Date: October 15, 2014
The Middle East is simultaneously home to some of the planet’s most opulent and most decrepit terminals. In reviewing votes for the “best airports” end of the spectrum, we found a series of terminals that offer everything from spas to squash courts to full-on shopping emporiums. The best terminals excel in efficiency and ease as well which keep transit passengers both happy and recurrent. That said, from time to time a few of these shining stars do forget to consider the non-elite travellers who use the airport. Things that keep the everyday economy class traveller happy – ample seating, free Wi-Fi, and wallet-friendly dining options – are occasionally surprisingly hard to come by. Thankfully, the mind-bending architecture and wealth of this region can be observed for free – so let your jaw drop and take a wander around these airports.
Here are the Top 5 Best Airports in the Middle East based on overall airport experience as determined by voters in our 2014 Airport Survey:
1. Dubai International Airport, United Arab Emirates (DXB)
During our 13-hour layover I was able to sleep for some hours in reclined chairs. – a traveller
Dubai International Airport once again holds onto the title of Best Airport in the Middle East. The massive terminals are spacious, clean, well-lit and elegantly designed with sections that pay homage to the surrounding environment and culture. The food options are extensive and shopping is beyond elaborate with the presence of most high-end boutiques. Travellers willing to pay for entry fees are able to gain access to the swimming pool, business centers, gym, and few of the lounges. That all said, what really irritated voters about Dubai is that while it manages to offer seemingly all the extravagances and luxuries, it misses out on a few key necessities for the non-elite users of the airport. We’re hinting at a mere 30 minutes of free Wi-Fi, the crowded gates and washrooms, and the shortage of comfortable sleeper chairs…
Airport Services/Facilities To Enjoy Your Layover: Pay-per-use Lounges ($) • Free Wi-Fi • Transit Hotel ($) • 24 Hour Food Options • Health Club with Swimming Pool and Gym ($) • Luggage Storage ($) • Quiet Seating Areas. Visit our Dubai International Airport Guide for more information.
2. Doha Hamad International Airport, Qatar (DOH)
The family quiet room has lounge chairs for sleeping/resting and is secluded from the foot path of the gates and shopping center so it was very pleasant to spend the night there. – tinybits
Doha Hamad Airport finally opened in April 2014 to rave reviews. This sleek terminal rivals Dubai in terms of luxury, comfort, cleanliness and convenience – and perhaps caters better to the non-business traveller. Tired travellers can enjoy some rest in the gender-based quiet rooms. With 70 retail outlets and 30 cafes/restaurants that exist alongside two hotels, a spa, squash courts and a public mosque, passengers are kept endlessly entertained. Wi-Fi is both free and unlimited which scores an additional few points. In spite of all that glowing, DOH still falls into that same luxury trap as DXB whereby they fail to offer some of the basic necessities. Voters felt there was still a shortage of chairs in some areas and in spite of countless restaurants, taste seems to be a second thought. Things may change as the remainder of the airport is unveiled – after years of delay, the new terminal was opened only half-completed.
Airport Services/Facilities To Enjoy Your Layover: Pay-per-use Lounges ($) • Free Wi-Fi • Transit Hotel ($) • Quiet Rooms. Visit our Doha Hamad Airport Guide for more information.
3. Abu Dhabi International Airport, United Arab Emirates (AUH)
The free Wi-Fi was excellent and there was more than enough electric points to charge phone and tablets. – Wends
Voters say that at Abu Dhabi Airport, the restaurant and shopping options are decent and the architecture is unique and interesting to look at. The free Wi-Fi is welcome, but reportedly slow. Reclining seats, sleep pods and free showers help to solidify this airport’s number three ranking. However, travellers do tend to list a lot of complaints regarding the crowded gates, the lack of seats and the consistently long queues. If you’re really keen for some comfort, it may be worthwhile to check into one of the pay lounges for a few hours or the transit hotel for a bit of shut-eye.
Airport Services/Facilities To Enjoy Your Layover: Pay-per-use Lounges ($) • Free Wi-Fi • 24 Hour Food Options ($) • Transit Hotel ($) • Sleep Pods ($) • Showers ($) • Free Luggage Trolleys. Visit our Abu Dhabi Airport Guide for more information.
4. Muscat International Airport, Oman (MCT)
A little later, a couple of the couches were vacated, so we grabbed them! – The Goktor
Most of Muscat’s compliments are given in regards to the size of this tiny airport, and the ease with which it can be navigated. Amenities and restaurants tend to be quite limited here, so most travellers rely on the free Wi-Fi to keep them entertained. However, given that the public areas of the airport are not exactly the picture of comfort or entertainment, we suspect that many of the votes for Muscat come from travellers who checked into the private lounges. Here, economy class travellers can pay to use the showers and napping areas which will certainly increase the level of comfort during their time here.
Airport Services/Facilities To Enjoy Your Layover: Pay-per-use Lounges ($) • Free Wi-Fi • Showers ($) • Nap Rooms ($) • Free Luggage Trolleys. Visit our Muscat Airport Guide for more information.
5. Tel Aviv Ben Gurion International Airport, Israel (TLV)
if you DO get stuck, it’s pretty nice. Free Wi-Fi, 24 hour food, and nobody bothers you. – a traveller
Assuming you make it through the massive security lines that characterize the checkpoint laden Tel Aviv Airport, you’ll be treated to a visually attractive and generally pleasant airport. The high ceilings, sandstone-inspired columns and the overarching light and airy feel really makes this a distinct place to visit, and the overall cleanliness further enhances its appeal. Shopping and restaurant options are plentiful – the airport is sometimes likened to a mall – and the Wi-Fi is free here as well. Again, just remember to give yourself plenty of time for getting through this airport since the queues really can become a problem that we don’t anticipate will change in the near future.
Airport Services/Facilities To Enjoy Your Layover: Free Wi-Fi • Free Mobile Charging Stations. Visit our Tel Aviv Airport Guide for more information.
Having read about the Best Airports in the Middle East, it now is likely fitting to continue on to the Worst Airports in the Middle East “winners”!