Lonely Planet Writer

Pilots and flight attendants reveal their favourite airports in the world

When travelling, there’s no doubt that an airport has the power to make or break your day. Queues, no shops and bad food can ruin the buzz of travel, but an airport with all the amenities can leave you on cloud nine. So what do the professionals think? A recent AskReddit wanted to find out just this: “Pilots and Flight Attendants, which airports do you love and which ones do you hate?”

Airlines crew spend more time than most people in airports.
Airlines crew spend more time than most in airports. Image by Getty Images

So who better to share details of the best airport experiences than the people who have to use them everyday for work. Here are some of their personal recommendations:


Changi Airport.
Changi Airport. Image by: Alphonsus Chern/AP

Singapore’s Changi airport can rejoice, because pilots and flight attendants of the world agree that it’s unbeatable. Some of the praise even verged on the elegiac…  “Singapore Changi Airport wins everything hands-down” says Lampryis.  “There is actually a hotel in there where you can stay without clearing customs and immigration. If you put a change of clothes in your carry-on you can get a good eight-hour sleep in a real bed, shower, and clean clothes for around $50. Sounds like a lot for a small luxury, but it’s much cheaper than a class upgrade for the flight, and allows you to get off a super long haul flight like Sydney to London feeling more or less human, which is a huge bonus,” explains the poster.

Changi Airport, a favourite airports
Changi Airport: like a major shopping and entertainment complex with planes.

“Changi is like a major shopping and entertainment complex that just happens to have an airport attached to it. Amazing place,” agrees MisterMarcus. Amongst the attractions for anyone who finds themselves there include: free movie theatres that are open 24/7, free internet and if you don’t have your laptop, no worries they have free computer terminals.


Detroit airport
Detroit airport: a favourite with pilots

The simplicity of the relatively new airport in Detroit scores high with flight attendants. “Easy to get around. The main terminal has a train that runs the entire length and moving walkways that actually work,” explains one attendant. “As a pilot, I find the field in general to be superb. Controllers keep it moving and rarely any backups. Even when the snow hits and de-icing is needed, they move smoothly enough along.” Another points out: “the thing that struck me in Detroit is that all signs are in English, Japanese, and Chinese. Never have seen that combination in any other US airport.”


Zurich airport which has a 3 minute train ride between terminals.
Zurich airport which has a three minute train ride between terminals.

The Swiss airport is called out for being fast, efficient, modern, clean and having decent shops. The fact that check-in closes only 35 minutes before take off on European flights, was cited by one user as being a huge bonus. With another commenting on the vast number of chocolate shops in the terminal. But what do you expect, it is Switzerland after all.

Minneapolis St Paul

noodle bar
A noodle bar is just one option for food at Minneapolis St Paul.

There is a reason MSP won an award for the best food and drink programme in any north American airport. Pilots and flight attendants who have commented on Reddit agree that the airport has a great choice when it comes to meals for layovers. “MSP is a beautiful airport and has so many delicious foods and easy to navigate,” says one user, while another comments: “I absolutely love the food options in MSP. There’s bars everywhere, and tonnes of them are actual legit restaurants. I hate all the standard chains that seem to be in the majority of airports.”  Added to this is the fact that every single restaurant at the Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport composts, that’s over 65 restaurants composting almost 500 tons of food last year.

Santa Barbara

The airport in Santa Barbara California
The much Instagrammed airport in Santa Barbara California

No need for a snoozing area in this boutique-style airport. “As far as small airports go, I loved Santa Barbara. I took a nap under one of the trees waiting for security to open once,” one user posted. The airport is singled out for being compact and well run, with one user posting: “how can an airport be so beautiful?” The architecture and interior design inside draw many comments, with the Spanish-style tiling on the staircase making a regular appearance on Instagram feeds.