If there's one thing that seasoned travelers and first-time flyers have in common, it's a general apathy toward airports. Even in the most cosmopolitan cities, these sprawling hubs are often considered to be snaked with security lines, clogged with bad food, and plagued with discomforts—a necessary precursor to getaways. But here's another thing all travelers can do about it: Visit a few airports that are doing it right.
Skytrax released its annual rankings of the world's best airports earlier this spring, which distills millions of passenger surveys from around the globe into a coveted list, and its top 10 airports should be enough of a reason to book a flight abroad. From shopping opportunities that parallel famed districts, lounges that compete with respected hotels, and amusements that entertain better than some parks, these 10 international airports are proof that some terminals can make every traveler feel like they've been upgraded to first class.
Singapore Changi Airport
This airport claimed the top spot on Skytrax's list, and for good reason. Simply put, this airport makes takeoff feel like a letdown thanks to three large terminals filled with attractions like free 24-hour movie theaters, eight manicured gardens, and a rooftop pool. Traveling there this fall? Get ready for a fourth high-tech terminal to open then, or wait until 2019 to explore two mazes and a canopy bridge.
Incheon International Airport
Incheon International Airport may be a silver medalist on Skytrax's list, but it still operates by a gold standard. This airport, which is set about an hour outside the South Korean capital of Seoul, gained its high marks because of its range of area-specific offerings and overall convenience. Travelers can fill up on a bevy of local eats as they walk through a vibrant "Cultural Street" (hopefully before they take a turn on the nearby ice skating rink) and then hop on a high-speed rail that goes directly into the city. You can plan your time around live concerts and parades, too.
Tokyo International Airport
More and more American travelers are especially thankful for the ease of Tokyo International Airport in Haneda, which gets them into Japan's capital city in around 13 minutes—a far improvement from the two hours it takes to get there from Narita. Ever since U.S. and Japanese carriers like Delta and Japan Airlines expanded their direct flights, more stateside jet-setters are seeing what the rest of the world is praising: A hotel connected directly to the terminal and cleanliness that's renowned the world over. Multiple opportunities for sushi can't hurt, either.
Hong Kong International Airport
All right, so this high-ranking hub has all the trappings of its predecessors, but with one notable exception. Sure, it has its share of cozy lounges—including the awe-inspiring modern hideaway known as "The Deck" by Cathay Pacific—and even an IMAX theater, but the thing that sets Hong Kong International Airport apart is simple: its food. Bite into pork buns, slurp up ramen, and cheers to a beer slushie all before your next flight.
Hamad International Airport
This airport in Doha, Qatar is just four years old, but it's stirring up a lot of buzz. Case in point: In 2015, Skytrax ranked this airport number 22, and this year, it's ranked number 5. So what makes it so great? It has an eye for luxury. Those who want their stopovers to include a splurge can shop at more than 80 different high-end shops, while families can entertain kids at a game room attached to one of many comfortable lounges. There's also quite a bit of commissioned artwork to see, including ones by Damien Hirst and Jenny Holzer.
It's no secret that Europe has some of the best Christmas markets in the world. But the thing that makes Munich Airport stand out—other than its on-site Hilton, gondola, and VIP lounge—is that it takes the holiday season seriously. Plan your trip at this time of year to wander through its own version of the Christmas market, which features two ice skating rinks. You'll also breathe in the fragrant air of 500 real trees.
Chubu Centrair Nagoya International Airport
This airport may be the second one featured in Japan, but it comes first for a lot of reasons. The tens of millions of people who pass through this airport in the central region of the country can rest assured that their trip will likely be clean and their bags will be delivered on time. And if jet-setters want more than a dirt- and hassle-free experience, they can also book time at a bathhouse overlooking the runway.
London Heathrow Airport
The UK's capital may be known for its renowned shopping on Oxford Street, but Skytrax participants thought that travelers didn't even need to leave the airport to make the most of the city's style. Heathrow was voted as having the world's best shops, which range from British favorites like Reiss and Jo Malone to global brands like Dior and Chanel. And if you want a comfortable place to rest after, head to terminal 2: It was voted the best terminal in the world.
We wouldn't blame you if you passed through this Swiss airport to simply pick up a few boxes of duty-free chocolate. But Skytrax voted Zurich Airport among the best because of the ease of its airport security and the efficient passageways for its tens of millions of visitors. Sitting in its many lounges—which include open-air observation decks—while eating sweets is a plus, too.
Many travelers pass through this German airport to get from one place to the next, thanks to its many international flights, and that's why it's heralded for its overall convenience. But making life easier also extends to the terminals, since travelers can take a budget-friendly shower and enjoy free WiFi as they wait. There's a dog hotel that's perfect for hassle-free shopping, too.