bengaluru not far behind at 64. The third airport is Hyderabad’s Rajiv Gandhi International Airport, which weighs in at number 70. Bengaluru (for the first time), and Delhi (for the second) were also selected in the Best Regional Airport in Central Asia and India category.
Maintaining its top spot for the third year running is Singapore’s Changi Airport. When it opens in 2018, their latest project, Jewel Changi, will house one of the largest indoor collections of plants in Singapore, in a five-storey garden topped off by the world’s tallest indoor waterfall.For now, the 54,000,000 plus people who pass through every year can enjoy a stroll through the open-air gardens, spend a few hours in the entertainment deck — which has everything from a movie theatre to an XBox Kinnect room — or relax in the Balinese-themed swimming pool. Shopping highlights include luxury brands like Prada, Tiffany &Co and Bvlgari, while for dining, the latest development is Singapore Food Street. “It’s an amalgamation with the look and feel of old Singapore, offering well-loved local cuisine,” shares Robin Goh, assistant VP of the Changi Airport Group. And if you’re planning to break your journey in style, then take note that the world’s best airport hotel — the Crowne Plaza Changi Airport — is here.
— Maegan Dobson Sippy