As airports start to welcome travellers back through their gates, which airports offer the best experience to holidaymakers?
Many of us probably haven’t set foot in an airport for a while, so you may have forgotten just how stressful it can be at times, from cancellations or delays to frantically checking off your last minute checklist.
That said, modern airports have come a long way, with the some creating relaxing spaces including amenities such as yoga rooms and outdoor gardens.
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But where are the best airports in the world for travellers? Looking at a number of factors including delays, parking costs, transfer times and more, money.co.uk has ranked the world’s 50 busiest airports.
Singapore Changi is one of the busiest and now best airports in the world, offering an unrivalled experience for its passengers, with a score of 8.32.
Changi has the second-highest number of shops on offer (224) and allows you to park for just £19.14 for a week.
Another Asian airport comes in second place, with Tokyo Haneda scoring 8.03. Haneda is also incredibly busy, yet was the top-scoring airport for on-time flights.
The airport was once Tokyo’s main airport but has since tried to shift its focus to premium business routes.
In third place is Mexico City International Airport, also known as Benito Juárez International Airport, the busiest airport in Latin America.
While it scored poorly on some factors, Mexico City has 226 shops and is also just seven minutes away from the city centre.
Delays are perhaps the most frustrating thing that can happen while travelling, but there’s quite a big difference between the on-time performance of different airports.
The airport with the fewest delays (flights that depart at least 15 minutes late) is Tokyo Haneda, despite dealing with over 85 million passengers a year.
|Rank||Airport||Total passengers (2019)||On-time performance|
|1||Tokyo Haneda Airport, Japan||85.5m||86.4%|
|2||Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport, United States||110.5m||82.6%|
|3||Singapore Changi Airport, Singapore||68.3m||82.0%|
|4||Madrid Barajas Airport, Spain||61.7m||80.4%|
|4||George Bush Intercontinental Airport, United States||45.0m||80.4%|
|4||Narita International Airport, Japan||44.3m||80.4%|
|7||Mexico City International Airport, Mexico||50.3m||80.3%|
|8||Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, United States||46.3m||80.2%|
|9||Los Angeles International Airport, United States||88.1m||80.0%|
|10||Charlotte Douglas International Airport, United States||50.2m||79.2%|
|10||Miami International Airport, United States||45.9m||79.2%|
The world’s busiest airport in terms of passengers is Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson, which welcomes over 110 million passengers through its terminals in 2019. (Of course, figures for later years have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic).
Hartsfield–Jackson is home to one of the world’s biggest airlines, Delta, and pre-COVID was serving over 1,000 flights a day to over 200 destinations.
If you want the convenience of leaving your car at the airport, you usually have to pay a premium, although that’s not the case at Singapore Changi Airport.
Here, seven days at the airport’s cheapest car park will cost just S$35, which equates to £19.14
|Airport||Drop off cost|
|Charles de Gaulle Airport||Free|
|Charlotte Douglas International Airport||Free|
|London Gatwick Airport||Free|
|Los Angeles International Airport||Free|
|Madrid Barajas Airport||Free|
|Miami International Airport||Free|
|O'Hare International Airport||Free|
|Orlando International Airport||Free|
|Sydney Kingsford-Smith Airport||Free|
|Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport||Free|
|Tokyo Haneda Airport||Free|
While airports often charge a fee even if a vehicle is simply dropping someone off, a number do allow you to do so for free.
Just under half (46%) of the world’s 50 busiest airports offered an initial period where cars are allowed to drop someone off free of charge.
By far the best airport for dining options is Seoul Incheon, in South Korea, with 264 restaurants.
Here travellers can enjoy restaurants featuring Korean food and cuisine from other Asian countries, as well as a number of fast-food outlets.
Shopping doesn’t just help to pass the time at the airport, but you can also pick up some great deals at duty-free outlets. The best airport in the world for shopping options is Mexico City, with 226.
From the 50 busiest airports, as well as having the most shops, Mexico City’s airport was also the one where travellers have to travel the least distance to the city.
Benito Juárez is fairly unusual for an airport in that it is located right outside the city centre, just a seven-minute taxi journey away.
|Airport||Estimated taxi transfer cost|
|Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport||£10|
|Dubai International Airport||£10|
|Indira Gandhi International Airport||£10|
|Mexico City International Airport||£10|
|Ninoy Aquino International Airport||£10|
|Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport||£10|
|Singapore Changi Airport||£10|
The cost of actually getting from the airport to your destination can sometimes be a nasty surprise upon arrival.
Nine out of 50 of the busiest airports in the world have an estimated cost of just £10 when it comes to getting into the city.
So if you are travelling soon, there are a plenty of options for you to make the most out of your trip, starting at the doors of the airport.
Looking at the 50 busiest airports in the world according to the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey’s 2019 Annual Airport Traffic Report (using 2019 to avoid figures being affected by coronavirus restrictions on travel), the following factors were analysed.
Each airport was then analysed on the following factors, giving each airport a normalised score out of 10, before taking an average across each of the scores.
In light of recent events money.co.uk has decided to exclude Russia from its ranking.
Full sources for the costs of parking and drop-offs, as well as for the number of restaurants and shops can be viewed here.
All prices were converted from local currencies using Google Finance as of February 2nd, 2022.
The total number of annual passengers that passed through the airport in 2019 according to the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey’s 2019 Annual Airport Traffic Report.
The cost of a week’s parking according to the airport’s own website, using the cheapest option available (such as a long stay car park if available).
Drop off costs
The cost to drop someone off outside the terminal building according to the airport’s own website). Here, the cost of the shortest available parking slot has been taken for each airport.
Restaurant & bar availability
The number of restaurants and bars in the airport’s terminal buildings according to the airport’s own website.
The number of duty-free shops in the airport’s terminal buildings according to the airport’s own website.
Salman is our personal finance editor with over 10 years’ experience as a journalist. He has previously written for Finder and regularly provides his expert view on financial and consumer spending issues for local and national press such as The Express, Travel Daily, and The Daily Star.
Salman is our personal finance editor with over 10 years’ experience as a journalist. He has previously written for Finder and regularly provides his expert view on financial and consumer spending issues for local and national press.