BY BAILEY STOREY

How do you define luxury when it comes to airports? Check-in efficiencies so you get to your plane seat as seamlessly as possible. A quiet, luxury lounge and a good cup of coffee before the sun comes up. A first-in-class restaurant to kill time during stopovers. Traveling is tough enough.

Our top 12 luxury airports help take the edge off:

Kansai International Airport – Osaka, Japan

Kansai International Airport rests on a 2.5 mile-long artificial island in the middle of Osaka Bay that protects it against waves and natural disasters.

So how do people get back and forth to the $20-billion-dollar airport? A billion-dollar bridge, one of the longest truss bridges in the world – lots of train connections to nearby cities for convenience. There are two terminals, with a third one planned for low-cost carriers.

Hong Kong International Airport

Hong Kong International airport, which sits on an artificial island (Chek Lap Kok), is a favourite among business travellers, costing more than $20 billion to build in 1998.

The airport is listed as one of the top five airports for best shopping, dining, leisure, amenities and cleanliness. Passengers can also play at SkyCity Nine Eagles Golf, adjacent to Terminal 2.

Al Maktoum International Airport (Dubai)

The second biggest airport in Dubai, after Dubai International Airport. One of the most luxurious and busiest hotels in the world, the objective of the current expansion is to make it the world’s biggest airport by 2030 – accommodating 220 million passengers when expansion is completed that year. The expansion will cost an estimated $32 billion.

Eventually travelers will access an “aerotropolis”, a master-planned self-sustained economic zone supporting a multitude of activities – logistics, aviation, commercial, exhibition, humanitarian, residential and leisure-related.

London Heathrow Airport

FUTURE EXPANSION

One of the most expensive airports ever built, at $10.5 billion, and one of the busiest and most advanced. London Heathrow Airport is widely known for its lavish lounges. Heathrow is also a great destination for shoppers, housing A-List brands like Gucci, Dior, Prada, Mulberry, and Harrods. In August, Forbes reported that the New York to London was the No. 1 airline route by revenue – British Airways alone earned $1.2 billion on that route in 2018.

Beijing Capital International Airport

The $8 billion Beijing Capital International Airport is now one of the busiest airports in the world in terms of passenger traffic.

The state-of-the-art Terminal 3, which was built for the 2008 Olympics (designed by Foster & Partners), is the world’s largest, at 3.7 million square feet, and has 70 restaurants and baggage area that can take more than 19,000 pieces per hour.

Singapore Changi Airport

A major aviation hub in Southeast Asia, the Singapore Changi Airport was voted the World’s Best Airport at the World Airport Awards in 2013, and has kept that title for seven years running.

Airport customers around the world are the voters, so you know the award means something. Leisure activities are a big part of that. The airport just added a $1.3 billion expansion, called Jewel, ten storeys tall (1.46 million square feet), a massive, donut-shaped glass and steel lifestyle hub for the airport, between the control tower and Terminal 1, featuring a luxury mall (280 shops) and rainforest, making layovers way more fun. It has the tallest indoor waterfall in the world.

Seoul’s Incheon International Airport

One of the busiest airports in the world, Incheon has been given its share of awards for excellence – for seven years in a row (2005-2012). Amenities include a golf course, spa, private sleeping rooms, ice skating rink, a casino and indoor gardens. And here are a few kickers – Incheon is one of the fastest airports in the world for customs processing, it claims it has only a .0001% baggage mishandling rate, and its duty-free shopping mall is rated best in the world by Business Traveler.

Munich Airport

Source: Flughafen München GmbH

Source: Flughafen München GmbH

Source: Flughafen München GmbH

The business class lounge has its own beer garden so passengers can enjoy sample beer right from the barrel of Munich’s Franziskaner brewery, paired perfectly with a soft, salty pretzel. The airport, certified as 5-star by Skytrax, features an Airport Center between two terminals. There’s an 18-hole mini golf course in the airport’s visitor’s park if you get the urge.

Zurich Airport

Source: Flughafen Zürich AG

Source: Flughafen Zürich AG

Source: Flughafen Zürich AG

Source: Flughafen Zürich AG

The Zurich Airport is the largest airport in Switzerland, connected by an underground train called Skymetro. Of particular note is the Panorama Lounge, located at the top of the airport, with stunning views of the Swiss Alps. The lounge, not tied to any specific airline, is consistently ranked among the top in Europe.

San Francisco International Airport

After having gone through a $383-million dollar renovation in 2012, San Francisco International Airport stands as an all-luxury destination for shoppers, foodies and art enthusiasts — home to art galleries with more than 60 works commissioned by the San Francisco Arts Commission. There are also science and history exhibitions, an aquarium, and aviation history museum. Shoppers enjoy shops featuring brands like Gucci, Burberry and Swarovski.

Hamad International Airport

Passenger Terminal

 

Having just opened its doors in 2014, the Hamad International Airport in Qatar has gained an impressive amount of foot traffic since then. Some of the most popular amenities include exhibitions by local artists, a fitness centre, spas, and a luxurious business lounge which boasts an a-la-carte and buffet menu. Passengers can also pay a visit to the Lamp Bear, a seven-metre-tall bronze statue located in the hub of the airport’s shopping centre.

Copenhagen Airport

Photo: Jasper Carlberg

Main expansion began at the airport in 1998 with the inclusion of Terminal 3, an incredibly spacious section focused on the best of luxury and comfort in modern air travel. Passengers can shop at top retail brands including Gucci, Burberry, Marc Jacobs, and Hermes.

Top Image: Al Maktoum International Airport (Dubai)