The passengers ranked the airports on 34 different criteria, including transportation services, cleanliness of facilities, security inspections, waiting times and visa and customs services.According to the ACI press release, the rest of the top five is Singapore, Hong Kong, Beijing, and Hyderabad, all in the Asia-Pacific category. The top five in North America are Austin, Halifax, Ottawa, Jacksonville, and Portland. Cleveland received the "Best Improvement Award" for North America.
I've passed through Incheon International nearly two dozen times and can say it's a great way to enter and exit the country. In the past I've had nice things to say about its "Hub Lounges," its internet access, and its helpful staff.
About the worst part of going back and forth between Asia is having to leave its airports and arrive in North American ones. I like what Thomas Friedman had to say in a New York Times column in 2008, which I posted about last January:
Landing at Kennedy Airport from Hong Kong was, as I’ve argued before, like going from the Jetsons to the Flintstones. The ugly, low-ceilinged arrival hall was cramped, and using a luggage cart cost $3. (Couldn’t we at least supply foreign visitors with a free luggage cart, like other major airports in the world?) As I looked around at this dingy room, it reminded of somewhere I had been before. Then I remembered: It was the luggage hall in the old Hong Kong Kai Tak Airport. It closed in 1998.Last January I wrote
The next day I went to Penn Station, where the escalators down to the tracks are so narrow that they seem to have been designed before suitcases were invented. The disgusting track-side platforms apparently have not been cleaned since World War II. I took the Acela, America’s sorry excuse for a bullet train, from New York to Washington. Along the way, I tried to use my cellphone to conduct an interview and my conversation was interrupted by three dropped calls within one 15-minute span.
All I could think to myself was: If we’re so smart, why are other people living so much better than us?
And let's not forget the biggest deficiency in American airports: the people who work there.and I think that's generally true, a difference in how people in the customer service industry perceive their roles and responsibilities across cultures. That's looking at people who staff ticket counters and information booths, and not even taking into account the ridiculous Transportation Security Administration and the hassle of measures imposed on us in the "land of the free," by people who don't make the connection between our nation attacking foreign countries and imposing its will on others, and the need for "protection" from "terrorists."
Adding to the discomfort of the flight between Asia and the U.S., and this is a whole other issue related to the travel experience but not to airports, is the low level of service economy class passengers can expect on U.S. carriers. Each time I've crossed the Pacific on North American carriers---United, Continental, American---I've found discourteous staff who are rude to people who don't speak English, insulting to passengers within earshot, and who treat people as a burden rather than as paying customers.