According to Airports Council International’ ‘Best Airport Worldwide Quality Survey’ for 2007 the top spots went to three Asian airports — Seoul’s Incheon (serving 25-49 million passengers annually), Kuala Lumpur International Airport (15-25 million) and Singapore’s Changi Airport (25-49 million). Two other Asian airports, Central Japan (5-15 million) and Hong Kong (over 40 million), were picked as winners in the five annual-passenger traffic size categories. Other airports to feature in the list were Oporto in Portugal, Dallas Fort Worth in the US, Johannesburg in Africa, Guayaquil in Latin America & Caribbean, and Tel Aviv in the Middle East.
1. Incheon International Airport
Incheon International Airport, the ‘Winged City’, is located on reclaimed land approximately 32 miles from downtown Seoul, South Korea at a cost exceeding $5bn. The main passenger terminal is the largest in South Korea, measuring 496,000 square meter. It is 1,060m long, 149m wide and 33m high. Incheon Airport’s baggage handling system is designed to process 31,000 pieces of luggage an hour by using a centralized computer-controlled, automated tilt-tray system that sorts pieces of luggage with barcode readers. Arrival facilities include 120 immigration counters and 50 customs counters.
2. Kuala Lumpur International Airport
KL International Airport is surrounded by four main cities of Kuala Lumpur, Shah Alam, Seremban and Malacca. KL International Airport is close to Malaysia’s Administration Capital – Putrajaya. KLIA was voted as the World’s Best Airport for two consecutive years, in the 2005 (AETRA awards) and 2006 (ACI-ASQ awards). The airport is built on 10,000 hectares (25,000 acres – one of the world’s largest construction site) of agriculture land at a cost of about $3.5bn and commenced full commercial operations on June 28, 1998. From the air, the KLIA looks like a futuristic structure hidden in a remote jungle. Encircling the airport is a tropical forest.
KLIA boasts of the world’s tallest air-traffic control tower, the biggest column less hangar, biggest passenger lounge and the capacity for 25 million people a year. KLIA is the second airport in the world after Munich to have a special chamber to defuse explosives as part of its sophisticated fire-fighting systems.
3. Changi International Airport
Singapore Changi Airport is recognized as one of the best airports in the world. With 80 airlines serving more than 180 cities in over 50 countries, Changi Airport has established itself as a major aviation hub in the Asia Pacific region. Terminal 3 was built at a cost of S$1.75 billion and has an annual handling capacity of 22 million passengers, bringing Changi Airports total handling capacity (including Budget Terminal) to 70 million passengers per annum. In 2007, the airport handled a record 36,701,556 passengers, a 4.8 per cent increase over the 2006 fiscal year. This made it the 19th busiest airport in the world and the fifth busiest in Asia by passenger traffic in 2007.
The airport is one of the busiest cargo airports in the world, handling 1.89 million tons of cargo in 2007. With the impending arrival of the Airbus A380, the airport put into place modifications works costing S$60 million. These included the building of 19 gates capable of handling the large aircraft, eight of which are in Terminal 3. Baggage claim carousels, runways, and taxiways were expanded, and two new freighter aircraft stands and two remote aircraft parking stands were built. Two aircraft taxiway bridges spanning Airport Boulevard leading to the terminals also had shields installed on either side to shield the road from the jet blast.
On 11 November 2005, the airport became the first outside Europe to receive the A380 for airport compatibility verification tests, and was the first in the world to have an operational triple-passenger loading bridge fit for trials.
4. Hong Kong International Airport
Hong Kong International Airport is colloquially known as Chek Lap Kok Airport, since it was built on the island of Chek Lap Kok through land reclamation, and also to distinguish it from the old Kai Tak Airport. Terminal 1 of the HKIA is currently the second largest airport passenger terminal building of the world.
Terminal 2 of the Hong Kong International Airport, together with the Sky plaza, opened on February 28, 2007. Annual passenger and cargo throughput reached 47.8 million and 3.74 million tons in 2007, up 7.5 per cent and 4.5 per cent over 2006, respectively. As the world’s fifth busiest international passenger airport and most active worldwide air cargo operation, HKIA sees nearly 800 aircraft take off and land every day. Over 85 airlines operate at HKIA, linking Hong Kong with more than 150 locations round the world, including some 40 cities on the Chinese Mainland.
5. Central Japan International Airport
The Central Japan International Airport is located on a reclaimed island, approximately 2 kilometers offshore from Tokoname City, which is roughly 35 kilometers south of Nagoya. Thanks to its central location, visitors arriving at Centrair will find the rest of Japan easily accessible through the domestic air service network, the Tokaido Shinkansen (bullet train), and the Tomei and Meishin Expressways. Planned as an international airport operating 24 hours a day, Centrair is the new gateway to all of Japan. In the passenger terminal building of Centrair, shops and restaurants surround the Center Plaza.
6. Ben Gurion International Airport
Ben Gurion International Airport is the largest and busiest international airport in Israel, with about 10.5 million passengers passing through it in 2007. The airport is near the city of Lod, 15 kilometers southeast of Tel Aviv. Ben Gurion Airport is the hub of El Al Israel Airlines, Israir Airlines, Arkia Israel Airlines, and Sun d’Or International Airlines. Ben Gurion International Airport started out in 1936 as Lydda Airport.
Ben Gurion Airport is considered one of the world’s most secure airports. The airport has been the target of several terrorist attacks, but no attempt to hijack a plane departing from Ben Gurion airport has succeeded. Terminal 3 is used for international flights, and Terminal 1 is used for domestic flights. The airport has three runways and is used by commercial, private, and military aircraft.
7. Dallas Fort Worth International Airport
DFW International Airport is located halfway between the cities of Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas. DFW International is the world’s third busiest airport, offering nearly 1,900 flights per day and serving 60 million passengers a year. Voted ‘Best Airport in the Americas for Customer Service’ two years in a row by an Airports Council International survey of passengers, DFW provides nonstop service to 135 domestic and 38 international destinations.
The new international terminal (Terminal D) opened in July 2005. A new people mover system named Skylink, opened in spring of 2005 and is the world’s largest high-speed airport train system. Totally automated, Skylink trains run every few minutes and travel at speeds up to 35-37 mph. DFW is connected by shuttle bus to a commuter rail station just south of the airport. The Trinity Railway Express line serves both downtown Dallas and downtown Fort Worth. Dallas/FortWorth International Airport has five terminals. The airport is designed with expansion in mind, and can theoretically accommodate up to thirteen terminals totaling 260 gates!
8. Francisco SA Carneiro Airport
Francisco SA Carneiro Airport, also known as Oporto Airport, is the third-busiest airport in Portugal based on aircraft movements and also for passenger numbers (after Lisbon and Faro). The airport is situated 11km from the city of Porto. A new terminal building worth euro 108m opened in the fourth quarter of 2006. The new facility has increased the amount of space at the airport for check-in; there are two additional luggage carousels and more space for retail concessions and facilities such as coffee shops, bars and restaurants
9. OR Tambo International Airport
OR Tambo International Airport (formerly Johannesburg International) is the busiest airport on the continent – and the air transport hub of southern Africa. The airport caters for over 13 million passengers each year, and employs some 18 000 people. The airport was named the leading airport in Africa at the 2005 World Travel Awards, and won the Skytrax Best Airport in Africa award from 2002 to 2004 (coming second to Cape Town International in 2005).
The opening of a new, state-of-the-art domestic terminal in 2003 significantly expanded the airport’s capacity and facilities. The R450-million terminal development was accompanied by a R400-million upgrade of adjacent aprons and the road network feeding the airport.
10. Jose Joaquin de Olmedo International Airport
Jose Joaquin de Olmedo International Airport, Guayaquil, Ecuador was formerly called Simon Bolivar International Airport. The airport, which has the newest terminal in Ecuador, was renamed after Jose Joaquin de Olmedo, a notable Ecuadorian poet, in 2006. Buses and taxis connect the airport to Guayaquil’s city centre. Jose Joaquin de Olmedo International Airport was named ‘Best Airport in Latin America’ by BussinessWeek Magazine.