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25 June 2024

Airport 'black list': Pakistan topples Manila as world’s worst

By Vicky Kapur

A new survey of the world’s worst airports has a new ignominious topper. Islamabad Benazir Bhutto International Airport, Pakistan (ISB) topples long-standing Ninoy Aquino International Airport of Manila, Philippines, as the worst airport in the world.

The results, published by SleepingInAirports.net, have been compiled via a survey on Guide to Sleeping in Airports, where global travellers vote on the worst sleeping and general experiences at various international airports.

Incidentally, three of India’s airports that were ranked in last year’s ‘worst airports’ list have moved out of the so-called airports ‘black list’. 

Calcutta’s was ranked as the third worst airport last year, along with Chennai’s at no. 6 and Mumbai’s at No. 8 in 2013. This year, none of the Indian airports feature in the black list, suggesting that India has done at least part of its bit to improve the conditions of its airports – or that others have done worse. 

#1 Islamabad Benazir Bhutto International Airport, Pakistan

The report accompanying the rankings likens Islamabad Benazir Bhutto International Airport (ISB) to a central prison, and states that travellers criticise the Islamabad airport “for the crowds (and absence of crowd control), the pervasive corruption, the aggressive-yet-inconsistent security checks, and the overall lack of cleanliness and technology.”

The site quotes an unnamed traveller as saying: “This airport is like as a central prison. Many of touts & taxi drivers loot people at airport & outside.”

The report maintains that travellers have also complained about the airport’s inability to handle passengers for over a decade – and thankfully, it seems the end of ISB is near. A new airport is slated to be completed for mid-2016, which should dramatically improve air travel to the city.

#2 King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah

Pic: AFP

At No. 2 in the embarrassing ranking is Saudi Arabia’s King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah, which is the busiest airport in the most populous GCC country. “The main terminal is fairly lacklustre. It isn’t overly clean, crowds can be a problem, and the services for travellers are in short supply,” says the SleepingInAirports.net report.

“Rude immigration officers and lengthy queues do little to improve the traveller experience. Furthermore, chairs are limited, uncomfortable metal and most have armrests. That said, things might improve in mid-2015 when the now-delayed new airport is expected to be complete,” it notes.

“It is unbelievable how the immigration officers are doing their job. While hundreds of passengers are in the queue these guys are talking to each other for a long time,” an unnamed traveller is quoted as saying by the site.

#3 Kathmandu Tribhuvan International Airport, Nepal

“Just make very sure that you never, NEVER need to use the washrooms in this airport,” is what an unnamed traveller has to say about Nepal’s Kathmandu Tribhuvan International Airport.

“Nepal’s only international airport was eloquently described to resemble a ‘bus station in an impoverished neighbourhood’. The airport’s cleanliness is a chief concern for those travelling through, with many remarking on the sorry state of the bathrooms, and the absolute lack of soap,” the report adds.

“Other travellers take issue with the lack of air-conditioning and a filthy smoking room. Generally, travellers discourage sleeping here in part because of the sad state of the airport, and also because it goes against local norms. With plenty of security officials wandering about, sleeping here is generally not a hugely pleasant experience. This all said, some slack is given to Nepal given that it lacks with wealth of some of its Asian neighbours.”

# 4 Manila Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Philippines

Last year’s embarrassed topper, Manila’s airport has thankfully dropped down to No. 4, but remains in the world’s worst 5 airports, according to this list. The airport is criticised by travellers due to its congestion and defective luggage terminals. Apart from congestion and the terminals, tourists add that “overcrowding, lengthy queues, limited seating, unfriendly immigration/customs officers and smelly toilets” make the Manila airport among the world’s 10 worst airport terminals.

“Terminal 1 is a dirty, crowded, noisy, extremely hot airport. Nowhere close to enough seats for even half the people waiting to sit,” is how an unnamed traveller describes the scene at the Manila airport.

“After 3 years at the top our worst airports lists, Manila NAIA saw a slight ‘improvement’ in its ranking as a result of increased positive votes for its Terminal 3,” states the report.

“This year, in an effort to lose its title of being the ‘laggard of Asia’ (as one survey respondent put it), the long awaited rehabilitation of NAIA Terminal 1 finally commenced. Since then, travellers have been quick to remind us of their continued grievances such as overcrowding, lengthy queues, limited seating, unfriendly immigration/customs officers and smelly toilets,” the report adds.

“Adding to an already lengthy list of traveller complaints, in April the terminal became Asia’s largest public sauna when the air-conditioning broke down. The units were reportedly not replaced until months later,” the report claims.

“You may now be asking yourself ‘how is this an improvement?’ Well, all news was not grim at NAIA1 this year. After last year’s survey results, the newly refurbished day rooms reopened. More recently, some international airlines were finally moved over to Terminal 3 to help reduce congestion in the overflowing Terminal 1. And just before publication, the controversial terminal tax was set to be included on international tickets starting October 1, 2014, further decongesting the terminal by reducing at least one lengthy queue.”

The report recommends travellers “to do all that you can to fly on airlines that use Terminal 3 rather than Terminal 1 – particularly if your time at Manila NAIA is looking long! The NAIA1 rehabilitation is expected to be complete in 2015.”

#5 Tashkent International Airport, Uzbekistan

It’s a war zone out there – well, figuratively speaking. “The person behind you will be trying to cut in front by subtly ramming their baggage cart into the back of your legs. Hold your ground!” suggests an unnamed traveller. Get the picture?

“Tashkent International Airport leaves quite a lot to be desired, given that it happens to be the primary airport serving Central Asia. In spite of a few recent upgrades to the departures area, the queues and crowds at TAS continue to be a frustrating experience. While at some airports it is only the security process that is tedious, at TAS voters were frustrated with everything from check-in to security to boarding to baggage,” the report states.

“Elbows are required should you hope to maintain your spot in line, since any form of line-up or crowd control seems to be virtually non-existent. What’s more, there are a few reports of bribes being solicited and immigration processes being highly suspect and inconsistent. Sleeping is, as a result, strongly discouraged even though passengers often find themselves queuing into the wee morning hours.”

Others in the 10 Worst Airports in the world include the following, along with brief comments as shared by SleepingInAirports.net:

#6 Paris Beauvais-Tille International Airport, France (BVA): “This airport is the worst in the world. Seriously, the place doesn't look like a place where people from many countries arrive.”

#6 Frankfurt Hahn International Airport, Germany (HHN): “Since the seats are metallic and not comfortable, the best places to sleep are actually on the luggage conveyor belts, or on the floor just next to the rental car stands.”

#8 Bergamo Orio al Serio International Airport, Italy (BGY): “The only way this airport could be improved would be to destroy it and rebuild.”

#9 Berlin Tegel International Airport, Germany (TXL): Tegel is badly in need of some love. Originally designed in the 1970s, this terminal really struggles to meet the growing volume of travellers keen to visit this fantastic city. As such, seating is limited, queues are long, restaurants are crowded and hallways offer little personal space.

#10 New York City LaGuardia International Airport, USA (LGA): This worn out airport repeatedly makes it to the top of least favourite North American airports because of its security lines, drab décor, poor restaurant selection, lacklustre cleanliness, counterintuitive layout and the notoriously unhelpful staff.