Date: October 15, 2014
Having raved about the pure excellence of some airports in Asia, the 10 airports that make it onto the Worst Airports list bring us back to reality. Those represented on this list show up because of their consistent uncleanliness, their counter-intuitive layout and absolute lack of amenities. Long queues, the solicitation of bribes and the lack of air-conditioning in tropical climates further upsets and enrages travellers in the region. But really, we’re putting this all quite politely. Voter comments for airports on this list were most definitely among the most passionately written – Manila alone collected hundreds of complaints, criticisms and frustrations articulated in particularly colourful language. Voters vehemently discourage booking extended layovers in these airports, but if you do find yourself delayed or stranded, be sure to have some hand sanitizer, a sleeping mat, a pair of ear plugs and snacks from the outside world. This should begin to ease the pain of travel.
Here are the Top 10 Worst Airports in Asia based on overall airport experience as determined by voters in our 2014 Airport Survey:
1. Islamabad Benazir Bhutto International Airport, Pakistan (ISB)
This airport is like a central prison. Many of touts & taxi drivers loot people at airport & outside. – a traveller
Islamabad’s international airport climbed to the number one spot this year, displacing Manila, which previously had a stronghold on the position. Likened to a central prison, ISB is criticized for the crowds (and absence of crowd control), the pervasive corruption, the aggressive-yet-inconsistent security checks, and the overall lack of cleanliness and technology. Travellers have also complained about the airport’s inability to handle passengers for over a decade – and thankfully, it seems the end of ISB is near. A new airport is slated to be completed for mid-2016, which should dramatically improve air travel to the city. Visit our Islamabad Airport Guide for more information.
2. Kathmandu Tribhuvan International Airport, Nepal (KTM)
Just make very sure that you never, NEVER need to use the washrooms in this airport. – a traveller
Nepal’s only international airport was eloquently described to resemble a “bus station in an impoverished neighbourhood”. The airport’s cleanliness is a chief concern for those travelling through, with many remarking on the sorry state of the bathrooms, and the absolute lack of soap. Other travellers take issue with the lack of air-conditioning and a filthy smoking room. Generally, travellers discourage sleeping here in part because of the sad state of the airport, and also because it goes against local norms. With plenty of security officials wandering about, sleeping here is generally not a hugely pleasant experience. This all said, some slack is given to Nepal given that it lacks with wealth of some of its Asian neighbours. Visit our Kathmandu Airport Guide for more information.
3. Manila Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Philippines (MNL)
Terminal 1 is a dirty, crowded, noisy, extremely hot airport. No where close to enough seats for even half the people waiting to sit. – a traveller
After 3 years at the top our worst airports lists, Manila NAIA saw a slight “improvement” in its ranking as a result of increased positive votes for its Terminal 3. This year, in an effort to lose its title of being the “laggard of Asia” (as one survey respondent put it), the long awaited rehabilitation of NAIA Terminal 1 finally commenced. Since then travellers have been quick to remind us of their continued grievances such as overcrowding, lengthy queues, limited seating, unfriendly immigration/customs officers and smelly toilets. Adding to an already lengthy list of traveller complaints, in April the terminal became Asia’s largest public sauna when the airconditioning broke down. The units have reportedly not been replaced. You may now be asking yourself “how is this an improvement?” Well, all news was not grim at NAIA1 this year. After last year’s survey results, the newly refurbished day rooms reopened. More recently, some international airlines were finally moved over to Terminal 3 to help reduce congestion in the overflowing Terminal 1. And just before publication, the controversial terminal tax was set to be included on international tickets starting October 01, further decongesting the terminal by reducing at least one lengthy queue. [Update: as of Oct.31/14 the implementation of the tax was halted – so it looks like the lines will continue, sorry folks!] Consider this a firm recommendation to do all that you can to fly on airlines that use Terminal 3 rather than Terminal 1 – particularly if your time at Manila NAIA is looking long! The NAIA1 rehabilitation is expected to be complete in 2015. Visit our Manila Airport Guide for more information.
4. Tashkent International Airport, Uzbekistan (TAS)
The person behind you will be trying to cut in front by subtly ramming their baggage cart into the back of your legs. Hold your ground! – a traveller
Tashkent International Airport leaves quite a lot to be desired, given that it happens to be the primary airport serving Central Asia. In spite of a few recent upgrades to the departures area, the queues and crowds at TAS continue to be a frustrating experience. While at some airports it is only the security process that is tedious, at TAS voters were frustrated with everything from check-in to security to boarding to baggage. Elbows are required should you hope to maintain your spot in line, since any form of line-up or crowd control seems to be virtually non-existent. What’s more, there are a few reports of bribes being solicited and immigration processes being highly suspect and inconsistent. Sleeping is, as a result, strongly discouraged even though passengers often find themselves queuing into the wee morning hours. Visit our Tashkent Airport Guide for more information.
5. Hanoi Noi Bai International Airport, Vietnam (HAN)
They ask you for money just so you can go out fast. – a traveller
Hanoi’s international and domestic airport is frequently noted for being hot, chaotic and not especially clean. In spite of its tropical location, air conditioning seems to perpetually be a problem – and the constant crowds exacerbate overheating. Sweaty travellers are further frustrated by the poor signage and limited flight information displayed throughout. A number of basic facilities are lacking at this airport as well – including foreign exchange bureaus and sufficient numbers of chairs. That all said, if you do find yourself with a prolonged period here, make your way to the third floor food court. Here, you can find a small selection of padded chairs, and access to the internet through the vendors. Just before publication, the airport installed 14 sleep pods in its international terminal and now offers free Wi-Fi available to all. That alone offers a glimmer of hope for the future! Visit our Hanoi Airport Guide for more information.
6. Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport, China (CAN)
The most soul destroying airport I have ever had the misfortune to be trapped in. Food is terrible and limited beyond belief. – a traveller
Guangzhou is the second busiest airport in China – and the 16th busiest worldwide. Those standings however are hardly an indicator of airport quality. This large airport is often criticized for being dirty, inefficient, unaccommodating and generally dull. This stems from a lack of amenities, and a number of very unpleasant bathroom experiences. Visit our Guangzhou Airport Guide for more information.
7. Phnom Penh International Airport, Cambodia (PNH)
Seats are a set of 4 metal ones, separated by a long bar and I couldn’t imagine sleeping on them – travelinhobo
This tiny airport loses points with travellers because of its exclusive use of metal chairs and seats with armrests. Otherwise, this airport receives reasonable reviews for its efficiency and ease of navigation. This comes in large part because non-ticket holders are barred from entering the terminals. Visit our Phnom Penh Airport Guide for more information.
8. Ho Chi Minh City Tan Son Nhat International Airport, Vietnam (SGN)
The air-conditioning was questionable, the Wi-Fi was beyond bad, there was nowhere to sit – a traveller
Ho Chi Minh’s primary airport is generally described to be functional and reasonable. Facilities are generally quite average, and cleanliness levels fluctuate. If planning to visit SGN, spend some time reviewing past SleepingInAirports.com reviews because there are a few pearls of wisdom that lead transit travellers to the most ideal sitting and napping locations. Visit our Ho Chi Minh City’s Airport Guide for more information.
9. Dhaka Shahjalal International Airport, Bangladesh (DAC)
Everywhere smells, very rude immigration police and airport staff, corrupt people, and insects everywhere. – a traveller
If travelling through Dhaka’s international airport, you’d be wise to beeline it to the upstairs floor that is often devoid of the crowds and chaos that characterize the main floor. Otherwise, this airport is known to be dated, slow-moving, insect-filled and short on amenities. Visit our Dhaka Airport Guide for more information.
10. Chennai International Airport, India (MAA)
About one hour later workers started covering the entire hall with insecticide smoke. The smoke was so dense that you couldn’t see anything. Nobody was allowed to leave the hall. – a traveller
India’s Chennai airport has made some improvements in the past year, that have dropped it to our tenth spot from fourth last year. That said, the airport continues to aggravate travellers with its lack of cleanliness, its long queues and its serious lack of comfortable seating. The new International and Domestic Terminals have both experienced incidents of ceiling collapses reportedly due to poor workmanship. Visit our Chennai Airport Guide for more information.
Asia is also home to the planet’s best airports. Continue on to read about the airports that were crowned Best Airports in Asia this year!