By Paul Brady
July 08, 2020
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Courtesy of Changi Airport

This year’s World’s Best Awards survey closed on March 2, just before widespread stay-at-home orders were implemented as a result of COVID-19. The results reflect our readers’ experiences before the pandemic, but we hope that this year’s honorees will inspire your trips to come — whenever they may be.

Mega-hubs around the world may have seen traffic dwindle this spring, but years of investment in the passenger experience are still paying dividends for global travelers. The world’s top hubs keep one-upping each other with premium lounge facilities; on-site amenities including movie theaters, pools, and botanical gardens; and easy security and immigration processes that make long-haul travel more seamless. This year, to nobody’s surprise, airports in Asia and the Middle East were big hits, with readers praising them for their ultra-efficient terminals that seem drawn from a science-fiction utopia.

Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, T+L asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe — to share their opinions on the top hotels, resorts, cities, islands, cruise ships, spas, airlines, and more. Readers rated airports on access, check-in/security, restaurants/bars, shopping, and design.

The world’s best airports, readers said, remained largely the same as last year. Four are in Asia, among them No. 4 Hong Kong International and No. 5 Incheon International, which serves Seoul. “I purposefully plan layovers through Incheon so I have a chance to do some skin-care shopping and enjoy the fantastic bars and restaurants,” raved one voter, who’s clearly a K-beauty devotee.

Also among the favorites this year were No. 2 Hamad International, which held onto its runner-up status from last year. The Doha hub for Qatar Airways is a popular stopover for travelers headed to Africa as well as India and Southeast Asia. “It was a pleasure,” said one reader, who added: “I'm no aristocrat, but I was treated royally every step of the way.” Multiple voters praised the lounges, and one particularly called out the “extensive” shopping options as an asset.

Elsewhere, No. 7 Zurich moved up three spots from last year, as readers said it excelled at customer service and organization. “The signage and directions are so immaculately posted, and everything is clean — it always blows me away,” one reader said. “And who can forget the little cow noises in the air tram; so adorable and funny.” And No. 9 Copenhagen Airport made the top-10 cut this year: “It’s by far the most peaceful airport I've ever been to. Quiet, efficient, and well-lit, it’s a great welcome to the country,” one voter said.

Still, the developments at Singapore Changi Airport over the past few years have ensured its longevity in the top spots. Read on to find out what makes it so special in readers’ minds and which other airports join the ranks of the best international airports.

1. Singapore Changi Airport

Courtesy of Changi Airport

Score: 93.49

More information: changiairport.com

Changi has taken the top spot in this T+L’s World’s Best Awards list for eight straight years — since the category debuted — but the global hub hasn’t been resting on its laurels. In April 2019, the opening of Jewel Changi Airport, a massive stand-alone complex, added some extra sparkle to this top-flight facility. Jewel’s indoor waterfall, children’s playgrounds, street-food–style vendors, and numerous shops are cool enough that even locals make day trips to this airport for fun — high praise by any standard. Voters had much to applaud, as well. “I could’ve taken a vacation in the airport alone,” one reader marveled. “It’s the best airport I’ve ever been to,” said another, who continued by saying, “I had a long layover and part of it was spent exploring the airport as well as the city. It’s absolutely beautiful and the food selection is great.” Interestingly, Singapore Airlines, a major presence at Changi, was this year’s top international carrier — for the 25th straight year. Seems when it comes to air travel, Singapore simply does everything right.

2. Hamad International Airport, Doha, Qatar

Courtesy of Hamad International Airport

Score: 90.89

More information: dohahamadairport.com

3. Dubai International Airport

Courtesy of Dubai Airports

Score: 85.45

4. Hong Kong International Airport

Courtesy of Airport Authority Hong Kong

Score: 84.25

More information: hongkongairport.com

5. Incheon International Airport, Seoul

iStockphoto/Getty Images

Score: 83.44

More information: airport.kr

6. Haneda (Tokyo International) Airport

Courtesy of Tokyo Haneda International Airport

Score: 81.38

More information: haneda-airport.jp

7. Zurich Airport

Courtesy of Zurich Airport

Score: 80.44

More information: zurich-airport.com

8. Abu Dhabi International Airport

Courtesy of Abu Dhabi Airports

Score: 80.08

More information: abudhabiairport.ae

9. Copenhagen Airport

David Stjernholm/Courtesy of Copenhagen Airport

Score: 79.94

More information: cph.dk

10. Amsterdam Airport Schiphol

Courtesy of Amsterdam Airport Schiphol

Score: 79.06

More information: schiphol.nl

See all of our readers' favorite hotels, cities, airlines, cruise lines, and more in the World's Best Awards for 2020.