Date: October 17, 2015
Though many airports in Asia lead the world in terms of amenities and service, the region is also home to some of the world’s stragglers. Collapsing terminals staffed by corrupt individuals make travelling through the continent a generally expensive and unpleasant endeavour. Pains are exacerbated by a lack of toilet paper and soap, broken baggage carousels and long pushy line-ups. Yet again, the worst airports in Asia have inspired thousands of comments and critiques from voters around the world. For those who find themselves forced to pass through these terminals, previous travellers would strongly advise that you bring ear plugs, snacks and your own entertainment – those things are in short supply here!
Here are the Top 10 Worst Airports in Asia based on overall airport experience as determined by voters in our 2015 Airport Survey:
1. Kathmandu Tribhuvan International Airport, Nepal (KTM)
You have to pay close attention to the people working there because they will shout out where and when you’re supposed to board. – a traveller
Though Kathmandu’s only international airport gathered ample criticism over the past year, it is important to remember that the country itself has been under considerable pressure. In March 2015, a Turkish Airlines flight overshot the runway and skidded off the tarmac, closing the runway for several days. More severely, in April 2015 a devastating earthquake hit the country. The airport struggled to repair their sole runway and restore a flight schedule amidst a national emergency in an already struggling nation. Given this, voters had understandably poor experiences at the airport, particularly within the domestic terminal. Said to resemble a bus station, the terminal is most remembered for the poor state of its restrooms. The good news is that KTM is currently re-building the much-loathed domestic terminal. Officially, the terminal was set to be completed by the end of 2013 but recent events have stalled the official opening. See also Worst Airports in the World.
Airport Services/Facilities: Pay-per-use Lounge ($) • Free WiFi. For more information, visit our Kathmandu Airport Guide.
Photo courtesy of alexcavallo on Instagram
2. Tashkent International Airport, Uzbekistan (TAS)
This airport is one of Dante’s circles of hell. The number one activity is waiting. – a traveller
Tashkent International Airport acts as the primary airport for 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. Though queues at security are to be expected, TAS boasts remarkable queues at all stages of the airport experience from check-in through to baggage collection. Worsening the situation is that these queues are often chaotic-verging-on-aggressive, and lack any form of crowd control. Travellers should be prepared to quite literally defend their spot in the mob from pushy passengers. After security, there are chairs in climate-controlled rooms, but securing one is of course, another story. See also Worst Airports in the World.
Airport Services/Facilities: none. For more information, visit our Tashkent Airport Guide.
3. Kabul Hamid Karzai International Airport, Afghanistan (KBL)
Kabul International Airport has NO Facility at all. Adding it will be an improvement. – a traveller
Given the current political state of Afghanistan, we’re reluctant to criticize Kabul’s international airport too heavily. KBL’s international terminal has undergone a number of renovations over the last decade, making it a little more friendly to travellers. The domestic terminal does however leave much to be desired. Voters complain about overall cleanliness, a lack of comfort and the accountability of staff – but again, given the violence that often affects the airport directly, we understand that there are more significant concerns. See also Worst Airports in the World.
Airport Services/Facilities: none. For more information, visit our Kabul Airport Guide.
Photo Courtesy of ben_acheson on Instagram
4. Ho Chi Minh City Tân Sơn Nhất International Airport, Vietnam (SGN)
They ask you for money blatantly, from the visa service people, to the front desk reception, and the TSA. – a traveller
Ho Chi Minh City’s international airport is also climbing on our worst airports in Asia list. Formerly the 8th worst airport in the region, SGN’s status has deteriorated further thanks to allegations of corruption. Numerous survey respondents reported that customs officers ask for bribes in order to move through the process faster, and those that declined paying quickly faced problems with their paperwork. Other complaints include poor Wi-Fi signals, dirty bathrooms and limited selection of restaurants. If visiting this airport, be sure to keep your valuables hidden and some small cash on hand – and consider filling up at the nearby Burger King before entering the terminal itself. See also Worst Airports in the World.
Airport Services/Facilities: Pay-per-use Lounges ($) • WiFi ($). For more information, visit our Ho Chi Minh City Airport Guide.
Photo courtesy of katelormor on Instagram.
5. Islamabad Benazir Bhutto International Airport, Pakistan (ISB)
In my entire 10 years International travel life, I have not found a more awful, rude, uncomfortable airport anywhere else like Islamabad Airport. – a traveller
It would seem some improvements have been made at Islamabad Airport, given that in 2014 it was voted the worst airport in Asia. In December 2014 the airport’s unofficial Twitter account made mention that the airport was working to improve the ‘guest experience’. Since then they have upgraded the bathrooms, opened a new lounge and increased the number of check-in and immigration counters. The airport has also been working away on a much anticipated and much needed new terminal, which is set to be open towards the end of 2016. Until then, the existing terminals are still in need of a good scrub, and crowd control continues to be a problem. Staff have a ways to go in terms of providing a welcoming experience to guests, and improvements might begin with cracking down on corruption. See also Worst Airports in the World.
Airport Services/Facilities: Pay-per-use Lounges ($) • Free WiFi. For more information, visit our Islamabad Airport Guide.
Photo courtesy of bepperaymaekers on Instagram
6. Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport, China (CAN)
Considering the business this airport gets, they don’t seem to funnel any money back into it for upkeep etc. – a traveller
As the second busiest airport in China and the 16th busiest airport in the world, Guangzhou Baiyun Airport is holding steady with its 6th place ranking on the worst airports in Asia list. The airport has continued to frustrate travellers by failing to provide them with any form of activities, clean bathrooms and water fountains. The entire airport is reputed to smell like cigarettes, and Wi-Fi is only provided to people with a Chinese mobile plan. Signage and helpful staff are also in short supply, leaving many utterly confused with where their flight is departing from. The only consolation prize at CAN is that there is some comfortable seating around the food court. But, you will have to ward off hawkers and touts if you’d like to get some rest.
Airport Services/Facilities: Pay-per-use Lounges ($) • Free WiFi. For more information, visit our Guangzhou Airport Guide.
7. Chennai (Madras) International Airport, India (MAA)
It is Very Worst Airport In India! It was renewed recently but still glass ceiling falls down many times. – a traveller
Survey respondents who travelled to Chennai international airport are divided as to whether the baggage handling or the unclean bathrooms are the worst part of the experience. Baggage-wise, complaints begin with the sheer amount of time it takes for your bags to disembark from the plane. Once you have them, it is then unlikely that you’ll find a working trolley or helpful staff – in spite of there being so many of them wandering around. Bathroom-wise, problems tend to stem from the leaking faucets, the dirty floors and the never-scrubbed toilets. This is all particularly remarkable given that the airport added a new terminal and a series of renovations in 2012.
Airport Services/Facilities: Pay-per-use Lounges ($) • Free WiFi • Sleeping Rooms ($) • Luggage Storage ($). For more information, visit our Chennai Airport Guide.
8. Manila Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Philippines (MNL)
Absolutely horrible to connect through this airport if you arrive in one terminal and need to get to another (particularly between terminals 3 to 1). Shuttle buses are infrequent and can take over an hour in the traffic. And forget about taxis, the lines take even longer. – a traveller
Ever-contentious Manila International Airport seems to have permanently shed its title of Worst Airport in the World, which it held steadily from 2011 to 2013. Rehabilitation efforts have helped decongest and clean up Terminal 1, and the introduction of things like the Wings Transit Lounge in Terminal 3 have helped make things more comfortable, albeit for a price. That said, things like leaking ceilings in Terminal 1 and collapsing floors in Terminal 2 show there is still room for improvement. Passengers remain annoyed by the poor customer service, the long queues, the sub-par food selection, the lack of restrooms and the crowded seating areas. There is definitely a long way to go but we’re thrilled to see improvements come along bit by bit.
Airport Services/Facilities: Pay-per-use Lounges ($) • Free WiFi • Day Rooms ($) • Sleep Pods ($) • Luggage Storage ($) • Showers ($). For more information, visit our Manila Airport Guide.
9. Dhaka Shahjalal International Airport, Bangladesh (DAC)
When I got to immigration on arrival, there was 10 desks and 1 guy working, who was sound asleep. – a traveller
Dhaka’s international airport has received a number of aesthetic and technical improvements over the last five years; however, voter complaints suggest that much more is needed. From broken trolleys to broken toilets with a lack of toilet paper, much of DAC sits in disrepair. Mosquitos act as the official welcoming party at the airport, given that staff seem uninterested in serving the travellers passing through. The good news is that in spite of much misery, the food options are decent and the private lounges ease many sorrows. There is also the occasional Wi-Fi signal that you can catch, and showers that you can pay to use.
Airport Services/Facilities: Pay-per-use Lounges ($) • Showers ($). For more information, visit our Dhaka Airport Guide.
10. Colombo Bandaranaike International Airport, Sri Lanka (CMB)
They have cart handlers all over the place that constantly bug you for money to carry your bags. – a traveller
Sri Lanka’s primary airport is criticized for dirt and corruption. Bathrooms are, like in many other terminals on this list, remarkably unclean and under-stocked with soap and tissues. The stench of the bathrooms reportedly has an ability to radiate out behind the doors, infusing the terminal more broadly. Voters also complained about long queues for immigration, created by seemingly disorganized staff. They were also irritated by a number of pushy porters hoping to carry luggage. That said, CMB is said to be better than many other small Asian airports, given that it is easy enough to navigate, and offers conveniences like local SIM card purchase inside the terminal.
Airport Services/Facilities: Pay-per-use Lounges ($) • Transit Hotel ($). For more information, visit our Colombo Airport Guide.
Photo courtesy of kushankanishka on Instagram
Continue on to read about the airports that were crowned Best Airports in Asia this year!