Friday, 21 October 2016

Layover Ideas for the World's Worst Airports (2016)

The Terminal

Sleeping in Airports has recently released their 2016 Best and Worst Airports Survey results.

This year, there are 2 "worst" lists of interest: the WORST Airports Overall and WORST Airports for Layovers.

To soften the blow, just in case you realize your next destination is on one of the lists, we've put together some ideas to help you survive your layover.

After the #1 Worst Airport - for both the overall list and the layovers list - we've blended the 2 lists, (even though there is not much overlap) and put the remaining 18 lousy layover spots in order by destination name.

Tip: you may need a transit visa to leave some of the airports listed - do your research before departing!

Jeddah King Abdulaziz International Airport (JED)

#1 on the Worst Airports Overall list - was #2 last year
#1 on the Worst Airports for Layovers List

Jeddah Airport Arrival Section
Be ready to line up for hours, especially during the Haj
creativecommons image ikhlasulamal on Flickr
Survey lowlights:
• "Careless, arrogant and rude" immigration officers (when they are around) and multi-hour long queues
• Chaotic, crowded, inadequate seating
• "Cleanliness is but a mythical concept"

Layover ideas:
• Take advantage of the free WiFi or splurge for lounge access
• Visit Souq al-Alawi or Naseef House museum (great evening views from top floor)
• Slip away to Atallah Happy Land Park for rides, skating, bowling, theatres, dining, shopping

Layover resources:
Jeddah Airport Sleeping Guide
Jeddah Airport transportation guide
How to Obtain a Saudi Arabian Transit Visa
• Jeddah, Saudi Arabia - I Am Bound Here

Beijing Capital International Airport, China (PEK)

#7 on the Worst Airports for Layovers list

Beijing Capital Airport (PEK) Terminal 3E
Expect confusion at Beijing Capital Airport
creative commons image beltzner on Flickr
 Survey lowlights:
• Maddening to navigate: "Nobody speaks English or will help you if you are about to miss your flight"
• WiFi requires a Chinese credit card and Chinese mobile phone
• No showers, no rest areas, few restaurants

Layover ideas:
Book yourself into the BGS Premier Lounge
• Spend your layover at the newer Terminal 3
• Escape to the Hilton Beijing Capital Hotel

Layover resources:
Beijing Capital Airport Sleeping Guide
Beijing Capital Airport transportation guide
Beijing layover ideas

Caracas Simon Bolivar International Airport (CCS)

#8 on the Worst Airports Overall list - was #5 on the list in 2015

Aeropuerto Internacional de Maiquetía
Try not to let the crazy patterns and colours give you a headache!
Survey lowlights:
• "Hot, chaotic, chair-free"
• Bathrooms lack water, toilet paper, cleanliness"
• Lack of luggage safety (unwrapped bags are ripe for the picking"

Layover ideas:
• Cough up the money for private lounge access
• Take advantage of the free WiFi
• Go on a city tour (just leave 5 hours at the airport to get through the chaos)

Layover resources:
Caracas Airport Sleeping Guide
Caracas Airport transportation guide
Caracas layover ideas

Crete Chania International Airport, Greece (CHQ)

#6 on the Worst Airports Overall list - new to the list in 2016

If you have time to spare, take a few decent photos of Chania Airport
(and share them with a Creative Commons licence on Flickr)
Survey lowlights:
• Long lines, chaotic security and lack of seating
• Lack of air conditioning, despite it being 30C/85F temperatures
• One basic food vendor hawking expensive sandwiches

Layover ideas:
•  Pass time reading up on the privatization of 14 of Greece's regional airports (including Chania)
• Pack a gripping novel that you can read as you stand in the lines
• Take a taxi to Elafonisi Beach or Stavro Beach (a Zorba the Greek film location)

Layover resources:
Crete Chania Airport Sleeping Guide
Crete Chania Airport transportation guide
Crete layover ideas

Crete Heraklion International Airport, Greece (HER)

#7 on the Worst Airports Overall list - new to the list in 2016

Survey lowlights:
• Long lines, crowded lines, uncomfortable seating and no air-conditioning
• Customers vent about poor customer service
• "A sad way to end a visit to an otherwise delightful island"

Layover ideas:
• Visit the café-bar in the terminal
• Take taxi or tour to the Knossos Palace
• Visit the Archaeological Museum in Heraklion

Layover resources:
Crete Heraklion Airport Sleeping Guide
Crete Heraklion Airport transportation guide
Crete layover ideas

Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport, China (CAN)

#6 on the Worst Airports for Layovers list

Looks can be deceiving!
Creative commons image asagayakei on Flickr
 Survey lowlights:
• "I saw airport staff pushing and hurtling abuse at international tourists"
• Significantly less-than-friendly staff
• Overcrowded, disorganized and short on chairs

Layover ideas:
• Splurge for the lounge!
• Take a visa-free layover tour of Guangzhou
• Check into the on-site Guangzhou Baiyun Pullman Hotel

Layover resources:
Guangzhou airport: six-hour layover
Things to do in Guangzhou - TripAdvisor
Guangzhou Airport Sleeping Guide
Guangzhou Airport transportation guide
Guangzhou layover ideas

Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport, USA (IAH)

#8 on the Worst Airports for Layovers list

You can count the ceiling tiles while you wait around...
 Survey lowlights:
• Painfully long lines lead to many missed connections: "600 people for the only 2 of 40 immigration desks... for 3 hours"
• Then you're stuck with lounges full of armrests and bright lights
• "It's these kind of easily-fixed problems that drive passeners to the brink of insanity"

Layover ideas:
• Visit the XpresSpa (Terminal D or E) or seek solitude in one of the inter-faith chapels (Terminal C South, D or E)
• Book a private Houston sightseeing tour
• Check into the Marriott Houston Airport at George Bush Intercontinental

Layover resources:
Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport Sleeping Guide
Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport transportation guide
Houston layover ideas

Juba International Airport, South Sudan (JUB) -

#2 on the Worst Airports Overall list - new to the list in 2016

Juba Airport under construction
There is a new Juba terminal under construction,
but it is years behind schedule (wikicommons)
 Survey lowlights:
• "You watch what can only be described as an auction in the luggage area"
• Chaotic and sweaty, "like a mosh pit sauna"
• Illogical lines

Layover ideas:
• Escape the airport to get something to eat; Logali House is fairly close to the airport and has free WiFi (50m past Sahara Hotel, take a right on the gravel road)
• Entertain yourself at the air-conditioned JIT supermarket in town
• Visit the Roots Project women's cooperative behind the basketball courts for local handicrafts

Layover resources:
Juba Airport Sleeping Guide
Juba Airport transportation guide
The Joys of Juba Airport

Kathmandu Tribhuvan International Airport (KTM)

#10 on the Worst Airports Overall list - was #3 on the list in 2015

Nepal Mural of Buddha's Life at Kathmandu Airport Arrival Area
Check to see if you can see this Buddha mural
creativecommons image jaygalvin on Flickr
Survey lowlights:
• Crowds and long immigration lines
• Poor signage and unhelpful staff
• "Some of my darkest memories are from having to use the toilets at this airport"

Layover ideas:
• Be sure to admire the mural of Buddha's life in Arrivals
• Escape and take a custom city tour, rickshaw tour, or visit a spa
• Do anything that will allow you to pee elsewhere!

Layover resources:
Kathmandu Airport Sleeping Guide
Kathmandu Airport transportation guide
Layover Ideas & Stuff to do in Kathmandu
A Night in Kathmandu - National Geographic
How to survive arriving into Kathmandu - The Longest Way Home
Kathmandu Layover - Crazy Guy on a Bike

London Luton International Airport, England (LTN)

#9 on the Worst Airports Overall list - new to the list in 2016

Luton airport3
London Luton, in better days
 Survey lowlights:
• Temporarily reduced space due to renovations = long lines and few seats
• Dirty floors and bathrooms
• Being charged for virtually everything, from "drop-offs near the terminal, weighing suitcases to plastic bags for liquids"

Layover ideas:
• Splurge for the lounge
• Check into a nearby Luton Airport hotel
• Take a private London tour or go for a walk! (left luggage available)

Layover resources:
Things to do in Luton - TripAdvisor
• Fearless Flyer: EasyJet's fear of flying course at Luton
London Luton Airport Sleeping Guide
London Luton Airport transportation guide
London layover ideas

Los Angeles International Airport, USA (LAX)

#3 on the Worst Airports for Layovers list

TSA queue at LAX international terminal, Santa Monica, Los Angeles, California, USA
Just another TSA line at LAX
creative commons image Doctorow on Flickr
 Survey lowlights:
• Sporadic but confusing signs, and long distances between gates
• Quality differences between terminals
• "Not what travellers coming from Asian hubs are used to... no pay-per-use lounges, no showers and no sleep-friendly quiet zones."

Layover ideas:
• Explore the airport (8 Places to Check Out at LAX After You’ve Checked-In)
• Head on over to the Tom Bradley International Terminal to enjoy a long layover
Visit the observation deck in the famous LAX theme building (some weekends)
• Check out Activities near LAX from LA Tourist
• Take unique tour in Los Angeles that you can't take anywhere else: 10 unique LA tours

Layover resources:
Los Angeles Airport Sleeping Guide
Los Angeles Airport transportation guide
Los Angeles Airports: Which is best? (BUR, LAX, LGB, ONT, SNA)
Los Angeles layover ideas

Manila Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Philippines (MNL)

#2 on the Worst Airports for Layovers list

Line ups outside one of NAIA's terminals
Survey lowlights:
• Terrible inter-terminal transfer process between the 4 terminals (3 hours is not enough!)
• Poor signage and overall confusion
• Scams and extortion (did you hear about the bullet-planting ploy?)

Layover ideas:
• Pre-book a private inter-terminal transfer before you leave home
• Take a layover tour (there is even an overnight layover tour with hotel available)
• Get a massage from the visually-impaired massage therapists in the NAIA domestic terminal (T3)

Layover resources:
Manila Ninoy Aquino Airport Sleeping Guide
Manila Ninoy Aquino Airport transportation guide
Manila Ninoy Aquino Airport to Manila Clark Airport private transfer
Rock Your Layover: Manila
Manila layover ideas
• Tip: this airport is commonly referred to as "NAIA" by locals

Miami International Airport, USA (MIA)

#5 on the Worst Airports for Layovers list

Seek out Casey and Liz, MIA Goodwill Ambassadors
Survey lowlights:
• Outrageously long lines, long distances and misleading signage
• Broken toilets, dirty floors and lack of seating
• No free WiFi

Layover ideas:
• Hit the beach, it's just 16km/10miles and a away! (baggage storage in Terminal E)
• Read the bios and see if you can spot any of the staff featured on Airport 24/7 Miami or learn about the show
• Find out if Casey the dog is working

Layover resources:
Miami Airport Sleeping Guide
Miami Airport transportation guide
Miami layover ideas

New York John F Kennedy, USA (JFK)

#10 on the Worst Airports for Layovers list

The T5 roof
JFK's Terminal 5 rooftop terrace is a breath of fresh air
creative commons image dougletterman on Flickr
 Survey lowlights:
• "As a major gateway to the United States, this airport is an absolute embarrassment"
• Long patience-testing lines and labyrinth-like hallways, busy 24 hours a day
• Inconsistent conditions (Terminal 1 is dirty, noisy and uncomfortable, vs aesthetically pleasing Terminal 8)

Layover ideas:
• Visit the Terminal 5 JetBlue rooftop terrace (post-security, near gate 28, free WiFi, 6am-10pm)
• Check into the Ramada Plaza Hotel JFK International Airport, the only on-site hotel
• Take a unique tour in that you can't take anywhere else: 10 unique NYC tours, 10 more unique NYC tours, 10 extra unique NYC tours

Layover resources:
New York JFK Airport Sleeping Guide
New York JFK Airport transportation guide
Private Helicopter Transfer from JFK to Manhattan (return)
New NYC Airports blog for aviation buffs 
New York City layover ideas

New York Newark Liberty International Airport, USA (EWR)

#4 on the Worst Airports for Layovers list

AirTrain EWR Airport
You could always spend your layover riding the Airtrain...
creative commons image royalport on Flickr
 Survey lowlights:
• Unreliable inter-terminal train, slow back-up busses, broken moving walkways, and unhelpful staff
• In need of cleaning and "a reduction in the resident pigeon population"
• "I would rather re-route my entire flight and pay more money than to see Newark Airport ever again"

Layover ideas:
• Shop at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Store in Terminal C
• Pray a little... there's an Interfaith Chapel, pre-security, between gates C70-99 and C101-115
• You are almost in New York baby, so get out and see the city! 10 unique NYC tours, 10 more unique NYC tours, 10 extra unique NYC tours

Layover resources:
New York Newark Airport Sleeping Guide
New York Newark Airport transportation guide
Private Helicopter Transfer from Newark to Manhattan (return)
New York City layover ideas

Paris Charles de Gaulle, France (CDG)

#9 on the Worst Airports for Layovers list

Aeroport CDG Terminal 1
Paris CDG Airport is simply massive, and can be confusing
creative commons image yisris on Flickr
Survey lowlights: 
• "A 90 minute stopover is way too short, even without checked luggage"
• Moving between 9 terminals is a nightmare, befuddling map
• No 24-hour dining options

Layover ideas:
• Download the  'My Airport' Smartphone app
• See the doc or get a vaccination at the 24-hour health centre (Terminal 2A, Arrivals, entrance 017)
• Take a 7-hour private Paris layover tour

Layover resources:
Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport Sleeping Guide
Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport transportation guide
Paris layover ideas

Port Harcourt International Airport (PHC)

#3 on the Worst Airports Overall list - was #1 last year

PH Airport1
It looks nice from this vantage point, but...
creativecommons image sixoone on Flickr
Survey lowlights:
• "The arrival hall is in fact a tent/mosquito sanctuary that lacks toilets and air conditioning"
• The "old luggage pile" (no conveyor belts) so pack well and keep your valuables with you
• Allegations of corrupt staff

Layover ideas:
• It's worthwhile reading up on this area of Nigeria first
• Get out and stretch your legs if you can
• Travel with a jacket or blanket you can sit on

Layover resources:
Port Harcourt Airport Sleeping Guide
Port Harcourt Airport transportation guide

Santorini Thira National Airport, Greece (JTR)

#5 on the Worst Airports Overall list - new to the list in 2016

You can learn the Greek alphabet on your Santorini
photo copyright sampai sudah blog
Survey lowlights:
• "You get stuck waiting in long lineups under the hot Greek sun."
• Small rooms without air conditioning after security
• Indecipherable announcements and dirty toilets

Layover ideas:
• Learn about the privatization of 14 of Greece's regional airports (including Santorini)
• Check out the airport's outdoor terrace
• Escape to a taverna, if you can manage it - there's sure to be one a 5 minute taxi ride away

Layover resources:
Santorini Thira Airport Sleeping Guide
Santorini Thira Airport transportation guide
Santorini layover ideas

Tashkent International Airport (TAS)

#4 on the Worst Airports Overall list - was #4 on the list in 2015

Tashkent airport
Looks can be deceiving - the reviews aren't as nice as this bar!
creativecommons image lindako on Flickr
Survey lowlights:
• "One of Dante's circles of hell"
• Long lines and multiple checkpoints
• Pushy mobs: "I fell... and passengers walked over me while I was on the floor"

Layover ideas:
• Make the most of the free WiFi!
• Visit Chorsu (oldest bazaar in Central Asia) or Tellya Sheikh Mosque (home to the world's oldest Koran)
• Tashkent TV Tower offers great views of the city

Layover resources:
Tashkent Airport Sleeping Guide
Tashkent Airport transportation guide
• Tourist Visa to Uzbekistan
Tashkent things to do - Virtual Tourist

For more, check out the juicy sublists of 2016 Worst Airports for Africa, Asia, Caribbean & Central America, Europe, Middle East, North America, South America and the South Pacific. There's also a list of the Worst Airports for Sleeping!

Past losers
Missing from this year's lists are the 5 airports below. Unless there have been miracles, they are probably still dismal, so check out last year's post - Layover Ideas for the World's Worst Airports (2015) - for layover ideas in case you are headed their way:

Have YOUR say:
Vote in the Sleeping in Airports 2017 Best and Worst Airports Survey

Related resources
Greece signs privatization of 14 regional airports with Germany's Fraport
PaxEx: what airports can learn from Frankfurt
Airport libraries and books
Learning Layover: Jewelry
Carp Diem: Daytrips from Rome
Go running on your layover
Roundtrip layover tours from airports

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