Not all airports are created equal. Some are soulless, clinical spaces with little more than bright blueish lighting and endless corridors. They are nothing but a functional building from which to launch your next adventure, be it a weekend away with friends or a big solo trip in a new, far-flung destination.
Others, however, can make your vacation experience special from the outset. The good airports are the ones we look forward to, despite all the lines and bureaucracy. They’re the ones with appealing food and drink—a champagne bar, perhaps, or a micro-brewery with a taproom—and unique spaces that offer more than just a place to sit and charge your devices. Perhaps they have indoor gardens, rooftop terraces with runway views, or even entire adventure playgrounds to keep the kids happy while you’re waiting for your flight to be called.
These kinds of added luxuries have put 20 airports on the Skytrax World’s Best Airports list this year, with Hamad International stealing the show for a second year running. Voted by travelers in a global customer satisfaction survey, which takes into account everything from public transport options and line waiting times to cleanliness, choice of food and shops, and accessibility adjustments, the Middle Eastern hub beat former eight-time winner Changi Airport again.
Japan’s aviation hubs performed well this year, with 3 of the country’s main airports in the top 10, while London, Dubai, and Hong Kong garnered spots in the top 20. Here’s the full ranking from Skytrax.
1. Hamad International Airport, Qatar
In 2021, Hamad International saw over 17 million passengers pass through its terminals. Despite the ongoing pandemic, the Middle Eastern transport hub continued with expansion plans to help serve the anticipated 3.5 million people who will travel to Doha for the FIFA World Cup in November and December 2022.
If you’re traveling through Hamad—which connects Washington, D.C., New York, Miami, Los Angeles, and Houston with South Africa, Tanzania, and India—expect to see high-end designer stores like Burberry, Gucci, and Jimmy Choo with duty-free price tags within its terminal; the varied dining options include divine cakes from L’eto Caffe on Concourse C and sandwiches in Harrods Tea Room in the south duty-free zone. Best of all, the airport even has a pay-to-use fitness center and spa, as well as pay-by-the-hour sleep pods for long layovers.
2. Tokyo International Airport (Haneda), Japan
The main entry point into Japan’s capital is a favorite among passengers for many reasons. This year in the Skytrax awards, Haneda’s Tokyo International Airport won cleanest airport, best domestic airport, and the best airport in Asia, as well as the award for best accessibility for reduced mobility passengers. We love it for its “calm down, cool down” secluded seating areas for anxious or stressed passengers who are sensitive to light, sound, or crowds and for the numerous spas and massage chairs available throughout its three terminals.
3. Singapore Changi Airport, Singapore
Singapore is famous for its vast and varied food scene, and this even extends into its airport. In 2022 Changi International won the Skytrax world’s best dining award and came in third for best overall and best staff service. If you find yourself in Singapore’s gargantuan terminals, don’t miss spicy Indian cuisine from Bikanervala, comfort food at Burger & Lobster (a London favorite), or traditional Singaporean flavors at Kopitiam.
4. Narita International Airport, Japan
The busiest airport in Japan, Narita is now the world’s fourth best aviation hub according to passengers. It’s little wonder this airport impresses, as Narita has all manner of unusual features. Terminal 2 has its own Japanese art gallery, and there’s an exhibit on traditional Kabuki theater in Terminal 1. At a capsule hotel in Terminal 2, ideal for layovers or early morning flights, you can nap for under $12 per hour.
5. Incheon International Airport, South Korea
With a spa, myriad gardens for relaxation, a movie theater, and an ice skating rink, Incheon International has been designated the fifth best airport in the world. This vast airport is the main aviation gateway for Seoul, South Korea’s sprawling modern capital, and it served over 4.8 million passengers in 2021.
6. Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, France
Even if you’re only transiting through the French capital’s main airport, you can still soak up a bit of that Parisian culture and world-class art. In both terminals 1 and 2, you’ll find rotating exhibitions by top museums, including the Louvre and Palace of Versailles. Relax in the chic Instant Paris lounge for free, or head to the spa for a massage or beauty treatment in Terminal 2E.
7. Munich Airport, Germany
In the year marking its 30th anniversary, Munich Airport has been named the seventh best in the world. We love the free relaxation lounges where you can recline on beds surrounded by plants, and the VIP Wing (bookable in advance from $460), which offers a private shuttle to your flight, high-end dining, and a biergarten serving traditional Bavarian food, such as weisswurst and dumplings.
8. Istanbul Airport, Turkey
Istanbul airport picked up a slew of accolades at the Skytrax awards in 2022, including most family-friendly airport and best shopping. There’s a brilliant soft play area for kids, which has a pretend airplane to climb in and out of. The airport provides family-focused shuttles for getting around easily.
9. Zurich Airport, Switzerland
Efficiency was what impressed travelers passing through Zurich Airport, which won best security processing as well as ninth best airport in the world. Considering Zurich saw more than 10 million passengers pass through its terminals in 2022, that’s quite a feat. Facilities here are pretty good, too, with beauty salons, a hairdresser, a dental center, and a gym.
10. Kansai International Airport, Japan
Serving the cities of Osaka, Kyoto, and Kobe, Kansai International is a popular Japanese transport hub with access to some of the country’s most beguiling places. Inside the airport, little touches make a difference, like the umbrella re-use stand where passengers can leave behind old umbrellas for others who might need one. The highlight here is the Sky View observation platform on the rooftop, which offers unrivaled views of the two runways.
And the rest of the top 20 airports . . .
11. Helsinki-Vantaa Airport
12. Central Japan International Airport
13. London Heathrow Airport
14. Dubai International Airport
15. Amsterdam Schiphol Airport
16. Madrid-Barajas Airport
17. Copenhagen Airport
18. Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport
19. Vienna International Airport
20. Hong Kong International Airport