HomeEconomyWhen it comes to the world's best airports, the U.S. is flyover...

When it comes to the world’s best airports, the U.S. is flyover country

Travelers looking to fly out of a modern, attractive airport with efficient security, tasteful restaurants and top-notch shopping should bypass the U.S.

According to aviation ranking website Skytrax, only one U.S. airport ranks among the top 20 in the world — Seattle-Tacoma Airport in Washington state, at No. 18. The rest of the continent isn’t so hot, either. Only one other fight hub in North America makes the grade, Canada’s Vancouver International Airport, at No. 20.

To fly in style, you’ll need to head to Europe and Asia, which boast nine and eight of the best airports, respectively, while Australia’s Melbourne Airport also makes the cut (No. 19).

Topping the list is Singapore’s Changi Airport, according to Skytrax, which based its ranking on customer satisfaction surveys of more than 550 airports that evaluated things including their terminal layouts, security procedures, seating, transportation options, dining areas and shopping. 

Singapore’s largest airport has often dominated the world’s best airport list, despite slipping in the rankings during the coronavirus pandemic. It features scores of shopping outlets and lush indoor gardens

Changi Airport, Terminal 3, Singapore
A look at some of the strikingly modern architecture at Changi Airport in Singapore, which aviation rating website Skytrax recently ranked as the world’s best airport.

Getty Images

Fernery and fish ponds Singapore Changi airport
Singapore Changi airport boasts a fernery, orchid garden and fish ponds 

Andrew Woodley/Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty

Other high-ranking airports in Asia include Doha’s Hamad International Airport, which landed second on Skytrax’s list, and Tokyo’s Haneda Airport (No. 3) . The top airports in Europe included Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (No. 5) and Munich International Airport (No. 7).

Airports in the U.S., most of which are publicly owned and operated by state or local governments or quasi-public entities like airport or port authorities, have suffered from the nation’s spotty investment in infrastructure, according to a report from the Congressional Research Service.

By comparison, 41% of European airports have private shareholders, according to the Airport Council International, an organization that oversees international airport standards and industry practices. 

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If U.S. airports get no respect, at least one flight hub formerly regarded as the nation’s worst airport is now distinguishing itself: New York’s LaGuardia Airport. SkyTrax cited the facility’s Terminal B, which opened last year, as the world’s best new terminal. The project was the result of a multi-billion dollar public-private partnership, according to the Port Authority.

Here are world’s top 20 airports as ranked by Skytrax:

  1. Singapore Changi Airport
  2. Hamad International Airport
  3. Tokyo International Airport (Haneda)
  4. Incheon International Airport
  5. Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport
  6. Istanbul Airport
  7. Munich Airport
  8. Zurich Airport
  9. Narita International Airport
  10. Madrid-Barajas Airport
  11. Vienna International Airport
  12. Helsinki-Vantaa Airport
  13. Rome Fiumicino Airport
  14. Copenhagen Airport
  15. Kansai International Airport
  16. Chubu Centrair International Airport
  17. Dubai International Airport
  18. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport
  19. Melbourne Airport
  20. Vancouver International Airport

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