Incheon Airport slips to No. 2; American airports still suck

Skytrax’s 2013 rankings put Singapore Changi Airport at the top of the world. Incheon International Airport, last year’s No. 1, dropped to No. 2.

Boo! Boo!

Not surprisingly, there were no American airports in the Top 10. In fact, there were none in the Top 20. America’s top ranked airport was Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky Intl Airport, which came in at #30:

American airports are generally fairly awful, so their poor performance in this survey is no great surprise. But it is also worth a response. Airports are gateways to cities and regions, and it’s striking that the infrastructure of the world’s lone superpower lags so far behind that of the rest of the world. The mood in Washington right now is one of austerity, so any near-term improvements to the country’s airports will have to come from state or local authorities—or, ideally, from the private sector. But some of the worst problems can only be solved with federal help. Lengthy delays have a lot to do with America’s outdated air-traffic control system, which Washington is trying to fix, but which cannot be upgraded without lots of money. And the lack of good transport links at some of the most important airports (here’s looking at you, LaGuardia) is probably only rectifiable with federal money.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    Dulles is the one Im best acquainted with, but I also have fair experience of flying into O’Hare, LFK and LaGuardia. Dulles is horrible. The lines to get through customs are just the worst. When you have hundreds of passengers and half a dozen agents, the waist to get through can be over an hour. I contrast, the wait to go through customs at Incheon is rarely over 10 minutes and often there is pretty much no waiting. Not to mention that all the above mentioned US airports are simply ugly, old and falling apart, while Incheon while no spring chicken still looks new.

  • Tapp

    I think this more reflects an improvement in Changi than a fall in Incheon. Incheon is still the most enjoyable airport that I’ve ever been in and it’s the easiest to navigate. Most of the flights that I’ve had, though, get directed through Shanghai or Narita. Changi seems to be a more frequent connecting terminal. No data on this, I’m just going by my experiences.
    (Almost anything is better than flying in the US, though. The TSA in the US is almost as bad as an 18 year old Marine right out of boot camp… huge chip on their shoulders with the honest delusion that they are the personal protectors of the free world. Having to fly back to the US could make a lifelong expat out of anyone.)

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    I’ll have the pleasue of flying into the US next week. Dulles, again, here I come. I wonder if I will have my bags searched again by customs if asked what my job is. Though in fairness that was in Houston where apparently they are not fans of peoplen connected to the oil and gas industry.

  • Scroozle

    Been to Changi. I thought it was pretty good, but the security set-up was a little strange, as it’s done right at each gate. That means once you’re in the gate’s waiting area, you can’t leave unless you want to go through security again.

    Still prefer Incheon, over Beinjing, Narita, and Changi.

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  • SalarymaninSeoul

    Its called job creation. Why have it centralized and run by a few people, better have it at every gate and vioila, more jobs! Best thing about airports is being through security, customs and free to walk around and check out the stores and people.

  • SalarymaninSeoul

    Actually, Incheon being top 2 or whatever is hatdly newsworthy. Im surprised to see Gimpo at #23

  • r.rac

    ICN is decent enough still not a lot of decent food selections when you get past security and no real English Bookstores like at Hong Kong etc and of course the lack of anything being open late at night is a real pain as there are more and more late night flights including an Emirates A380 leaving at midnight so why they don’t keep some stuff open is beyond me. Still far better than Narita and Swampy.

    Yeah most US airports suck but I’ve had good experiences getting through immigration/customs at SFO and DFW. LAX and O’Hare SUCK DONKEY SHIT!!!!! I hate coming through those two.Best small/midsize airport in the US is Austin, great local food, bands playing and not much in the way of delays though my business traveler friends say security is becoming slow and a pain there. I can now fly direct from Austin to either SFO or DFW and get a nonstop here. At Christmas it was 16 hours door to door

  • Jakgani

    #4 – I go through the security set-up at all airports many many times, just to go out for another cigg whilst I am waiting and back in again.

    I have always liked Changi – but it’s only good if you are there between 9am ~6pm, if you arrive on a flight before 9am – it’s not good – and leaving on late flights is not good.

    Incheon airport doesn’t have enough free relaxing areas – it’s also too concrete.

  • PineForest

    Denver is good. TSA everywhere are bad. LAX is horrid. Phuket has become so overused that it’s an absolute circus. Dubai is ok.. if you’re flying Emirates.. if you get stuck in terminal 2 for some mideast flights, it’s got the worst toilets of any airport on earth.

  • PineForest

    My last trip to Phuket I had a redeye departure.. there were six flights on the monitor when I got to the airport that were direct flights from China that were coming in between 9 pm and 4 am. Wow.

  • Maekchu

    I like Incheon but the small, cramped food court tucked away upstairs is terrible. The original food court when Incheon first opened up was much better but they redesigned that area to put in more duty free shops. That was a huge mistake. Incheon needs an expanded eating area with more food choices. Not more shops selling overpriced handbags. The poor food selection, small food court and almost zero relaxing areas are why I’d agree Incheon is no longer #1. But its still better than any US airport by far.

  • feld_dog

    Surprisingly, one of the best U.S. airports I’ve experienced is Detroit Metro. Many of Delta’s Asian flights connect through there, in a relatively new international terminal. Smooth customs, good restaurant selection, spacious, an indoor tram. Detroit. Who knew?

  • platethief

    I’d definitely go with Hong Kong and Changi being in the top 5 – easy to navigate, lots of decent places to relax in and an abundance of free internet terminals definitely put them above a lot of the larger international airports that now seem solely like shopping malls.

    I was always impressed with Narita, particularly how quickly the security process is. A little tricky to navigate at times, though.

    Korea-wise, I personally preferred Busan to Gimpo. Incheon deservedly gets brownie points for its jimjilbang.

  • R. Elgin

    Per #1, I hear the same complaints about Dulles. My associates that use it tell me stories of malefic security people deliberately cause problems for them like claiming that they were flying with two other philipinos (were not) and marking them for closer screening.

    Frankfurt is confusing but at least the cops there are helpful and approachable for directions. I am skipping that airport though when possible.

  • 3gyupsal

    I know I’m going to catch hell for this, but I find Detroit to be a fairly decent airport. The layout is simple and there are a lot of food options. You can walk from one concourse to another in about 10 minutes. Incheon is okay, but the food court seems like it is designed for Koreans who haven’t had, or won’t have a Korean cafeteria experience for a long time. I’m also not a big fan of the crowds. That said, Incheon is pretty shiny, and I’m always disappointed in Narita.

  • R. Elgin

    Per #12, Detroit is better to route through. The layout and flow is better, the people are okay.

  • silver surfer

    Surprised to see Heathrow at #10.

  • jkitchstk

    The Worst airport?
    Dozens of Italian baggage handlers caught raiding suitcases in secret video
    “Today 29 baggage handlers working for Italian airline Alitalia were arrested
    Another 57 workers were also taken in for questioning

    Part of the police blitz which was codenamed ‘Operation Clean Holds’
    Followed a year long surveillance operation at eight airports across Italy “

  • keith

    @17, me too. To be fair though the new terminal 5 is great. Far less crowded than the other terminals, some very good eating options (Ramsay even has a restaurant there!), a couple of good bars, well laid out, good transport links, good shopping, friendly staff, fairly comfy seats! It’s like a different airport. The worst thing about Heathrow T5 is that there absolutely nowhere to have a cigarette and it’s expensive. The rest of Heathrow is bloody awful, like a badly kept zoo.

    Incheon, is good, friendly and very efficient, but the food is dreadful.

    Schipol is a great airport, well organised, good food and good bars, friendly efficient staff, very clean, not too expensive.

    Changi, I’ve never been too so can’t comment.

    Birmingham airport being so low is suprising, it’s not too bad really. Nothing to look at, but it does the job. Istanbul being so high is suprising, the transport to town is ridiculous and badly organised, rude officials, aggressive taxi touts, shit food, I love good Turkish food but you won’t find any at the airport!

    The reputation of US airports is pretty shocking. OK they’re really tight on security, which is understandable. But they have tight security in London too and the staff there don’t act like arseholes. Most of the staff at Heathrow are friendly and helpful.

    A few suprises on the list

  • Wedge

    To be a true world-class airport you need at least one proper bar. ICN doesn’t cut it, and its food in general sucks. Transit passengers consider it very lousy.

    Also, the train: It takes 5-10 minutes to walk to the fricken train (and then to get to a taxi at Seoul Station takes forever). At HKG the train is a one-minute walk from the arrival door and the taxis are a one-minute walk from the train stop, plus the train’s interval is four minutes. Much better airport.

  • Wedge

    Changi having the security at the gates doesn’t work well, but otherwise it’s a good airport.