broadsideblog

The World’s Ten Best Airports

In business, cities, design, travel on August 27, 2010 at 12:53 pm
Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris
Charles de Gaulle airport. Image via Wikipedia

Pack, rush, stand, wait, take off shoes. Flying, so much fun.

Do you notice the airports you travel through? Here’s a recent list of the world’s top 10, which includes Paris Charles de Gaulle (which, built in 1974, looks like a cartoon idea of the future with all its tubes) and Rio’s domestic airport and Dulles, in D.C.

Here’s my top 10:

1) Santa Barbara, California. Tiny, red-tile-roofed. There are pool houses larger. Charming, cute, feels like vacation.

2) Mae Hong Son, Thailand. The only sound you hear is that of temple bells from the Buddhist temple across the street. The only airport I’ve ever flown into where you can walk right into town.

3) Vancouver. The architecture is spectacular — lots of glass, waterfalls, totem poles inside and out. One of the very few airports that actually makes specific reference to where you’ve just landed. The approach is also fantastic — the Rockies, the ocean, not to mention all the huge log booms on the water. I also love their use of YVR as its name — every Canadian airport code starts with Y. (YUL is Montreal, YYZ is Toronto. Go figure.)

4) Seattle. Think about it — when do you ever notice, in a good way, what’s at your feet? I’ve flown through this airport a few times and marveled at what lovely materials they chose for the flooring. Not to mention the inlaid bronze salmon inserted randomly. One of whom carries a briefcase.

5) Toronto Island Airport. You can wing into this one if you fly Porter Air from Newark. It’s set on a small island from which you take a ferry for about 1 minute, then a ten-minute taxi ride to downtown. The best way to see Toronto’s dramatic skyline.

6) Cuzco, Peru. OK. I admit it. I remember nothing of the airport but my immense, weeping gratitude that I saw it at all, after a hairy, scary descent on Faucett Air. (now defunct.) Think of a sewing machine needle threading up and down through cloth. That was us, trying to find a clear bit of air between many large mountains.

7) Shannon, Ireland. I love any airport that immediately gives me a strong sense of place. Landing in the west of Ireland, you look down over an impossibly beautiful patchwork of green, hundreds of small fields ringed by low stone walls.

8) Bastia, Corsica. Like Galway and Mae Hong Son, the landscape is at the edge of the airport. I remember seeing sheep within a few hundred yards of the runways.

9) Charles de Gaulle, Paris. Although many hate it, it is saturated with happy memories for me from my year living in Paris on a fellowship. From there, I flew out, or back, from Montserrat, England, Istanbul. I loved that CDG became “my” airport. Easy access to central Paris on the RER.

10) Westchester, New York. My home airport. It’s impossibly crowded but small and easy to get in and out of. I love that we walk across tarmac into the planes. You can sit in the restaurant and watch planes taking off and landing. I love being able to get to an airport in 20 minutes.

What are your favorites and why?

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  1. Sorry to hear Faucett is no more. I flew that airline between Lima and Iquitos many years ago.

    Santa Barbara has an airport?

  2. Did it scare you as badly? That was one seriously frightening experience.

    SB has an airport — unless they tore it down? I was there many years ago visiting a relative. It’s got very wealthy residents, so that wouldn’t surprise me.

  3. the Brits may like Dulles but the locals swear by National. Especially since Cesar Pelli and Associates restored the glamour of travel to the place with a sun-drenched grand concourse that really does what a concourse is supposed to do: flows and sorts the traffic so your walk to the gate is near-effortless. And like Seattle: great floors! Here is just one of the many medallions designed by world-class artists to break up the monotony of the commute: http://www.metwashairports.com/gallery/michele_oka_doner.jpg

    And bonus: completely easy to get to and from National by Metro. Minutes from door to downtown.

    I also have to nominate Copenhagen’s lovely Kastrup Airport, not my top pick for efficient layout, but its airy atrium areas make you feel as if you’ve stepped outside on even the coldest day. And of course, cheapskate that i am, I fell in love with Kastrup’s absolutely free and ingeniously designed luggage carts. One look and you know they’re Danish: http://farm1.static.flickr.com/227/473236935_cef953f906.jpg

  4. I was in Copenhagen in the 80s but came from Paris by train. Now I want to go back, thanks to this.

    Flying means travel and travel, still, should have some joy and excitement. Thanks!

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