The answer to “which airport is the worst in the world?” is something that everyone that’s traveled probably has an opinion on, but not many have bothered to quantify it or put it into a survey. Today, a survey caught my eye that was conducted by Sleeping in Airports, which is a website that is basically “A Guide to Sleeping in Airports” but also reviews quite a few airport amenities.
The website basically asks users to rate airports based on several factors: comfort, cleanliness, conveniences, and customer service among them. They’ve been doing it for years actually; last year’s worst airport was MNL in Manila, Phillipines. That’s an airport I actually haven’t been to, so I’ll have to believe the survey results.
This year there’s a new winner (loser?) for the worst, and I’ve actually been to it: ISB Benazir Bhutto International in Islamabad, Pakistan. I guess we shouldn’t be surprised when the airport’s main page features a “Passengers Complain” button for people to log their complaints.
When I posted the introduction to my most recent trip report, the destination of which was Lahore, Pakistan, a few people commented that they were surprised I would go to the country at all. This reaction isn’t all that uncommon, but I suppose given how the US media covers events I shouldn’t be too shocked when people respond this way. Actually, I thought Lahore was great. The weather was good, the food was fantastic, and traffic wasn’t all that bad. There are plenty of historical things to tour as well like forts and mosques and the like. Safety wasn’t an issue for me since I was always with locals, and my hotel was extremely secure.
With that being said, some of my worst experiences have been related to flights to Pakistan, all of them in Economy since they were many years before I got into the points game. On one PIA (Pakistan International Airlines) flight, the lavatory in the rear of the plane broke mid-flight. Unfortunately that didn’t stop passengers from using it, and there were all kinds of liquids spilling out of the plane and inching closer to me row by row. Needless to say, the smell was a bigger issue than the liquids themselves.
On another flight I remember from maybe 15 years ago, the last 5 rows of the plane were designated as “smoking rows.” That meant that you could only smoke your cigarettes if you were sitting or standing there…as if the smoke didn’t go into the row right in front. It was terrible, but it was also the norm for PIA at the time.
On another flight from long ago, I was actually flying into Lahore. The flight was due to land very early morning, probably around 6 or 7am. Near the scheduled landing time, we did a circle and then kept flying for a bit longer before finally touching down. When we got out of the plane, we were in a completely different city and airport…Islamabad, which is a 163 mile flight from our intended destination.
Our plane was diverted due to poor visibility in the heavy fog, which was common to the Lahore airport during the winter months. When we landed and got into the airport we asked when PIA planned on getting us to Lahore, and they had no idea what we were talking about. Then they suggested a bus route that would take only about 5-6 hours. Ummm…okay.
Of course we would not settle for that, and eventually fought our way onto an old Fokker jet that would take us there in PIA’s “First Class” cabin. Believe it or not, that was my very first experience at a forward cabin, and it remains the worst.
My experience at the Islamabad (ISB) airport was not one I remember fondly. There were hundreds of people sitting around because our flight wasn’t the only one that got redirected, and no one was being helped get to their original destination. The food options at the time were minimal, and you probably didn’t want to eat the food there anyway.
I haven’t been there in over 10 years, but I have no problem believing that it’s the worst airport in the world. I can vouch for the blatant corruptness of the officials there (and other Pakistani airports) as officers have no problem asking for a bribe (though they do let you go if you stand your ground), and there’s nothing there that you could do to pass the time.
Thankfully they’re building a new airport in Islamabad, and I can easily say that there really is nowhere to go but up. With that being said, I know there are plenty of other airports around the world that are as bad when you take my flight circumstances out of it.
On the other end of the spectrum is no surprise for regular travelers: Singapore’s Changi airport and Seoul’s Incheon rank as the top two airports in the world.
What airport is your personal worst in the world?