Here is a pictorial representation of my top 10 favourite airports from around the world that I have been fortunate enough to use on more than one occasion.
10. Taipei Taoyuan (TPE)
TPE is located 40km from the centre of downtown Taipei. It is one of 5 international airports in the country, although it is by far the busiest, with nearly 28m passengers passing through it last year. EVA Air and China Airlines make TPE their hub for all their international flights. Both terminals at TPE have undergone recent renovation to improve the facilities.
9. Dubai International (DXB)
DXB is the home of Emirates, and the grandiose Terminal 3 is dedicated exclusively to the airline. Currently, DXB is operating near full capacity and some airlines may soon move to the newer and much larger DWC airport to ease congestion. There are currently over 6000 weekly flights operating out of DXB to each corner of the globe.
8. Bangkok Suvarnabhumi (BKK)
Suvarnabhumi Airport is a leading hub in South East Asia having handled 56m passengers last year, and is also one of the newest in the region, having only opened fully in 2006. Thai Airways have their main hub here at BKK, as do boutique airline Bangkok Airways. BKK is situated an hour’s drive from downtown Bangkok.
7. Tokyo Narita (NRT)
One of the world’s most famous airports, NRT is not actually located anywhere near to central Tokyo, and it will take you at least one hour by road to reach downtown at any time of the day. However, NRT’s popularity remains as it is a nice airport through which to transit, with typical Japanese efficiency. It is a hub for Delta and United Airlines, as well as the Japanese giants JAL and ANA.
6. Shanghai Pudong (PVG)
PVG is the main international airport of China’s busiest and largest city is also the home of the much-maligned China Eastern Airlines. Over 42m passengers used PVG last year, making it the second busiest airport in China (behind Beijing-Capital). The airport is open 24hrs per day and is connected to downtown Shanghai by the Shanghai MAGLEV – a futuristic train that magnetically levitates above the track to achieve a faster and smoother ride. It is always a joy to experience the MAGLEV.
5. Indira Gandhi International (DEL)
DEL is India’s second busiest airport (behind Mumbai) but strategically the most important airport for tourists and as such is the typical gateway to India for most international passengers. Unlike other Indian airports, DEL is of international quality and its spectacular Terminal 3 is modelled after Singapore Changi Airport. Air India use DEL as their main hub, and it is also a major hub for budget airline IndiGo.
4. Kuala Lumpur International – KLIA (KUL)
KUL is currently ranked the 9th busiest airport in the world and is a firm favourite among travellers, all 34m of them last year! Malaysia Airlines have KUL as their main hub and serve destinations across the globe from here. KUL has an interesting airport canopy jungle in the centre of its airside terminal which provides a nice change from the regular airport scenery.
3. Hong Kong International (HKG)
Built on reclaimed land near Lantau Island, HKG now serves as one of the world’s greatest airports. It replaced the infamous Kai Tak Airport in 1998 and has been going from strength to strength ever since. It is a 24hr airport and is used by Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Airlines, and Dragonair as a main hub. HKG is the world’s busiest airport based on cargo traffic, and also handled 58m passengers last year. Virgin Atlantic use HKG as a stopover point from London enroute to Sydney.
HKG is linked to the mainland by the Airport Express train which will take you to Kowloon in around 25 minutes. There also many ferry services available to take you to mainland China (Guangdong) and Macao.
2. Seoul Incheon (ICN)
Universally recognised as one of the top 2 airports in the world, ICN is not actually in Seoul but in the city of Incheon. The airport itself is built on reclaimed land and train services can take you to downtown Seoul in around 45 minutes. 36m people used ICN last year, yet it will never feel busy if you are there yourself.
ICN has a fantastic design to make arrivals and departures as hassle-free as possible. In fact, the airport claims it has only a 0.00001% baggage mishandling rate! The airport has a golf course, indoor gardens, and a casino within its boundaries, and Korean Air and Asiana Airlines makes best use of these facilities, as they are lucky enough to call it their home.
1. Singapore Changi (SIN)
Changi is undeniably deserving of the praise it receives from passengers and aviation commentators. Unlike other airports, Changi does not really have designated airside/landside sections, rather everything is combined in what could effectively be a large shopping mall with planes outside! Singapore Airlines and its subsidiaries Tigerair, Scoot, and Silk Air use Changi as their hub.
Changi is well known for its duty free shopping and 24hr food courts. There are flights all over the world from here at all times of the day (6400 flights from over 100 airlines each week). 66m passengers have the pleasure of using Changi each year and that figure is continuing to grow.
As well as food and shopping, guests can enjoy indoor and outdoor gardens, such as cactus gardens and butterfly gardens, koi ponds, lounges, hotels, free cinemas, and the most exceptionally clean restroom and shower facilities I have ever seen in an airport. Situated only 10 miles away from the city, Changi is also only a short and cheap MRT or taxi ride away from downtown Singapore.