World’s Best International Airports in 2016

Changi International Airport
Photo: Darren Soh

Unlike the dreary, functional (and all too often unfunctional) depots many travelers dread passing through, the best airports in the world are as efficient as they are engaging. In many cases, they are evocative of their broader locations, giving arriving passengers a sense of the destination before they even exit customs—and giving fliers on a layover a peek at the landscape beyond the terminal gates. Every year for our World’s Best Awards survey, Travel + Leisure asks readers to weigh in on travel experiences around the globe—to share their opinions on the top hotels, resorts, cities, islands, cruise lines, spas, airlines, and more. Readers rated international airports (those located outside of the United States) on access, check-in/security, restaurants/bars, shopping, and design. The airports category is just three years old, and for each of those years Singapore Changi Airport has held the No. 1 spot—and Asian hubs, in general, have dominated the list. These airports have a history of incorporating smart tech to make the lives of travelers easier, as well as staggering architecture that helps the airport seem like a destination in its own right. Dubai International Airport, perhaps thanks to its luxurious amenities (think: showers in the bathrooms) and the airy, spacious design. “Plan extra stopover time, if possible, to explore this incredible airport,” said T+L reader Robert Ruminski. Another World’s Best voter appreciated Seoul’s Incheon International Airport, which turned 15 years old in March. “Fly here just for the airport. It’s so modern and huge, you could get lost—and honestly, you wouldn’t mind.” Hong Kong International Airport, which has held the No. 3 or No. 2 spot every year, offers hungry travelers Chinese specialties (marinated goose, duck tongues) from an outpost of the Michelin-starred Hung’s Delicacies. This airport also woos fliers with every amusement imaginable, including an IMAX theater and a golf course. It's enough to make you wish for a flight delay.

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No. 10: Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS)

Amsterdam Airport Schiphol
Narvikk/Getty Images

Score: 76.37

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No. 9: Adelaide Airport (ADL; Australia

Adelaide Airport Australia
Courtesy of Adelaide Airport

Score: 76.39

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No. 8: Haneda (Tokyo International) Airport (HND; Japan

Haneda Airport Tokyo Japan
B.S.P.I./Getty Images

Score: 76.74

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No. 7: Munich Airport (MUC; Germany

Munich Airport Germany
Walter Bibikow/Getty Images

Score: 77.74

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No. 6: Ben Gurion International Airport (TLV; Tel Aviv, Israel

Ben Gurion International Airport Tel Aviv Israel
Barry Winiker/Getty Images

Score: 78

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No. 5: Zurich Airport (ZRH; Switzerland

Zurich Airport Switzerland
Courtesy of Zurich Airport

Score: 79.10

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No. 4: Incheon International Airport (ICN; South Korea

Incheon International Airport South Korea
Bloomberg via Getty Images

Score: 82.96

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No. 3: Hong Kong International Airport (HKG; China

Hong Kong International Airport
Xaume Olleros/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Score: 83.99

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No. 2: Dubai International Airport (DXB; United Arab Emirates

Dubai International Airport United Arab Emirates
EschCollection/Getty Images

Score: 84.52

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No. 1: Singapore Changi Airport (SIN)

Changi International Airport
Darren Soh

Score: 90.93

More than 55 million people passed through in 2015—very smoothly, thanks to its expertise in organization and flow. Changi has designated “Experience Agents” devoted to assisting confused travelers. Another perk: a bi-level butterfly garden that boasts 1,000 tropical butterflies and a waterfall. Elsewhere, spaces are filled with sunflowers, cacti, orchids, and ferns. On top of it all: a Balinese-style rooftop pool. With next year’s opening of Terminal 4, the airport will allow Singapore to accommodate as many as 82 million passengers per year.

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