Singapore’s Changi Airport has done it again. Last week in Geneva Skytrax Research, a London-based consulting firm, unveiled its assessment of the world’s top flight hubs at the World Airport Awards 2013, based on nominations from 12.1 million airline passengers. Changi was right at the top of the list.
At this point, Changi’s excellence as an airport is almost boring. It may not have won last year, but it didn’t flop either, finishing behind only Seoul’s Incheon – which swapped places with Singapore to land at no. 2 this year. Over the past 14 years, Changi has landed within the top three places without fail, placing first on four occasions, most recently in 2010. Indeed, it’s been a very good year for Changi, which also snagged Best Airport in Asia and Best Airport for Leisure Amenities.
"Singapore Changi continues to be popular with transit passengers with around 70 percent of survey votes coming from passengers transferring through the airport,” said Skytrax chairman Edward Plaisted.
It is a truism that airports are a source of grief. Addressing this generally held feeling head-on is one of Changi’s secret weapons. In 2012, Changi catered to 52 million travelers and 1.81 million tons of cargo. The airport boasts amenities more usually associated with a country club, with a swimming pool, butterfly garden, nature trail and movie theaters all on site.
Plaisted added, “The well thought out and quite unique leisure facilities including a swimming pool, open gardens and cinema continue to a be a driving force behind Singapore Changi Airport success as the world's leading transfer airport.”
More broadly, a glance at this year’s airport rankings suggests that Asia has worked out the airport formula very well indeed. Four of the top five airports in the world this year are located within the region. Alongside Changi, Seoul’s Incheon (no. 2), Hong Kong International Airport (no. 4), Beijing Capital International Airport (no. 5) and Tokyo International Airport (Haneda; no. 9) accounted for half of the top ten spots, with Amsterdam (no. 3), Munich (no. 6), Zurich (no. 7), Vancouver (no. 8) and London’s Heathrow (no. 10) filling out the rest of the list’s upper ranks.
Of note, Tokyo’s Haneda has been something of a stealth hit in recent years, since it began accommodating international flights again in 2010. This year it climbed five places from 14th last year and was also voted World’s Best Domestic Airport, a new award created this year. Haneda was also given kudos for keeping things spic and span, receiving the award for Best Airport Terminal Cleanliness for the first time as well.
“With greater passenger awareness on issues of hygiene, Tokyo Haneda's achievement of having the Best Airport Terminal Cleanliness is certainly something the management and staff should be proud of,” Plaisted said.
Looking beyond the top 10 to the world’s best 20 airports, Japan had four (Haneda, Central Japan, Narita and Kansai), while China had three (Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai Hongqiao). As Forbes points out, Germany was the only other country to have more than one in the top 20, with Munich and Frankfurt making the cut.
Beyond Asia, Cape Town International was crowned Africa’s best and Lima Jorge Chavez International won top honors for South America, while Panama Tocumen, Abu Dhabi and Auckland International came out on top, respectively, for Central America, the Middle East and the Australia-Pacific region.
Aside from Vancouver’s sole shining light, results for airports in North America were bleak, with Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky (the best in the United States) placing 30th in the world, followed by other “high achievers” (relatively speaking) Denver (36) and San Francisco (40).