Breaking down the criteria for the world’s top airports

AirHelp’s global airport ranking for 2019 recently crowned Hamad International Airport, Tokyo International Airport, and Athens International Airport as the world’s best hubs. But what does an airport have to achieve to land the coveted top spot? Adele Berti investigates.

Airports are working harder than ever to make sure that their passengers have a great experience, especially when travelling for leisure. With the summer season well underway and figures from the Worldwide Tourism Organisation showing global tourist arrivals increased by 6% to 1.4bn in 2018, this task is harder than ever.

However, for Hamad International Airport, Tokyo International Airport and Athens International Airport all the hard work has finally paid off. In May this year, the three were crowned the world’s top three airports for passenger experience by air passenger rights company AirHelp.

The eighth iteration of AirHelp’s report was compiled between January and December 2018 using a combination of passenger feedback and flight data of 133 airports around the world.

AirHelp then ranked airports based on three factors, On-Time Performance, Service Quality, and Food and Shops, which, combined, saw Hamad International Airport winning the crown for the second consecutive year.

In a statement welcoming the victory, Hamad Airport COO Engr. Badr Mohammed Al Meer thanked “our strong customer-centric vision and our employees for the hard work and commitment.”

Here’s a closer look at these three criteria and how top performers in the study set themselves apart in each area.


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On-time performance: punctuality a plus for passengers

Accounting for 60% of the total score, on-time performance was a key factor in determining the winner.

This criterion was based on figures from individual airports' on-time departures and arrivals. As AirHelp reports, flights departing within 15 minutes of their scheduled departure times and arriving within 15 minutes of their published arrival time were considered on time.

The total of flights falling within this category in the space of a year was then calculated and expressed as a percentage; the higher the figure, the higher the number of on-time flights on a typical day.

The highest scoring airport was Brussels South Charleroi Airport, which received a score of 8.6, meaning 86% of in-bound and out-bound flights were on time in 2018.

Image courtesy of Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

Following on from Brussels’ score were Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport and Tokyo International Airport. Overall winner Hamad Airport came sixth in this category, with an on-time performance of 83%.

According to AirHelp chief executive Henrik Zillmer, calculating results for Athens was more puzzling, as the team had to take into consideration that sunny weather leads to fewer delays and potentially better reviews from passengers.

At the bottom of the ranking in this category are Kuwait International Airport, which saw only 43% of its in-bound and out-bound flights on-time, Lisbon Portela Airport with 47% and Eindhoven with 49%.

Two British airports, Gatwick and Manchester, also ranked among the ten worst-performing airports based on this criterion. This is likely due to the 33-hour drone chaos that grounded tens of flights in Gatwick in December 2018.

Sunny weather leads to fewer delays and potentially better reviews from passengers

Service quality: speedy security and cleaner airports

AirHelp spoke to thousands of passengers globally to collect data on airports’ service quality, a category that was worth 20% of the total score.

This was made possible by a collaboration with intelligence platform Attest, which ran hundreds of surveys with airport and airline users across the world for a total of 40,000 people surveyed in over 40 countries.

Within this framework, passengers were asked to rate an airport based on three factors, namely customer service, security wait times and cleanliness. Each category had to be rated on a scale from very good to very bad – and give them an equivalent numeric value of 1 to 5.

The three ratings were then summed up, and the higher the score, the better the airport performed.

Image courtesy of Jewel Changi Airport Devt.

Unsurprisingly, Singapore’s Changi Airport topped the ranking with an impressive score of 92%. Key to its success was the recent opening of Jewel, its stunning lifestyle hub featuring an IMAX cinema, an immersive indoor garden and a range of activities for travellers of all ages.

Delhi Indira Gandhi International Airport bagged the second place for service quality, followed by Athens, which scored 90%. Despite their high scores of 84% and 83% respectively, neither Hamad nor Tokyo made it to the top ten.

On the other side of the ranking, Bucharest’s Henri Coandă International Airport received the lowest score with a mere 61% of appreciation.

The service quality category was also rather damning for US airports, four of which were listed among the ten worst-performing hubs. These include Los Angeles International Airport, which received the second lowest score, as well as Newark Liberty International Airport, Miami International Airport and New York’s JFK.

The service quality category was rather damning for US airports

Food and shops: passengers hungry for retail variety

AirHelp’s last criterion was once again based on feedback from extensive surveys, which were carried out in a partnership with Attest.

In this case, passengers were asked to grade their experience at airports considering two types of amenities, shopping options and food options.

Once again, feedback ranged from very good to very bad, with the total mark accounting for 20% of the final score.

Image courtesy of Oleg GawriloFF / Shutterstock.com

Hamad received an impressive 8.5/10 thanks to its Qatar Duty Free shopping emporium, which is home to over 90 shops, 30 cafes and restaurants spreading across 40,000ft2 of combined retail, food and beverage facilities. Tokyo got 8.4, while Athens scored a remarkable 8.7.

However, Indian airports were the overall best-performing hubs in this category, with the likes of Delhi Indira Gandhi, Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji and Hyderabad Rajiv Gandhi earning the top three spots for food and shops.

Bucharest’s Henri Coandă was again at the bottom of the ranking, which also saw Kelowna International Airport in Canda and Berlin’s Schönefeld Airport as second and third worst-performing hubs.

Indian airports were the overall best-performing hubs in this category


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