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It isn’t surprising that major cities are sometimes known by their international airports. Apart from being the first to welcome visitors, they provide a fairly accurate gauge of the country’s economical status. Take a look at the airport’s infrastructure, ease of navigation within the terminal and between terminals, and facilities and amenities for those who have longer layovers. It also certainly helps if there is an impressive number of shopping options available for both passengers and locals.
Skytrax, a company specialising in airport and airline research, seeks to deliver impartial passenger surveys and yearly awards, independent of advertisers and investors. Now in its 16th year, Skytrax’s lists include various categories such as best airports, airlines, first class lounges, and even meals on board an aircraft. Those looking at the lists a second look aren’t just passengers though, airports have turned to it for a broad overview of how they’ve performed compared to the previous year, and what they can take note of for the coming year.
Without further ado, here are the top five airports of the year.
1. Tokyo International Airport Haneda
It airport may be smaller than Tokyo’s main international airport (Narita Airport), but Tokyo International Airport Haneda packs a powerful punch. It takes just 30mins to get to Tokyo city, but you needn’t step out of the airport to immerse in the Japanese culture. Head up to the fourth level and discover Edo Koji, a reconstruction of an Edo-period village featuring dining and shopping outlets. Choose from sushi, ramen, soba and other cuisines such as Chinese or European as you take in the old-world charm of the architecture. If you’re transiting at night, Starry Café doubles as a planetarium, allowing you to star gaze as you sip on a warm cup of coffee.
2. Hong Kong International Airport
Located on Chek Lap Kok island, an island largely comprising reclaimed land, the airport is most known as a gateway between destinations in Mainland China and Asia. It also has one of the world’s busiest passenger airports, having seen over 60 million passengers in 2014. The airport sports a wide variety of amenities in its two terminals. Terminal 2 is known for its entertainment section, with an iSports hub that houses football, basketball, boxing and skiing simulators. If you’ve a few hours to spare, you may also head to Skycity Nine Eagles Gold Course, the city’s first nine-hole gold course created to US Gold Association Standards.
3. Munich International Airport
This Bavarian hub is not only Europe’s top-ranked airport, or to be the best airport for a long layover, but also the first European airport to be listed under Skytrax’s five-star programme. Passengers in transit can sign up for a 50- or 90-minute airport tour and go behind the scenes to explore freight buildings, maintenance hangars, engine testing facility and storage tanks. A Surf & Style indoor wave pool competition is held on its premises every July, where surfers are invited to ride the world’s biggest standing wave. From late November to December, the airport organises a winter market, featuring over 40 stores that sell local food and handicraft. You’ll even get to try your hand at curling and ice skating.
4. Incheon International Airport
Taking over Gimpo International Airport as the international airport of South Korea in 2001, Incheon International Airport has since added the titles of best airport, world’s cleanest airport, and best international transit airport in its list of anccolades. Apart from including a golf course, ice skating rink, casino and indoor garden, the airport brings the best of South Korea right to the passengers. Those in transit may visit a Jimjilbang (traditional spa), savour makgeolli, a Korean liquor and even don the hanbok (traditional dress). If this is not enough to tickle your fancy, the duty-free mall with over 90 shops may just do the trick.
5. Singapore Changi Airport
It’s no secret that Singaporeans aspire to be the best in everything we do, and we’ve definitely exceeded expectations when it comes to having one of the most lavish airports in the world. Winning for the third year running, Changi Airport offers numerous lounge areas, massage chairs, free Wi-Fi and charging docks, the airport also boasts various standout must-visits. The Butterfly Garden at Terminal 3 is home to over 40 species of free-roaming tropical butterflies, and a 6m waterfall. Should nature lovers not have the time to visit the Singapore Botanic Gardens, you may talk a walk or two in one of the many elevated outdoor gardens that showcase sunflowers, orchids and cacti. Alternatively, take a dip at the rooftop pool as you watch planes land and take off in the sunset, or catch a free movie screening in one of the cinemas (Terminal 2 and 3). And it’s not just the variety of amenities that have received a nod of approval from passengers, the airport has also one of the most diversified number of staff who speak a wide variety of languages, making you feel just at home.