The 16 Most Passenger-Friendly Airports in the World

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BON VOYAGE

While we often focus on our destination when we travel, sometimes an incredible airport experience can really enhance the journey -- especially if we're stuck somewhere on a layover. Forget about the boring gift shops, food courts, and uncomfortable chairs at typical airports. Many airports these days are going above and beyond to create a fun and relaxing visit for travelers. From impressive art collections and Zen gardens for exploring to movie theaters, swimming pools, and world-class dining, these are the most passenger-friendly airports in the world.

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SAN FRANCISCO INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, CALIFORNIA

As bustling as San Francisco International Airport can be, the airport offers numerous amenities to help travelers de-stress and unwind. Stretch out your legs (and everything else) in multiple free yoga rooms, meditate and relax in the Berman Reflection room, and let the kids blow off steam at several play areas. There's also an aviation museum and library, a Christian Science reading room, and multiple rotating art exhibits with self-guided tours available. You'll find plenty of excellent shopping and dining options, including many of the Bay Area's celebrated local eateries.
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HELSINKI AIRPORT, FINLAND

Nestled in the suburb of Vantaa with convenient public transportation to and from Helsinki, the stylish Helsinki Airport makes for a relaxing, art-filled destination. There's plenty to admire at the airport's art gallery and aviation museum, along with art throughout the terminals. Passengers can also enjoy work/rest stations, sleeping pods, a spa lounge, play areas for kids, a scenic terrace, and a book swap where you can borrow and drop off used books. There's also the Almost@home Lounge, designed to feel like home with vintage couches, a kitchen with snacks, and even a PlayStation. Among the numerous eateries and bars, the Nordic-inspired Arctic Bar is a popular spot.
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HONG KONG INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, HONG KONG

Regarded as one of the busiest airports in Asia, Hong Kong International Airport maintains a lofty spot on the World's Top Airports survey by consumer-aviation website Skytrax. Each year, roughly 68 million passengers pass through the airport, built on an artificial island, and despite the sprawling layout, its open spaces and amenities make it a pleasant visit. In addition to abundant dining and shopping options, there's also a 358-seat IMAX cinema, two virtual golf courses, an educational theme park for kids, and an Aviation Discovery Center with a flight simulator.
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NASHVILLE INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, TENNESSEE

Visitors to Music City are treated to plenty of live tunes, thanks to six performance venues throughout Nashville International Airport, which feature local and international acts. You can also enjoy artwork throughout the terminals, including sculptures, mobiles, and an interactive seating area with mosaic sculptures of butterflies and more. You can dine at numerous local and national eateries, and while you can also drink at bars like the popular Tennessee Brew Works, you can also take your adult beverages anywhere (except on the plane) thanks to a rare airport-wide liquor license.

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CHANGI AIRPORT, SINGAPORE

One of the world's busiest airports and rated as the best by the Skytrax survey, Changi Airport seems to offer more passenger perks than some cities. Among its incredible amenities you'll find outdoor cactus, sunflower, orchid and butterfly gardens, along with indoor gardens and fish ponds. There are two free movie theaters and multiple free TV stations for video games, movies, and sports. You'll find hundreds of shops and eateries, including local specialties like the traditional Tunglok Teahouse. There's a rooftop pool, free snooze lounges and transit hotels for longer layovers, elaborate playgrounds, art installations, and the Social Tree, where you can upload and share photos on massive screens. For long layovers, you can even take two free tours of Singapore.
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HAMAD INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, QATAR

One of the newer top-rated airports on the Skytrax list, the beautiful Hamad International Airport cost a whopping $16 billion to construct and offers plenty of luxe features for travelers. There's a 25-meter swimming pool, full gym, spa and squash courts to work out the kinks of travel. You'll find swanky lounges and kid-friendly areas, quiet rooms, art exhibitions (including an playground-like bronze sculpture), an upscale airport hotel, top-notch eateries and luxury shopping. There are also prayer rooms for men and women, and a stunning water droplet-shaped public mosque located within walking distance of the terminal. You can even take a 360-degree virtual reality tour of the airport.
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PORTLAND INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, OREGON

Frequently ranked as one of the top airports in the U.S. and the world, Portland International Airport (aka PDX) offers loads of passenger-friendly perks as well as great customer service and few flight delays. For starters, getting to and from the airport is a breeze thanks to its proximity to downtown, as well as light rail and even bike trails. Once there, you'll find a free movie theater showing films about the Pacific Northwest, rotating art exhibits, live music, free Wi-Fi, and local shops like Powell's Books. Food and drink options include many of Portland's famed eateries, as well as brewpubs and House Spirits -- the world's first distillery tasting room at an airport. They even have an occasional farmers market.
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WELLINGTON INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, NEW ZEALAND

New Zealand's Wellington International Airport receives high marks both for traveler amenities and impressive design, making for a pleasant introduction to a stunning country. Fans of The Hobbit, filmed in New Zealand, will be delighted by giant sculptures of Smaug the Dragon and other characters. And architecture fans will want to visit The Rock lounge, which features an award-winning futuristic design of three-dimensional wood panel mosaics. There are also plenty of excellent shopping and dining options, plus the free Wildcard program with discounts throughout the airport.
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KEFLAVÍK AIRPORT, ICELAND

As if you needed another great reason to visit Iceland, the excellent perks offered at Keflavík Airport make for a pleasant arrival, departure, or stopover as it's a popular hub for the rest of Europe. The airport has won multiple awards for service and amenities, and you'll find free Wi-Fi, shops with locally made goods and food, a kids' play area, and more. It's a small yet modern airport, so while there aren't a ton of food options, there's a great range from affordable bites to upscale eats. The Icelandair Saga Lounge is also a great place to recharge with comfy recliners, a cozy fireplace, and more.
Photo credit: Kenneth B./yelp.com

MADRID–BARAJAS AIRPORT, SPAIN

The architecturally stunning Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas Airport is designed for both form and comfort with glass domes for natural light and undulating shapes that were specifically designed to soothe passengers. If you need to unwind more, there are numerous lounges where you can purchase a pass for the day to relax, shower, or work. And if you need to rest more, there are guest rooms to rent for sleeping.
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TAMPA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

While it may not be as flashy as some of the other airports on this list, Tampa International Airport offers plenty of retro charm and is regarded highly among travelers and received high marks from the J.D. Power Satisfaction study. Passengers spend less time waiting in security lines, and more time enjoying dozens of shops and restaurants, public art, and frequent events like the annual 5K on the runway. They also recently opened the SkyConnect people mover system, which makes getting to and from the airport even easier.
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DUBAI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

One of the world's busiest (over 66 million passengers per year) and biggest airports, Dubai International Airport offers plenty of opportunities for travelers to unwind as well as indulge. Find peace among the fish ponds and lush greenery of not one but two Zen gardens; sweat it out at the health club with the pool, sauna and gym; get pampered at the spa; or take a nap at one of the sleep cubes or a five-star hotel. You'll also find a huge range of dining and shopping options, including everything from caviar and diamonds to comfort fare and travel necessities. The airport also features a huge children's play area, live music, and frequent special events.
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TOKYO HANEDA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, JAPAN

Ranked as the second-best airport in the world by Skytrax, Tokyo Haneda International Airport is one of two large airports serving Tokyo and offers an incredibly passenger-friendly experience. The more than 75 million travelers who pass through each year enjoy clean and comfortable terminals, top-notch service, and user-friendly facilities. Highlights include a half-size replica of the 1911 Nihonbashi bridge, shopping and dining in the historically inspired Edo Alley, an outdoor deck illuminated by 4,000 LED lights at night, capsule hotel rooms for a nap, and rentable mini robot guides that speak Japanese, Cantonese, and English. Passengers also can make use of free showers, pay and free lounges, massage chairs, and a spa.
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VANCOUVER INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, CANADA

In typical Canadian fashion, Vancouver International Airport receives high marks for friendly staff, efficient organization, and sustainability features. It's also beloved for its two aquariums, including a 30,000-gallon tank and a 500-gallon tank stocked with marine life of British Columbia. Throughout the museum there are more than 75 works of First Nations art created by indigenous artists, including massive wooden sculptures. There are also plenty of play zones for kids, excellent food options, and shopping. The airport also plans to create an indoor forest.
Photo credit: Gregor B./yelp.com

MUNICH AIRPORT, GERMANY

Leave it to the Germans to have the only airport brewery in the world at Munich Airport, where you'll also find traditional German fare and live music. The sprawling, light-filled airport also offers over 60 eateries -- including an outdoor one with runway views -- a shopping mall, historic aircraft you can board, an aviation-themed playground and mini-golf, and an observation deck. The airport is considered one of the most punctual in the world, easy-to-navigate, and should you need to take a nap, there are private pods you can rent. Around the holidays, you'll also find a Christmas market with real trees and a skating rink, and in the warmer months, you can surf the world's largest wave pool.
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INCHEON INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, SOUTH KOREA

While busy Incheon International Airport may look sleek and modern, the airport's sweeping roof is inspired by traditional Korean temples, and you'll find Korean art throughout the terminals. There's also a museum and cultural centers -- including Korean Culture Street with traditional architecture, contemporary sculptures, and there are frequent performances of traditional music and dance. There are also indoor and outdoor gardens, incredible dining options, high-end shopping, a synthetic ice-skating rink, and two multilingual movie theaters. There's also a 72-hole golf course just a free five-minute shuttle ride away, a luxury spa with showers and sleeping rooms, and free transit tours to surrounding sights if you have a lengthy layover.

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