Sydney International Airport – Surely the (1st) Worlds Worst

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This topic contains 19 replies, has 12 voices, and was last updated by  HBHLondon 9 Aug 2010
at 13:08

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  • Anonymous


    I guess most international airports around the world are owned by banks or other money grabbing financial institutions – Sydney certainly is and doesn’t it show. An airport that has expanded willy-nilly without any overall concept since the 70’s. Departures or arrivals at Sydney International are probably the least pleasant experiences of a trip to Australia.

    And transferring from the domestic terminal to international (or vice versa) is not to be recommended. A lousy bus service that leaves when they fill it up or a local suburban train that puts you and your baggage with the other commuters on their way to work. And at the most amazing rip off ticket prices.

    Has Macquarie Bank, the erstwhile owners of SYD, ever enjoyed the inter-terminal trains in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Seoul ?

    What a dump. Sydney tourism authorites (by their lack of any action) and Macquarie Bank should hang their heads in shame.

    Mind you, it always amazes me how Sydney ever wins these “best city in the world” polls. Their international airport would only win worst airport in the world.

    PS. Don’t all jump and write how Mumbai, Lagos and Pyongyang are no better – who wants to go there anyway..,


    I have never transited Sydney, and that experience may well be less than perfect, but I have not had any bad experiences when arriving or departing SYD, which I have done probably 15 times in the past 5 years.

    The Qantas Lounges are always welcoming and amply stocked with nibbles and drinks. Don’t recall any particular issues with security.

    The “arrive into a shop” Duty Free is a bit annoying, but then I always pick up a few bottles there anyway, so it’s not such a hassle.

    Macquarie has a pretty good reputation here in the UK, owning the excellent M6 toll road.

    Though I am not a fan of Mumbai due to a traumatic experience there, I would not discourage anyone from visiting a city based on a poor experience in its airport.


    I’ll declare my hands here fairly early and say that I’m an Aussie and travel out of the Sydney airport fairly regularly.

    That being said are the things you say true – yeah sure… however I’m pretty sure that you would have noticed that the place was in fact going through a refurb at the moment.

    As for free transfers then Qantas does include it in your ticket price provided that you use them for both the International and Domestic route. If not then AUD$5.50 isn’t to bad a price in my opinion.

    With respect to the building facilities I can name any number of airports in the world that have got old parts of terminal buldings, even though improvement works are going on. A case in point was me staring at the less than gorgeous ceiling for an hour in Terminal 3 at Heathrow last week waiting to clear customs.

    At the end of the day – no airport is perfect, though i can tell you i couldn’t care less as long as the coffee is good and most cafe’s in the airport in Sydney have that covered!


    I didn’t find SYD to be that bad when I visited a few months ago, arriving at International and departing from both the International and Domestic (QF) terminals. Staff seemed to be friendly enough and the security process fine. The QF lounge in both were quite acceptable.

    If there is any gripe, it would be that there is no QF arrivals lounge.


    SYD could be better, but there are 1st world airports that are far worse. I need only say LAX, with IAD, ORD and JFK not much better IMHO. CDG and FRA also can leave a lot to be desired.


    I have to say, I don’t think SYD is too bad, although have only really spent any time in the Qantas F lounge. I did however get stopped by immigration at SYD on a flight from South America and questioned for far too long – I’m still not sure to this day why!

    in my opinion, the US airports are the worst – I’ve been through Miami 8 times this year and every time I’ve had problems – its a joke. It really made me appreciate just how good T5 is!


    I travel to Syd on an average of six times a year. I find Sydney’s airport to be one of the better ones in the world. Easy to get around…very courteous staffing….which includes customs ..immigration..

    World’s worst…Los Angeles Int…..Filthy…


    I lived & worked in Sydney for some years, & travel back at least twice a year now.
    I have always greatly approved of the Immigration & Customs teams in Sydney, probably one of the strictest, but most efficient in the world. The International Terminal has not changed much true, its relatively small, un- developed from it’s original, but then so is Melbourne, Perth… Most domestic terminals in Australia are pretty basic, & not always linked to the International well.

    Sydneysiders, & friend / colleagues often remind themselves that its an isolated country, & life can be pretty functional when it comes to infrastructure. Life is much less complex than in Europe, & the “If it works why change it” statement, holds true to many Aussies.
    So, their attention is not to the options of upgrading what works already, as we can in some International, more high yield airports.

    Sydney is one of the most stunning places in the world in my view, its people, its quality of life, its respect & working with nature, in a vast country. Life is hard in Australia. They also have a great source of national pride, community, & sense of belonging – which the UK seems to have lost in recent years.
    I think they put their limited resources where its needed, & it works well.
    Flights in & out of Sydney landing over the sea Botany Bay, or over the city are one of the most stunning views around the world. I have rarely been delayed there, in or out on any airline, over 15 years.
    The Aussies are sharp, to the point, well humoured, & value life & the simple aspects of it more than us.
    Quite some difference to what the UK has become…& LHR is the worst airport in the world in my view,. It’s a national disgrace, as are the transport links to it, cleanliness, decay, the attitudes, service costs…

    LHR don’t even have immigration checks as you fly out, or much customs checks these days coming in!
    At least the Aussies police their borders & immigration very well, we can’t even count people in AND out!


    Oh, let me throw one more candidate for the world’s worst airport. Ehhmm.. Franfkurt/Main Airport-one of the busiest airport in the world with…
    —- the dirtiest toilettes and very few in numbers on busy times.
    — one of the oldest terminal concept with frequently construction sites going in all parts of both terminals, making the area dirty, noisy and unpleasant for transiting pax.
    —one of the unfriendliest security checks( alright-it depends on the person who checked you–I let this one even )
    — one of the unfriendliest direction concept between terminals or terminals and local transportation.
    …… I could go on and on…

    But what do you think? You have one more worst?


    It is all so subjective as to which is the worst airport in the world (and please note, I originally said “first world”, so as not to get comments about Lagos, Pyonyang etc). But definately for my money, for a city that prides itself on being one of the great cities of the world, Sydney International (mind you I said International) Airport is a real let down. It is passenger un friendly but retail friendly. It has been built around a 1970’s original building with haphazard, un coordinated extensions ever since. Public transport is a disgrace, costly because the airport rail line from the city has been privatised. Connections to the Domestic Terminals are also a mess, a taxi won’t take you, so you are left with a bus service and a train service that is very second class.

    Only the owners, Macquarie Bank, seem to think it is worthy of a city of Sydney’s reputation. Like everything that private bank does, Sydney International’s operation is only motivated by profit and bonuses for their billionaire directors.


    OzTraveller believe me your last comment could be used to describe Frankfurt/Main Airport as well, only that is more older( I think built in middle of the 1960’s). Always refurbishing and extending but not really doing it rightly, only facelifting stuffs.


    Travelled through Sydney departures today en route to Auckland.

    Happy to say that the new International terminal areas have been fully opened, & are very well designed, bright spacious, & look great. It add almost 10 minutes the new area to where you would previously walk up the ramp like corridor, curving back round from the new area. Immigration Fast Track took a 1 minute wait, security through in 5 mins.
    Some of the Airline lounges have been moved around also, from the old areas on the lower & upper floors to departures.

    Arrivals was not much different when i arrived a month ago.

    Australia does not have unlimited resources, & a modest population, & although Maquarie fund such changes, it does not have the use of many EU or Asian airports.
    The space they have is excellent for an airport, you don’t have delays in taking off or landing or slots. It is efficient & well run, even if the infrastructure is behind other gateways around the world.

    The Aussies are always highly professional, polite, upbeat & friendly, in Customs & Immigration as ever, & they certainly make use of this airport a pleasant enjoyable place to use.
    They also police their Borders & Customs in one of the most effective ways in the world, strict but professional, using many techniques. This includes profiling, & always the trained dogs on duty & reams of Customs staff. Every person is screened, direct questions as you wait for luggage, dogs check you & yr bags, codes placed on yr declaration as to your risk (changed daily!), & then another screen for foods & other risk items. X-rays follow for about 80%.

    The BAA Airports & indeed the attitudes of staff at say LHR, would learn much from seeing here. Their attitudes & behaviour simply would not be tolerated, as decent standards Australia are used to.

    You may not always in Business or travel have the most up to date high tech properties to work with, but it is the staff that make or break your experience. Australia, Singapore & Netherlands (Schipol) appear the best, in my experience of over 50 countries in 20 yrs.


    Mark – Thanks for the update on what is happening at Sydney.

    Shame you had to spoil it by knocking LHR. Just telling us about Sydney was enough


    At this rate MarkRoberts9 will be suggesting a Sedan Chair from London to Dover, followed by a Coracle from Dover to Calais and a Coach and Four (or a “coach & four”) the remainder of the journey to Amsterdam, all to avoid a carrier o which he never flies!

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