The best airports around the world

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If you have to spend hours in an airport – whether waiting to board or stopping on the way to your final destination – the time passes more quickly when there’s plenty to see and do. These airports deliver that and more – so much so that a delayed flight will feel like a blessing.

Hamad International Airport

There’s a reason Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar, wins so many awards. For starters, there’s a luxurious hotel right in the airport for the comfort of travellers enduring stopovers lasting more than few hours – half-day and full-day bookings are both possible. You don’t have to be travelling business to get the five-star treatment at this airport. There’s a gym, 25-metre pool and an on-site spa to ease tired muscles ahead of your next flight. Moving walkways and an indoor train make it quick and easy to get to your departure lounge, and the airport is squeaky clean and quiet.

Singapore Changi

Connected to Terminal 1 directly, and via bridges to Terminal 2 and 3, is an architectural marvel housing everything from a five-storey garden with walking trails, an indoor waterfall (falling through the centre of the domed roof and then recycled), a glass-floored bridge suspended 25 metres off the ground, and a 250-metre walking net for a bouncing good time. You’ll have to drag the kids away – there are slides, mazes and topiary animals. If they (or you) tire of all that fun, there’s a free movie theatre, butterfly garden and swimming pool to while away the hours along with shops and restaurants galore.

Istanbul Airport

Designed with efficiency and sustainability in mind, the architects of Istanbul Airport set out to create a grand gateway to a city rich in culture and history. Its soaring vaulted ceilings echo the city’s mosques and baths, and the control tower looks like Turkey’s national flower (the tulip). The new airport (it opened in 2018) put an end to the stress and congestion of its predecessor. Passengers navigate and move through the light and lofty airport with the help of robots, and there are 500 check-in points, which means less standing in lines and more time shopping and eating. There’s also a hotel accessible airside and landside to make lengthy layovers more bearable.

Dubai International Airport

Did someone say shopping? As a popular stopover destination and one of the biggest airports in the world, Dubai takes duty-free shopping to new heights with the latest in tech, fashion, beauty and souvenirs – and just about anything else you can think of. This year, for the 10th year in a row, Dubai Duty Free won Frontier Awards’ Retailer of the Year award. Get your credit card ready! When you’ve shopped yourself silly, follow a palm tree-lined walkway to a zen garden, or make your way to an airport lounge usually reserved for business or first-class travellers. Some lounges allow you to pay to enter, no matter what class you’re flying, giving you access to nap pods, showers, faster wi-fi, drinks and light meals.

Dallas Fort Worth International Airport

It may not be the world’s biggest airport, but it is one of the busiest – and it takes out the prize for being the biggest carbon-neutral airport in the world. It’s also the first airport to have signed the Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism at COP26. This commits the airport to deliver and report annually on its plan and progress to significantly reduce planet-harming emissions. The airport already uses local landfill gas to power its ground transportation, which has so far removed the equivalent of 3600 cars off the road. In our book, that makes it an airport worth celebrating!


I grew up in the US, Germany and Australia, so it feels more foreign for me to stay in one place than to move around. Since then, I’ve called Boston, London, Seattle, Brisbane, Madison and Sydney home for study and work as a journalist, travel writer and photographer. I specialize in adventure travel, social issues and interiors/architecture. Home is now an 1890s cottage in the Blue Mountains near Sydney. I traveled to my seventh continent last year – an action-packed expedition to Antarctica – and have memories galore of my travels. Snowshoeing in the Canadian Rockies, galloping with gauchos in Chilean Patagonia, trekking through Japan, and camel riding in Jordan are among the most memorable. My least favourite travel hiccup was being stranded in Cameroon when I should have been winging my way to Paris for a little me-time. You win some, you lose some.


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