1. Istanbul Airport (IST)
For centuries, Istanbul has sat at the crossroads of international trade and travel, so it’s only natural that the Turkish city has finally stepped into its position as a global transport hub in the age of air travel as well. Opened in 2018 amid great fanfare—and bold ambitions to become the world’s biggest airport—the new IST gets praise for its modern design by Grimshaw Architects, which has netted awards for its emphasis on efficiency and sustainability. With high-tech touches like a fleet of robots to direct passengers through the 818-million-square-foot hub and runway capacity to move a total of 90 flights per hour, the airport is poised to take off as a major global player.
2. Singapore Changi Airport (SIN)
Changi may have fallen one spot since last year, but it’ll always be a Readers’ Choice Awards mainstay, given that it’s home to your favorite carrier, Singapore Airlines. In addition to being an ideal gateway to dozens of locations in the region, Changi has emerged as a destination in its own right: In 2019, the airport debuted the Moshe Safdie-designed Jewel, which includes indoor forests and waterfalls and the 14,000-square-foot Canopy Park, all under a massive glass dome. Elsewhere, you’ll find open-air decks, the world’s first airport butterfly garden, a free 24-hour movie theater, and even a rooftop pool and hot tub overlooking the runways.
3. Seoul Incheon International Airport (ICN)
Seoul’s main international airport opened 21 years ago on reclaimed land in the port city of Incheon and has been expanding ever since: A second passenger terminal debuted in 2018, part of the airport’s aim to double its capacity to 100 million passengers annually. Primarily serving the country’s two main airlines, Korean and Asiana, Incheon International also earns points for its spacious VIP lounges and amenities, including an indoor skating rink, a spa, and a “Cultural Street” with local cuisine and dance performances. While it’s 30 miles from the capital, a high-speed rail link makes the trip from the terminal to the city center in 43 minutes.
4. Zurich Airport (ZRH)
As Switzerland’s largest international airport, Zurich is also the main hub for Swiss, which operates business-class and first-class lounges—and those clubs are no joke, thanks to champagne and whiskey bars. Looking for a place to buy some duty-free chocolate? There are dozens of shops here to browse. Readers also like the variety of restaurants and bars, and if the weather cooperates, there’s an outdoor observation deck with sweeping views of the action on the runways.
5. Tokyo Haneda Airport (HND)
For years, Tokyo’s Haneda was primarily a domestic airport, but it’s gaining long-distance flights—and a strong international following. What accounts for its popularity? Simply put, it’s not Narita, the country’s bustling international hub that’s a 45-mile drive from the capital, notorious for, among other things, the $200 cab fare it takes to get there. Haneda, by contrast, is just ten miles from the city center, but it’s not just proximity that wins over fliers: Haneda gets high marks for the comfort and cleanliness of its terminals, a wide array of shopping and dining options, and fast and efficient transportation links to downtown Tokyo.