5 Terrible Airports & 5 Surprisingly Good Ones

5 Terrible Airports & 5 Surprisingly Good Ones


1. LAX, California

As the place many a traveller to America will first step foot into, LAX doesn’t so much say welcome to Hollywood, as it does simply, fuck you. Combing cattle house flair with Soviet chemical-facility chic, not only is LAX an ugly, over-crowded, abomination of a place, but the wildly belligerent attitude of its staff would rival that of the SS guard posts at Aushwitz. As far as American PR jobs go, LAX is right up there with the Iraqi war.

2. Lviv Airport, Ukraine

One would expect to have low hopes for a city most people have never heard of in a country which often doesn’t do that much better publicity wise, but even Lviv Airport defies the lowest of expectations and descends a tier below. Even calling it an Airport is a stretch. If no one told you otherwise you’d naturally assume you’d stumbled upon a lost cold war military base, made all the more convincing by all the military personal present. There is one – ONE – check in desk for ALL flights, after which one must crawl through a gauntlet of repetitive, awfully prolonged security checks. Give yourself a 4 hour safety blanket should you have the misfortune of passing through here. Mercifully the airport is set to be revamped by 2012.









3. Naia1 Manilla, Phillipines

Enfusing local culture into a city’s major point of arrival and departure is always bound to create a strong impression, especially if it’s for all the wrong reasons. Famed for being overcrowded, dirty and 3rd world in just about every sense – Naia 1 has officially been rated the worst major international airport in the world for having to sleep over in. As well as being a horrendous dump, the staff are frequently accused of over-zealous hostility, free-wheeling bribery and extreme unhelpfulness.

4. Lukla Tenzing-Hillary Airport, Nepal

If extreme living is your thing, there’s a good chance you may actually enjoy a touchdown or takeoff at the world’s most dangerous airport. And as the entry point to Mt Everest base camp, it also doubles as the airport at the highest altitude in the world. Perched precariously on a mountainside at an altitude of 2,800 meters, Lukla runway features a 460 metre runway on a 12% gradient before dropping off into the Himalyian abyss. Very few aircraft are capable of landing here, and then among them only those with the most talented of pilots. Since 1973 there have been 9 crashes – frequently with fatalities.












5. Heathrow Airport, London

Heathrow exists as proof that bigger is not better, especially when you simply take mediocrity and multiply it a million times over. This British monstrosity is topping charts though – year after year, business travellers push it to the title of ‘least favourite airport in the world’ in numerous publications – most recently Trip Advisor. Its reputation for losing baggage, vast confusing layouts, and pointless beaurocracy is so esteemed that it’s practically become an art form.


The Surprisingly Good

1. Riga International Airport, Latvia

Sleek, advanced, organized, ultra-modern and welcoming – Riga Airport is everything that Latvia was not 20 years ago. And for that it deserves praise. The Baltic nations have come light years since the oppressive yolk of Soviet domination was cut loose, and Riga airport is a proud testament to Latvia’s progress and a nation of just 2 million people.

2. Malta International Airport

For a small barren rock located just 90 miles south of Super Mafia land (Sicily) Malta has done very well. And so has its main airport. Regulars heap praise on it for the remarkably efficient arrivals and departure areas/proceedings as well as having the perfect balance of duty free and eating amenities. The design – inside and out – is fantastic as well.












3. Auckland, New Zealand

I probably don’t throw enough accolades the way of my own country, but having been too many medium sized airports in the world I can say that Auckland Airport rightly fits under the banner of surprisingly good – even if the vicinity to the city itself is awful. Striking a balance between modern design and local culture is always a precarious task – but Auckland Airport pulls it off brilliantly for both departures and arrivals. The surprise factor additionally comes given the proud kiwi tradition of making a hash of major public spaces.

4. Ottawa International, Canada

Canada seems to have a knack for putting together decent airports so in that facet it’s not really a surprise, but  Ottawa in particular is getting many plaudits. It seems to nail pretty much everything: Ambience, space, comfort, staff, cleaniness, efficiency, amenities. They probably do a killer moose burger in their somewhere as well.

5. Guayaquil, Ecuador

Definitely one from left of field, is South Americas most popular airport – and one of the most popular small airports in the world. For a country that is considered to be 2nd or 3rd world, this is a place which is punching well above its weight. By all accounts it’s as modern, functional and enjoyable as any of the worlds best. Sadly, Cocaine is no longer available in the duty free stores.










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