In a speech on American infrastructure on Thursday, Vice President Joe Biden said that compared to airports like Hong Kong, International, New York’s LaGuardia feels like a “third world country.”
In January, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo called LaGuardia and JFK “inexcusable,” and announced the state would take over responsibility for revamping both.
To give American travellers a look at what they’re missing until those renovations are complete, we’ve put together a list of the world’s best airports, based on the 2013 World Airport Awards, announced in April 2013 by leading airline reviewer Skytrax.
The awards, which include categories for best terminal, shopping, security, cleanliness, dining, and more, are determined by public opinion. More than 12 million people responded to this year’s survey.
As President Obama noted in a press conference in April, the highest ranked U.S. airport is Cincinnati at #30. Not very impressive.
Yearly passengers: 69.4 million
Why it's awesome: Despite London Mayor Boris Johnson's concern that Heathrow gives visitors 'a terrible impression of the UK,' the overcrowded airport made it into Skytrax's top 10.
The third busiest airport in the world in 2012, it took home the awards for Best Airport Shopping and Best Airport Terminal, for T5, which opened in 2008 after a $US6.2 billion, 19-year design and construction process.
Heathrow's Skytrax review includes four or five out of five star rankings for ease of use, flight information, public transport, security staff efficiency, and more.
Yearly passengers: 62.6 million
Why it's awesome: Haneda moved up five places this year, partly thanks to how clean it is.
With a third, international terminal that opened in 2010, Haneda can accommodate 90 million passengers annually.
More construction is already in the works: The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport announced plans to expand the new terminal with eight more gates, more parking, and a hotel, by March 2014.
The airport won the Skytrax awards for Best Airport Terminal Cleanliness and World's Best Domestic Airport, and took second place for Best Airport Immigration Service.
Yearly passengers: 18 million
Why it's awesome: The least busy airport in the Skytrax top 10, Vancouver International offers visitors a large collection of Pacific Northwest Coast Native art.
Skytrax named Vancouver International the Best Airport in North America for the fourth year in a row in 2013, a streak that justifies the $US1.4 billion the airport spent on recent expansion.
Volunteers, known as Green Coat Ambassadors, work in the airport to help travellers get where they're going.
Yearly passengers: 24.8 million
Why it's awesome: The largest international airport in Switzerland, Zurich was significantly expanded in 2003, with a new terminal and an underground, automated train called the Skymetro to shuttle travellers around.
Located 7 miles north of the Zurich city center, this airport also won Best Airport Baggage Delivery in Europe.
The airport offers a porter service where travellers pay a fee to have their bag picked up from anywhere in the airport and delivered to their final destination.
Yearly passengers: 37.8 million
Why it's awesome: Germany's second busiest airport features aesthetically pleasing terminals on the walk to the gate. Many of the walls and ceilings are made of glass, making the airport feel large and open.
The airport, a 45 minute train ride from the Munich city center, was also named the best in Central Europe, and the World's Best Airport for Dining.
Yearly passengers: 78.7 million
Why it's awesome: Already beyond its 78 million passenger annual capacity, Beijing Capital is the busiest airport in Asia and the second busiest in the world, trailing only Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson.
That's why the city is building another airport, which will be bigger than JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark combined.
Capital's tallest building, Terminal 3, came in fifth for Best Airport Terminal. It opened in 2008, in time for the Beijing Olympics.
Capital also took second place for Best Baggage Delivery.
Yearly passengers: 53.3million
Why it's awesome: Located less than five flying hours from half of the world's population, Hong Kong's airport is one of the busiest in the world.
It didn't win any awards, but it landed in the top five for dining, shopping, cleanliness, and leisure amenities.
In March 2012, the airport decided to add a third runway to increase its capacity.
Hong Kong International also offers a nine-hole golf course, a great place for travellers to spend long layovers.
Yearly passengers: 49.8 million
Why it's awesome: Schiphol opened in 1916 as a military airfield and has now transformed into one of the busiest airports in the world.
While travellers wait for their flight departures, they can enjoy a massage, play a game of poker at the casino, and catch up on some reading at the airport library.
According to Skytrax, Schiphol also has excellent dining and shopping options.
Yearly passengers: 39.2 million
Why it's awesome: Incheon, the largest airport in South Korea, serves passengers on more than 70 airlines, and is one of only three airlines to receive a five-star overall rating from Skytrax.
Every year from 2005 to 2012, it was rated as the world's top airport by Airports Council International.
The young airport -- it opened in March 2001 -- is home to a museum of Korean culture, and has excellent rankings for cleanliness, external views, rest areas, internet access, and local food choices.
Yearly passengers: 46.5 million
Why it's awesome: Changi is designed to alleviate the stress of travel, and offers passengers the chance to enjoy lots of greenery, an outdoor pool, and a butterfly garden.
For those who prefer to stay inside, it also houses movie theatres, spas, showers, and a four-story slide.
Business Insider editor Jennifer Polland had the chance to visit last month, and wrote:
I recently spent several hours in the airport during a trip to Singapore and had a chance to explore. The bottom line: This is a place where you'll actually enjoy having a long layover.
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