If you had to be stuck at an airport trying to make time fly when you couldn't, which airport would you choose?
According to a survey done by the United Kingdom-based research firm Skytrax, you would not choose to land at any airport in the United States.
This isn't a big surprise to most air travelers, who consider hanging out in our airports akin to root canal work. But you might choose to land at Singapore's Changi Airport, which took the Gold as the best airport in 2006.
A few years ago I passed through Changi Airport. The award doesn't surprise me.
At that time, Singapore was touted as the cleanest city by many tourists. It was rumored that travelers who littered could expect to be flogged. While that probably was exaggerated, it kept would- be litterbugs in line.
But cleanliness alone won't make a great airport. So what makes Singapore's airport so special?
As far as things to do, the airport practically rivals Disney World. For garden buffs, the terminal sports a number of themed gardens and garden walks. There are bamboo, fern and orchard gardens and a koi pond for relaxation.
If you're looking for a place to stretch out for a quick nap, the Rainforest Lounge offers private cubicles for $10 per hour. If you want to go deeper into dreamland, there's the Transit Hotel, where you can rent a room while you wait for your flight.
There are showers, spas, Jacuzzis, a swimming pool, gymnasium and a massage therapist. To kill time, you can choose between movie theaters and live entertainment. There's a virtual shopping mall filled with boutiques and specialty shops. First-class restaurants and lounges serve a variety of cuisines throughout the airport.
And if you're stuck with a five-hour-or-longer delay, the airport offers a variety of free, two-hour tours of Singapore.
Hong Kong International Airport took the Silver. In my book, it should get an award for most unusual.
The airport sports Chinese bakeries and tea shops as well as a mecca of Chinese stores. There's a pharmacy that sells a variety of Chinese medicines, dried seafood and birds' nests. An Oriental healing store includes products such as Chinese teas, medicated foods and oils. An Oriental massage center offers foot, head and shoulder massages.
Munich International Airport took the Bronze. This airport is literally a destination.
The airport's Visitor's Park is set up for both air travelers and local tourists to visit. The park includes a movie theater that offers continuous films related to air travel. There's a special section geared toward children as well as exhibits for adults. The park also offers tours of the airport.
The health club at Kempinski Hotel, located at the airport, offers facilities to passengers suffering through delays.
The Charles Lindbergh restaurant, located in the hotel, serves themed buffet dinners on weekends. Arrive at the airport on Friday and you can enjoy Salmon Galore and Oceans More, a buffet featuring an array of seafood. Saturday's Route 66 theme offers a buffet of American grub.
Transit travelers can find showers, emergency dental and medical services and plenty of shops and restaurants in the airport as well.
Other airports listed in the top five are Kansai (Osaka) International Airport in Japan and Seoul Incheon Airport in South Korea. The only American airport to make the list was Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport, which placed 20th in the world.
So if you are stuck at an airport in the United States, where can you make time fly the best? You'll find out next week.
- Gail Todd, a free-lance writer, worked as a flight attendant for more than 30 years.
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