US Grounded On World Airport Awards, But Shopping Great At Heathrow

World airport awards

As a top honor in the world airport industry, the World Airport Awards rank the best airline facilities on everything from how they operate to airport hotels, shopping and more. To determine the winners, actual travelers from over 160 countries take part in an annual airport satisfaction survey.

A global benchmark of airport excellence, the survey pool is deep. The World Airport Awards results use the answers to 12.1 million questionnaires completed by 108 different nationalities passing through 395 airports during the nine-month survey period in 2012 and 2013.

On top? Singapore Changi Airport took top honors, followed by Korea’s Incheon International Airport, a Gadling favorite, then Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. U.S. airports fared fairly well, coming in with 15 spots on the World’s Top 100 Airports ranking.

While no U.S. airports made the top ten (again), the top three U.S. airports are: Denver International Airport at number 36; San Francisco International, which ranked 40th; and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, which squeaked into the top 50 at number 48.

But in the top ten, multiple-award winner London’s Heathrow Airport (number 10) was voted best for shopping too. Boasting over 700,000 of high-end retail space, here are some of the more than 500 shops that air travelers can choose from.

%Gallery-185376%It was a good year for Heathrow, which won the World’s Best Airport Shopping award for the second time, rounding out the top ten list. In addition, Heathrow’s $9 billion Terminal 5 was named as the World’s Best Terminal Building in category listings.

Some other interesting wins:

  • Best Airport Security Processing- Copenhagen
  • Best Airport Immigration Service- Kuala Lumpur
  • Best International Transit Airport- Incheon
  • World’s Cleanest Airport- Tokyo Haneda
  • Best Airport for Leisure Amenities- Singapore
  • Best Airport Dining- Munich
  • Best Airport for Baggage Delivery- Zurich

The World Airport Awards survey was conducted from May 2012 through March 2013.



[Photo credits – Chris Owen/Heathrow Airport]

Looking back at ’08 – 5 things we gained this year

Welcome to part 2 of my “looking back at ’08” segment. In part 1, I listed 5 things we lost in 2008, and in this article I will list 5 things we gained. While you reminisce about 2008, why not check out my list of 10 New Years resolutions that could help make 2009 a much better travel year!

There is no denying that 2008 will take up a pretty decent chunk of history books in years to come. Between the Chinese Olympics and the total destruction of our economic civilization, I’d say it’s been a pretty interesting year. Oh, and we also elected our first African American president. Awesome stuff. Of course, not much of this means much to us travelers, so here are 5 things we gained in ’08:

Internet in the air

I’m a geek, so I have listed this one first. Needless to say this is also the one that excited me the most in 2008.

Internet in the skies has long been a something airline passengers have wished for. The first glimpse of its potential came from Boeing back in 2004, but like many new technologies, this one failed pretty quickly.

In 2006, United Airlines tried to breathe new life into the seatback Verizon Airfone handsets, by offering some very basic online access. Needless to say, that one did not last long either. For some reason, people were not willing to pay $10 for instant messaging and 5 pages of news clippings.

Then, out of the ashes of the Verizon Airfone infrastructure came Aircell. This company purchased the rights to some of the airwaves used by the old Verizon system, and began offering high speed Internet access on American Airlines.

The first flight to take to the skies with the Aircell Gogo inflight Internet service was an American Airlines plane on August 20th 2008. But before passengers were able to download their emails in the air, a lot of other milestones had to be reached. I’ll take a closer look at what went on behind the scenes in a separate article.

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Relaxed TSA rules for laptop computers at the checkpoint

Things just kept getting better for us in 2008 at the security checkpoint. After years of harassing us, removing our bottles of water, and treating us like terrorists for carrying a nail clipper, the TSA decided it could put a smile on our faces by allowing certain kinds of laptop bags to pass through the security checkpoint without having to remove our laptops from the bag.

In all, it probably saves no more than 20 seconds, but every second counts at the airport, especially when it involves doing what you can to get as far away from the checkpoint as possible.

We entered 2008 with zero TSA friendly laptop bags, and we’ll be bidding it farewell with over 30 different designs, many of which are listed here.

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More fees and surcharges

Honestly, I wish this list could contain only happy things. Sadly the year has been pretty rough on the airlines, and when things get rough, they take it out on us.

Fees are what the airlines use to make money, because ticket sales alone apparently don’t work. Clearly someone took a close look at the movie theater business and decided that the expensive popcorn trick would work just fine in the aviation industry.

The worst offender this year was US Airways, but almost every major airline introduced at least one or two new ways to make some money.

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New runways

While some airports are still stuck with just a single runway, others can’t get enough of them to keep things flowing.

New tarmac was opened this year at Dulles, Seattle and Chicago. The Dulles runway was their first new one since 1946, and is expected to handle over 100,000 flights a year.

Of course, Chicago’s O’Hare airport was probably the one most in need of a new runway, as they had been operating under special flow control restrictions for several years due to congestion.

The new runway in Chicago is part of a much larger “masterplan” to expand the airport, which includes a new ATC tower and terminal renovations.

In other good news, those awful people movers at Dulles are scheduled to be scrapped later next year!

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New airlines, new routes and new mergers

It sucks to be a legacy carrier. You are doing everything you can to keep your fleet in the sky, and newcomers like Virgin America and OpenSkies pop up, acting like they own the place.

The thing is, many people are so fed up with the state of air travel, that these new carriers are a very welcome addition. Why fly the “friendly skies”, when you can fly an airline that actually is friendly?

In 2008, JetBlue started flying Chicago to Boston, Virgin America added 6 new routes, including New York to Vegas and OpenSkies (a British Airways subsidiary) started flights from New York to Paris and Amsterdam.

And finally, in the “if you can’t beat em, buy em” department; Delta airlines purchased Northwest airlines bringing 2 of the more decent airlines in the skies together as one. One thing is for sure; 2009 is going to be a bumpy ride for many airlines.

Paris Airports Help Passengers Groove

A service at Paris area airports will have people dancing in the terminals. Literally.

As a special summer promotion provided by Aeroports de Paris, dance classes will be offered to passengers before they hop, or samba, onto their flight. Call it France‘s version of the reality hit So You Think You Can Dance. Styles include tango, salsa, modern jazz, and mambo. There is even instruction in hip hop and rock and roll.

You are imagining a teacher wearing a leotard and leg-warmers prancing around Charles De Gaulle critiquing each step that students take, aren’t you? It’s not quite like that. Passengers are given a set of headphones on which instructions and music are played. They are pretty much on their own after that. The classes run for about 15 minutes and are only offered during weekend daytime hours.

According to airport authorities, over 4,000 people have used the service since it began at the end of June. No word yet on whether these ground-breakers participated willingly or not.

Are in-terminal dance classes the wave of the future? Or is it simply a ploy to get people talking about something besides how high oil prices are making air travel so damned expensive?

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