Expert travelers reviewed over 500 airports based on several factors, including check-in, shopping, immigration, security, cleanliness, terminal comfort and ambiance, choice of bars and restaurants, and airport ease of access. A Covid-19-specific section was also included in the survey.
European and Asian airports dominated the top 20 list again this year, with Doha’s Hamad International Airport taking the top spot and ending Singapore Changi Airport’s eight-year winning streak. There was an even split of airports in each continent making the top 20, though Asia saw seven airports in the top 10 list – three of which were in Japan alone. Europe managed to earn three spots in the top 10, which is an improvement from only two last year.
Australia’s Melbourne Airport fell five spots from 2020, ranking 22 this year and knocking it and the continent out of the top 20 list for 2021. North America also lagged, with no airports earning a top 20 spot. Vancouver International Airport was the highest-ranking airport in the Americas at number 24, down from 13 in 2020. Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport managed to put the US in the top 30 this year with a rank of 25, followed by Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport at 42 and Denver International Airport at 44 – both of which dropped from 2020s top 30.
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1. Doha's Hamad International Airport
Doha’s Hamad International Airport took the number one spot in this year’s rankings, up two places from 2020. Home to Qatar Airways, Hamad is the country’s only international airport and offers flights across six continents. It is praised for its cleanliness, comfort, posh boutiques, unique artwork, COVID-19 response, and indoor train that shuttles passengers through the terminal. Hamad is the Official Airport Partner for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and is undergoing an expansion to accommodate 58 million passengers by the event.
2. Tokyo International Airport
Tokyo International Airport, also known as Haneda International Airport, maintained its number two spot this year. The airport is Tokyo’s second primary airport and handles a large portion of domestic travel, though the airport is evolving to handle more international traffic. Haneda is the leading domestic base for major carriers Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airlines, though it also serves as a hub for regional airlines Air Do and Solaseed Air and low-cost carrier Skymark Airlines.
3. Singapore Changi Airport
Singapore Changi Airport ended its eight-year rein after falling to number three in the 2021 top 10 list. The airport has been consistently named one of the cleanest and most entertaining airports globally, hosting a movie theater and butterfly garden, though both are closed due to the pandemic. Changi is Singapore’s primary air transport center and one of the largest in Asia. It is an operating base for Singapore Airlines, Singapore Airlines Cargo, Scoot, Jetstar Asia Airways, and BOC Aviation.
4. Seoul's Incheon International Airport
Seoul’s Incheon International Airport maintained its number four spot in this year’s rankings. The airport is the primary airport serving the Seoul area and is the largest airport in South Korea. Incheon is built on an artificially constructed piece of land west of the city center and hosts over 80 airlines. It serves as a hub for Korean Air and its subsidiary Jin Air, Asiana Airlines, and Polar Air Cargo.
5. Tokyo's Narita International Airport
Tokyo’s Narita International Airport is the second Japanese airport to make the top 10 list at number five. Narita is one of Tokyo’s primary airports and is the busiest in the country by international passenger traffic. It serves as a hub for Japan Airlines, All Nippon Airways, Nippon Cargo Airlines, and low-cost carriers Peach and Jetstar Japan.
6. Munich International Airport
Munich International Airport fell one spot to number six in 2021. The airport is the second-busiest airport by passenger traffic in Germany behind Frankfurt and carried 47.9 million passengers in 2019. Munich serves as a hub for Lufthansa and its subsidiaries Lufthansa CityLine, Air Dolomiti, and Eurowings. It also acts as a base for Condor and TUI fly Deutschland.
7. Zurich Airport
Zurich Airport improved its ranking by four spots to make the top 10 this year. The airport is the largest international airport in Switzerland and connects travelers to the city and, via ground transport links, many other parts of the country. It serves as a primary hub for Swiss International Air Lines and its sister company Edelweiss Air.
8. London's Heathrow Airport
London’s Heathrow Airport jumped four spots to make the top 10 list in 2021. Located on the west side of the city, the airport is the main international gateway to London and has consistently been one of the busiest airports in Europe year over year. Heathrow serves over 180 airports in 90 countries and offers travelers access to nearly every corner of the globe. It is home to British Airways and is a main operating base for airlines like Virgin Atlantic, KLM, Lufthansa, Qantas, and Singapore Airlines.
9. Kansai International Airport
Kansai International Airport improved from 10 to nine in 2021 and is one of three Japanese airports that made the top 10 list. Constructed on an artificial island in Osaka Bay, the airport is the primary gateway to the Greater Osaka Region of Japan and is the closest international airport to Kyoto and Kobe. Kansai hosts the longest terminal in the world and is a hub for All Nippon Airways, Japan Airlines, Nippon Cargo Airlines, and low-cost carrier Peach.
10. Hong Kong International Airport
Hong Kong International Airport maintained its top 10 place this year but fell four spots from six to 10. The airport is the largest cargo gateway globally and serves as a major passenger connector to China and the rest of Asia. Hong Kong is a hub for Cathay Pacific, Hong Kong Airlines, HK Express, and cargo carrier Air Hong Kong.