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The Best Airports In The World According To An Airline Pilot

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What is the best airport in the world? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

Answer by Bruno Gilissen, airline pilot, on Quora.

Life is too short for negativity and since I've answered "Which is the worst international airport in a major city?" I feel compelled to now answer it's nemesis question and focus on the good today. Life's to short for complaints after all, so without further ado - luckily traveling doesn't always have to be full of frustrations and boredom, and admit it, it mostly isn't - here is my list of best airports in the world.

  • Best for short connections: Munich. It's been awhile since I've done it and I hope it didn't change since then but I regularly picked up luggage, switched terminals, checked in at the next flight's counter and was ready at the next gate within an hour. Rarely delayed in or out of there. Often even a bit of time left to buy a bottle of German ice wine in duty free once I had made the gate on time and boarding started a bit later. Efficiently designed.
  • Best for long connections: Hong Kong. Take a quick visit to the Peak or go have a drink at a rooftop bar in Central with the efficient Airport Express that takes you there in just 24 minutes. Don't want to leave the airport? There's a 4 D cinema. If you stay on air side eat some dim sum, sashimi or Western fare, shop for some duty free items and spend time in the bookshops. But you'll probably use the free wifi to read and write on Quora, won't you? Disclaimer: I may be a bit biased here since it's my home base.
  • Best for airplane spotting: Dubai. Admire the huge Emirates fleet and all the exotic airlines flying there. Plenty of shopping and restaurants to kill time. Efficient connections. No need for picking up your luggage yourself if you have two separate tickets for a connection. Huge but efficient. Unless you use the low cost terminal at peak time, then it's not so efficient.
  • Best for shopping: Seoul Incheon. Lots of shops, cheap cosmetics (our flight attendants all buy their cosmetics in the duty free there), good food, cool airplane watching opportunities. Efficient airport. [see Didier Sz's reply in the comments]
  • Friendliest staff: Amsterdam. Always friendly there, always helpful. At least in my opinion. They seem to understand the needs and queries of the traveler. Even security staff is friendly and that's often rare.
  • Best food: Bangkok. Enjoy a last Thai meal before leaving the country and forego your free economy meal on board if you must. I buy my takeaway satay, green curry, pad thai and mango sticky rice at "Silom Village" between the G and F gates, ready in ten minutes or less and a few stars better than the omelette, frittata or pancakes on board.
  • Most comfortable airport: Singapore. Enjoy the mix of Asian cultures at this crossroads airport. Efficient airport as well. If you can leave the air side there's good Asian food for a lot cheaper at the staff mess. Ask staff where it is. Cozy and comfortable to spend some time in.
  • Airport with the best view around: Male, Maldives. I was tempted to say Kathmandu but the visibility is often so poor there that I'll have to disqualify it based on that. Daytime flying in and out of the Maldives is a joy for the eye of the lucky window seat passengers.
  • Most underrated airport: Helsinki. Easy transfers and relaxed atmosphere. Efficient. Unfortunately geographically not very central in Europe but definitely up and coming for flights between Europe and Asia. I'm tempted to say it's one of the safest airports as well, even in cold weather operations. Though I have to admit I haven't operated in there in a long time, for some reason it still stands out.
  • Best overall airport: whatever airport you're starting your holiday in. You're in a giddy holiday mood, the stress of everyday's life falls off your shoulders, life is good, a journey of exploration or relaxation awaits you. You should be happy anywhere then. That journey starts with the airport near your home where your trip starts.
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