Date: October 15, 2017
In our annual survey, we ask travellers to rate airports worldwide based on their overall airport experience. They ranked their overall experience based on these factors:
Comfort (Gate seating & availability of rest zones)
Services, facilities & things to do
Navigation and ease of transit
The airports that appear on our list of the worst in the world are the ones that have the capacity to truly offend travellers. Within these terminals, there appears to be a general disinterest in a positive traveller experience. In some cases, passengers are made to stand or sit on the floor as they await their flights. In others, the bathrooms don’t have water, toilet paper, or any semblance of cleanliness. In some cases, the physical structure of the airport is fine, but the personnel are the problem. Got a problem? Don’t expect much in terms of customer service at these airports. If you find yourself travelling through one of these 20 terminals, brace yourself. You’ll want to give yourself just enough time to get in and get out. A minute more and you’ll be unhappy and uncomfortable – a minute less, and you risk missing your flight. Good luck!
This year, we supersized the list, so here we go with the Top 20 Worst Airports in the World based on overall airport experience, as determined by voters in our 2017 Airport Survey.
1. Juba International Airport, South Sudan (JUB)
“When I passed through a few weeks ago, it was a tent with a rotting plywood floor full of dangerous holes. I have heard rumours now that the floor has collapsed completely. The tents leak during rainy season. You must wade through mud puddles to get to the check-in desk. – survey respondent
The travel situation in Juba has further deteriorated in the past year, earning this airport the title of Worst Airport in the World. This year, the airport hit a new low with tents now serving as the primary terminal facilities, while the existing terminal has continued to undergo “renovations” since 2012. The litany of complaints about Juba airport could fill several pages, but we’ll just try to succinctly summarize the worst of the worst. We already noted the lack of a real roof, but we should also mention the rotting plywood floors, and reports that people often fall through them. There is a noticeable lack of seating, but this may not be much of a concern, as most available seating tends to be broken or literally falling through the plywood floor. At Juba Airport, travellers don’t bother to complain about things like the lack of Wi-Fi and charging points – they’re more concerned about the lack of electricity in 40 degree Celsius heat! Non-existent air conditioning turns the tents into miniature sweat boxes. Voters also reported major crowds, horrific smells and filth, high heat, rain leaking into the tent, corruption and a lot of security walking around with guns. While time spent here is invariably unpleasant, we recognize that South Sudan is a war-torn state that perhaps has more pressing concerns.
2. Jeddah King Abdulaziz International Airport, Saudi Arabia (JED)
“This airport is the door to holiest city. You are in holy spiritual mood before you arrive. But the minute you touch the terminal you see trash everywhere, dirty toilets, no toilet attandents, long q’s. The immigration officers are the worst in world. – survey respondent
Jeddah Airport’s position on our list of Worst Airports in the World improved slightly, likely because a war-torn nation’s primary airport indeed proved to be worse. Survey respondents have repeatedly ranked Jeddah King Abdulaziz Airport as among the worst, but that could change with the opening of a new replacement airport within the year. In anticipation of the new airport, travellers noted that the new facilities may be worthless if they fail to replace the airport and immigration staff, or, at the very least, revise the staff mindset that seems to make them the crux of the airport’s failings. Airport personnel are described as rude, lazy, and incompetent, but special vitriol is reserved for customs and immigration officials. Not only are there not enough officers, which leads to long queues, but the few working tend to their tasks in slow motion. Staff were not the only complaint, however, as voters suggest that cleanliness must be addressed.. The toilets are reportedly rarely cleaned and often dysfunctional. Insufficient seating is another grievance, as the terminals are frequently crowded, particularly during Hajj season. In short, don’t expect comfort, entertainment, or any semblance of customer service. On a positive note, the operators of Singapore Changi Airport have recently been awarded the contract to operate the new Jeddah Airport. Judging by all the feedback we received, it sounds like the new management team will have their hands full. Good luck to them! Until then, brace yourself.
3. Port Harcourt International Airport, Nigeria (PHC)
“It doesn’t matter what type of VISA you have, they will tell you it’s the wrong one and you must pay for the correct one. Inefficiency is rampant with people repeatedly going through your luggage and asking for $ or for you to do something for them. Virtually every person there seeks to extort $ from you. You will hear the phrase “You have something for me?” over and over. – survey respondent
Apparently things haven’t changed much at Port Harcourt Airport, as it ranked third worst for overall passenger experience. This year’s survey respondents indicated that aggressive corruption is the biggest problem, with airport officials and staff allegedly demanding bribes for pretty much everything. Other complaints included lack of bathroom facilities, lack of air conditioning, horrible baggage handling, and the tent that serves as the arrivals terminal. If you can overlook the bribery component, departures are said to be a bit more pleasant than arrivals, as the departures terminal is an actual building.
4. Crete Heraklion International Airport, Greece (HER)
“If ever you are going to miss your flight due to poor organisation it will be here!!! – survey respondent
Every year, a slew of Greek airports make it onto our list of Worst Airports in the World – this year Heraklion leads the pack. At Heraklion Airport, like many of the Greek Islands airports, travellers queue outside the airport since the terminal hasn’t got the capacity to hold everyone. Travellers frequently report long queues, inefficient staff, filthy bathrooms, lack of air conditioning, and general overcrowding. Survey respondents also noted a distinctive lack of seating, poor security, and extended wait times for both check-in and luggage. There are a few restaurants inside the airport, but the prices tend to be steep given the quality. All in all, it’s best not to let this airport experience colour an otherwise delightful Greek island.
5. Lagos Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Nigeria (LOS)
“Every offical ask you for money. Don’t tell them you have cash, otherwise, the customs offical will take you to the dark room. But if you give the money to the Nigerian Offical, you can bring anything on to the plane. – survey respondent
The government of Nigeria, with the help of Chinese investors, has poured almost a half-billion dollars into refurbishing Nigeria’s airports. Unfortunately, for many voters, there appears to be no discernible difference in the operation and facilities of Lagos International Airport. One word likely explains why – “corruption”. This happens to be the number one traveller complaint about Lagos Airport. Add to this filthy bathrooms, limited seating, archaic check-in procedures, sporadic air conditioning, and lousy customer service, and you’re not likely to enjoy your time here. Fortunately the airport does host a number of pay-to-use lounges that might make an extended stay a bit more bearable.
6. Santorini Thira National Airport, Greece (JTR)
“Awful in most every way. The airport terminal should be erased and a new one erected. – survey respondent
Santorini’s ranking improved slightly this year; however, it is unclear if improvements were made or the airports listed before it just got worse. The bottom line here seems to be that the terminal is much too small and understaffed for the number of passengers. Reviewers report long waits outside in exposed heat, in lines that may or may not lead to the correct check-in counter. Still, being outdoors may be better than the “chaotic overcrowded sweaty mosh pit” you may find once inside the terminal. Getting to the airport super early may not help much, as many flights are reportedly delayed by two hours due to disorganized check-in and security procedures. One traveller’s advice? Take the ferry home.
7. Dar es Salaam Julius Nyerere International Airport, Tanzania (DAR)
“We had to wait here for 6 hours. Lack of places to go and eat or just sit. Toilets are awful and not enough to cope with numbers. – survey respondent
Dar es Salaam Airport is a small international airport with no real amenities and enough passenger dissatisfaction to rank it among the worst for overall experience. A major complaint seems to be that passengers are often forced to wait outside the terminal on uncomfortable benches until check-in time. Once inside, conditions don’t improve much, as there seems to be limited seating and food options that perhaps should be avoided. Staff are described as either rude, unknowledgeable, or a combination of both. Though it’s not much of a saving grace, some passengers reported that they were able to catch some Zs as the benches – both indoor and outdoor – are armrest-free.
8. Rhodes International Airport, Greece (RHO)
“First you need to stand in line to check in. The line is so long you started outside. Then you need to go back in the line again right next to it to check in your baggage. – survey respondent
At Rhodes International Airport, voter complaints echo those filed against Heraklion and Santorini: outdoor queues under the hot sun, appalling bathrooms, and lack of air conditioning in the tiny terminals.. Customer service is, according to one voter, “diabolical”, and the harsh industrial lighting over metal benches does little to appease passengers. It’s best to come to this airport self-sufficient and prepared, so you don’t have to rely on the limited amenities.
9. Paris Beauvais-Tille Airport, France (BVA)
“That damn airport closes it’s two terminals between 10:45 PM and 6 AM. Your only options are to wait the night on an uncomfortable steel bench outside or walk around the parking to keep warm. – survey respondent
If you’re travelling out of Paris Beauvais-Tille Airport, a little planning will make your time here significantly more pleasant. First, know that the airport is located over 90 minutes from Paris central. Second, you should note that it closes from 11pm to 6am, and nearby hotels are not budget-friendly. If you have an early morning flight and you are planning to go to the airport the night before to sleep in the terminal – don’t do it! Finally, be aware that the airport itself is extremely basic, offering a few dining options inside two bare-bones terminals. With these three facts in mind, consider whether buying a ticket from one of the budget airlines that serve BVA is worth it to you – and if it is, come prepared.
10. Tashkent International Airport, Uzbekistan (TAS)
“Arrivals are horrible. They deliberately slow the process. Because there are some “service personnel” who can help people to queue jump for a price of $10-$20. Process is slow, people are fed up and they give those “service personnel” that amount to pass through faster. The money would be shared with Immigration Officers. Avoid. – survey respondent
Tashkent is the first Asian airport on our list of Worst Airports in the World. While it sounds like slight improvements have been made to the international terminal, travellers still lament the worn-out seats and exceptionally long queues. Some voters alleged corruption, in the form of security and immigration officials asking for bribes from passengers. As planes disembark, the airport is quickly overwhelmed, transforming passport control into a zoo – where you should be prepared to defend your place in line. Worse still, while the Wi-Fi got reasonable reviews last year, it may be a bit of a decline, with travellers reporting frequent disconnects.
11. London Luton International Airport, England (LTN)
“Nothing good to say about this airport. It’s managed to get even worse in the last year, and that is an achievement I hadn’t expected. – survey respondent
Renovations carried on this past year at London Luton, which continue to wreak havoc on the traveller experience. The airport itself is hectic at best – and utter chaos more often than not. After navigating massive queues and confusing processes, travellers quickly learn that there is nowhere for them to sit as they wait for their flights. Those who figured a snack might help ease their woes were further horrified by the prices, with one voter declaring that “the only thing Luton does well is take your money.” While we hope that these renovations will eventually give way to something more amenable, it’s going to be a long road to recovery.
12. Rome Ciampino International Airport, Italy (CIA)
“I had to sleep outside, together with 200 people, because no one had informed us the airport closes at night. – survey respondent
Rome Ciampino is the city’s secondary airport, and it is largely served by budget airlines. While the price of your ticket will definitely be appealing, you will definitely want to reconsider that early morning flight – especially if you plan on spending the night in the terminal. Keep in mind that the airport closes overnight (midnight to 4am), and terminal staff will evict those who want to stay. This left a number of disgruntled voters huddled up outside, trying to catch some sleep on chilly nights. Assuming you’re able to plan around this obstacle, the airport itself is fairly bare-bones. According to respondents, the Wi-Fi is unreliable, the food choices are bleak, and chairs are virtually non-existent.
13. Kathmandu Tribhuvan International Airport, Nepal (KTM)
“I was told that my passport picture looked nothing liked me and he wasn’t sure if I would be allowed to leave. I explained I had travelled all over the world with it and it’s fine. He said “well I don’t know perhaps you have something that could move this along”. I laughed so hard and said get your boss right now, at that point, miraculously my picture looked like me again! – survey respondent
Kathmandu’s international airport is, according to most voters, chaotic, crowded, and, at times, corrupt. The airport greets visitors with disorganization, spawned by a lack of flight information, signage, or any semblance of a logical layout. The bathrooms are upsetting, with voters describing them as ”grotesque”, “deadly” and a “horrifyingly terrible place”. The staff do little to organize the crowds, making the terminal feel more like a rugby scrum than anything else. Of course we do recognize that Nepal has had a difficult few years, and we can understand that airport enhancements aren’t at the top of the national priority list.
14. New York City LaGuardia, USA (LGA)
“LaGuardia is the perfect definition of a 3rd world airport in a developing country acting as a 1st world airport, no other way to explain it. – survey respondent
New York City’s LaGuardia Airport joins the top 20 worst overall experience list despite ongoing reconstruction designed to improve deteriorating conditions, such as ceiling leaks and flooding. According to survey respondents, time spent at LGA is no picnic, with large crowds, long lines, limited seating, few food and beverage options, rude and incompetent staff, and an apparent refuge for New York City’s homeless, who roam the airport’s landside facilities at night. If you do find yourself catching a flight out of LaGuardia, be prepared to wait, as the airport leads the nation in flight delays. While the reconstruction effort may not address the significant delays, when completed in 2021, it may at least result in a more comfortable wait.
15. Chania International Airport, Greece (CHQ)
“It’s the hottest place in the island, if there was a swimming pool inside, there would be no need to leave the airport. – survey respondent
As the fifth busiest airport in Greece, Chania Airport’s ranking in the list for worst overall experience is likely due to overcapacity issues. Designed to serve 1.3 million, the airport is currently serving more than 3 million annual passengers. Thus primary grievances include lack of seating, filthy bathrooms, disorganized staff, long queues, sporadic Wi-Fi, lack of air conditioning, and limited food options. Needless to say, sleeping in this airport while awaiting your flight is likely not a viable option. A few reviewers reported that conditions seemed to be improving, as the airport is included in a joint Greco-German plan to upgrade 14 of Greece’s airports.
16. Caracas Simón Bolívar International Airport, Venezuela (CCS)
“Dislike: EVERYTHING!!!!!!! Improve: “EVERYTHING ”
– survey respondent
Given the depths of Venezuela’s economic problems, it is perhaps no surprise to see this airport on the list of Worst Airports for Overall Experience. One survey respondent commented that Caracas Airport does not have a “friendly environment”. This may be an understatement when you consider the description of another passenger, who was allegedly mugged right outside the entrance while a cadre of security guards sat calmly inside. Along with this general lack of security, add in poor temperature control, lack of facility maintenance, limited seating, filthy restrooms, and poor service.
17. Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport, China (CAN)
“A very dirty mess of a building. It’s as organised as a toddler’s room after they’ve tipped over their Lego box – survey respondent
China’s second busiest airport is in a sorry state. Disorganized and dirty, Guangzhou tests the patience of those who travel through by presenting them with overpriced food, unfriendly staff, and Wi-Fi reserved for those with Chinese mobile phone numbers. Seating options are in short supply as well, leaving many survey respondents aimlessly ambling around the perimeter. The airport does, we suppose, have a few better features: there are drinking fountains, some English signage, and a China Southern business lounge with beds. It’s a low bar, but we’ll take what we can get.
18. Cluj International Airport, Romania (CLJ)
“The waiting area is incredibly small and there are mice traps all over the airport – survey respondent
Various metrics can be used to determine the worst overall airport experience, but disorganization, long queues, and rude staff are travellers’ top complaints about Romania’s Cluj Airport. As a small airport, it lacks shops and dining options, and its seating is insufficient for the hordes of people waiting for flights. Climate control also seems to be an issue, with travellers suggesting that air conditioning is used during winter and heating in the summer.
19. Islamabad Benazir Bhutto International Airport, Pakistan (ISB)
“It should be demolished. It’s totally embarrassing that this the main airport for Pakistan – survey respondent
With a current annual passenger count nearing 5 million and growing by 14 percent each year, the new replacement airport for Islamabad International Airport cannot open soon enough. The existing airport simply does not have enough space to accommodate passengers or aircraft, according to numerous survey responses. At ISB, expect a lack of services, limited and uncomfortable seating, and long wait times. As it stands now, the new airport is supposed to begin operating commercial flights this December, but the opening has already been delayed for two years.
20. Addis Ababa Bole International Airport, Ethiopia (ADD)
“Everytime I have to travel via Bole, I die a little”.
– survey respondent
Addis Ababa’s international airport was voted the second worst airport in the world for a layover. It seems, however, that if you’re using it as a destination, things aren’t as bad. Sure, the bathrooms are described as “creepy” and “disgusting” and are sometimes flooded. And, sure, the staff have a tendency to be unhelpful or rude. It’s not great that the Wi-Fi often doesn’t work, and that the restaurant options are bleak. However, if this is your home airport or your final destination, you can probably get in and out of the airport quickly enough – sparing you from experiencing the airport’s worst sides.