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

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]

Five reasons why I love Korea’s Incheon International Airport

This long layover is my third at Incheon International Airport, and I couldn’t be happier about it. On my first trip, I emerged bleary-eyed after a 10-hour flight, desperate for a bathroom and bottle of water. Wandering through the sleek white halls, I spotted a sign with an arrow and the words “Rest and Relaxation.” I followed the arrow upstairs to an area with a spa, internet cafe, transit hotel, and several dining options. I was a smitten kitten.

If you’re passing through South Korea on your way to other parts of Asia, consider choosing a flight that passes through Incheon. It truly is a great airport, and here are five reasons why:

1. Rest and Relaxation areas. What more could you want on a layover? Leather cots and lounge chairs make sacking out pleasurable (I’m usually that hobo passed out on a sarong by my gate), and they’re in a quiet area with no TV noise.

2. Free Internet. And not just free wi-fi, though there’s that (I’m using it right now). There’s actually an Internet cafe area, with about a half dozen desktops for folks to use – for free. A sign politely asks users to limit their usage to 30 minutes if there is a wait.

3. Self-cleaning toilets. Not only are the toilet seats in a constant state of pristine thanks to some rotating plastic covers, but there are shelves inside the stalls to put your purse and whatnot. I can’t count the times I’ve entered a stall with no hook and had to either wear all my stuff while trying to hover over a dirty seat, or else place it on the equally nasty floor.4. Art and culture displays. Korean art is showcased throughout the facility, but there are also areas that are set up like miniature museums. They’re great to wander through, and do a good job of enticing me to actually leave the airport someday and visit South Korea.

5. Transit hotel and showers. Since I’m always on a tight budget and the leather cots are perfectly functional, I’ve never actually paid for a room at the transit hotel. Still, it’s there if you need it. I’ve been more tempted by the showers. They’re located in the spa in the Rest and Relaxation area, right next to the spotless restrooms and across from the free Internet cafe.