Airport, Sweet Airport

I have a friend who spent many years overseas as a missionary and learned the ups and downs of bridging cultures. She said that the place she felt most at home was on an airplane. Well, my legs are longer than hers, so it’s hard for an airplane seat to offer me any sense of “home.” But an international airport? That’s my kind of place. Now I’m not saying that I’d actually like to live there*, but airports sure do a good job of catering to travelers’ short-term needs (though it’s not the cheapest place to spend a day). And the walkways and waiting areas vibrate with the echos of goodbyes, the anticipation of hellos, and . . . transition.

So if you like airports—or if you detest them and want to decrease your pain—where should you plan your next layover? What are the best airports in the world? Well, the public has voted, and on April 19 the Global Airport Awards were handed out by Skytrax. Ladies and gentlemen, the top-ten airports are

  1. Incheon International Airport
  2. Singapore Changi Airport
  3. Hong Kong International Airport
  4. Amsterdam Schiphol Airport
  5. Beijing Capital International Airport
  6. Munich Airport
  7. Zurich Airport
  8. Kuala Lumpur International Airport
  9. Vancouver International Airport
  10. Central Japan International Airport

If none of these are on your scheduled routes, go to Skytrax for their full rankings of the top 100 and list of winners in key categories. Surely you’ll find someplace among their recommendations that matches your travel plans.

*Though I enjoyed watching Stephen Spielberg’s The Terminal, I don’t expect that actually living in an airport would turn out so well. Seems that Spielberg’s inspiration for the movie came from the real-life story of the Iranian-born Mehran Karimi Nasseri, who lost his refugee documents in France and ended up stuck at Charles de Gaulle Airport—for 18 years. And from what I’ve read, Nasseri’s story didn’t turn out as happily as The Terminal. Nasseri left Charles de Gaulle in 2006 and now lives in France. Maybe things would have turned out better if he had been in a different airport: Charles de Gaulle ranked only 78th on Skytrax’s list.

To get Nasseri’s full story, you can read his autobiography, Terminal Man, or you can get a much shorter version in the article “Mehran Karimi Nasseri” (h2g2, May 28, 2008)

[photo: “Resting in Red,” by OakleyOriginals, used under a Creative Commons license]