Worst Major Airport in Europe?

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This topic contains 25 replies, has 15 voices, and was last updated by  Potakas 13 Apr 2010
at 20:55

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  • Anonymous


    I noted with some interest people’s views on Sydney Airport elsewhere in the Forum. However, I just wondered which airport folk would nominate as the worst (major) one in Europe? Brussels would be fairly high on my list.

    I’ve just experienced Brussels yet again this morning (SN in Y, BRU-BHX). I’ve now the misfortune to use this route and carrier on a fairly regular basis. The combination of airline and airport is fairly horrendous.

    BRU always feels extremely crowded and the lines for security are usually long (25 minutes to clear this morning). Fast Track was closed so even if I’d been in J – which I sometimes am on this route – I’d have experienced no advantage in respect of time to clear security.

    The airside cafes seem to frequently operate over capacity, so there is nowhere to sit once one’s purchased the fairly extortionate coffee (having waited in line for 10 minutes to purchase it in the first place). Then, at the last minute there was a gate change which meant a very long walk (or run) at unreasonably short notice.

    In fairness, arrival is a lot better in my experience, but distances are long (arriving and departing) due to the length of the piers.

    At Birmingham I used the new pier which opened this week. A massive improvement and BHX really seems to be getting its act together. However, it never seems to miss a trick in terms of ripping off the passenger. It was the first (and possibly only) airport in the UK to actually make money out of the terrorist threat – it has introduced a Red Route to prevent stopping anywhere within the airport compound, and then charges a minimum of £1.00 to drop passengers off, which then rises very steeply in 15-minute increments. It is only possible to use this paid-for facility. If one is meeting an arriving passenger, and the flight is subsequently delayed, one can be hit with a significant parking bill.

    Not content with this, I found that the airport has now introduced a charge for the use of baggage trolleys. I don’t know of any other UK airport that does this (please correct me if I’m wrong) and it doesn’t send a very welcoming message out to our overseas visitors. There was a Middle Eastern family in the arrivals hall this morning, collecting a lot of checked baggage, and they did not have the required pound or Euro coin for a trolley, and there are no facilities to change or withdraw money in the arrivals hall. Not a nice initial experience of the UK for them, I’m sure.


    Bristol is a very good airport but they charge for baggage trolleys (however, the machines take credit cards so no need for change).

    Several airports now charge for access to the drop-off zone — Luton among them, I think. I’m happy to pay for the extras I want: fast security clearance (£5 at Bristol and you go straight to the front of the queue — none of these slower-than-economy, so-called fast track lanes); baggage trolleys (don’t we all usually have roll-ons?) and; a well-managed drop-off zone. It’s much better than paying higher airport fees.

    As for the worst major airport in Europe: Heathrow, obviously. They don’t even pretend to have fast-track at T5 most of the time (and when they do pretend, it isn’t any faster); the security rules are completely arbitrary; the staff are surly and; the whole place is run more for the convenience of retailers than passengers.


    Interesting, Mark. So it’s not just Brum.

    When posting this topic, I meant to ask people for their nominations for the worst major airport in Europe APART FROM Heathrow, as that’s obviously going to be a given with many people!


    For my money it has to be CDG. If you put the security things aside LHR is good, but CDG is just drab and horrible.


    I don’t really understand why peopleare so down on LHR.

    I use it most weeks and my experiences (using T1, T3 and T5 in the past few months) have been pretty good.

    Sure, BAA has not yet mastered a smooth security set up, but I can only recall queuing more than five minutes and that was when connecting EDI-LHR-KRK one busy Friday afternoon.

    The shops are among the world’s best airport offering, no matter how much we might get annoyd by being shuffled past them.

    There is an unparalleled range of destinations to be experienced.

    Lounges are top notch, including some of the world’s best, including the T5 First and Concorde rooms, the Virgin Clubhouse and (I am tld) the new bmi and klm lounges are well regarded as well.

    Delays are also getting less prevalent; BA notched up its best on time performance since privatisation this summer, and the introduction of “mixed mode” runway protocols will improve this further in the coming months.

    The main bugbear is the amount of construction, lengthy corridors and sometimes shabby areas; much of this will get sorted when the construction ends and it is IMHO a price worth paying in the interim.


    Just to stimulate a debate, I’ll give you my top 5 (or worst 5 – the worst at the top) and the reasons:

    1. Brussels – see my post above

    2. Frankfurt – incontrovertable proof that Germans do indeed have a well-developed sense of humour. Illegible design, long distances, repetitive security checks, narrow stairs between levels (the lifts are too slow), poor signage.

    3. CDG – for the reasons posted above, Yes indeed, drab and boring.

    4. Dublin – manages to display all the joys of CDG, but then this is tempered somewhat by Irish charm, which is why it’s not as bad as CDG

    5. Vienna – utterly confusing design, confusing signage to compound this, and extremely surly staff.

    And to double the controversy and to stimulate debate, my top 5 in Europe (in descending order):

    1. Helsinki – clean, efficient, legible, great design and now even better with the new non-Schengen extension

    2. Munich – the opposite of Frankfurt in so many ways

    3. Oslo – efficient, calm, well-connected to the city, looks good

    4. Copenhagen – would have been my number 2, but it’s in danger of becoming a shopping mall with planes now that MacQuarrie Group run it.

    5. Dusseldorf – efficient and easy to use like MUC, but architecturally a lot less striking.

    I could mention some great smaller European airports (Tallinn, Vilnius, Hamburg, for example) and some really bad ones (East Midlands, Baku, Naples, Bucharest). It’s just occurred to me how the better airports in my (albeit limited) analysis tend to be in Northern Europe and the poorer ones in the south, although that may just reflect my personal travel pattern.

    I would also, for once, support VK on this one re LHR, it is getting better all the time (admittedly from a fairly low base!). It’s sad that we don’t harness natural light in the airports here and go for high ceilings – as VK says re LHR, many of the UK airports have depressingly drab and confining corridors often with an horrendous carpet rather than wooden floors etc.


    In the interests of balance and fairness, I should point out that I only ever transit Frankfurt, Munich and Dusseldorf (albeit fairly regularly), so I have no experience of check-in or baggage retrieval at these three.


    Interesting views…

    CDG for me is the worst. The ridiculous delays & in n out between terminals through immigration when you take LHR – EU connections, never a gate or near parking stand. It looks like a 1970’s run down London Estate, drab grey, attitudes go with it.

    Afraid i do agree with the LHR comments, T4 has been like a Bomb site recently, outside of the airport Health & Safety would not allow through walkways. Wires hanging down over yr head, concrete -no carpet nails sticking out sides of door corridors, shops closed, not secured areas, confusing dirty shabby.
    Trying to drive into LHR T1/2/3, is a chancy possibility, grossly unpredictable.
    The take off/Landing delays seem to be ever lasting, 40-90 mins to take off in the last yr!
    It is the dirtiest airport, most inefficient baggage handling, rude no care lazy staff- compared to LCY it really shows who they employ as a key factor, & their attitudes.

    I think though limited, LCY is a really quick functional & pleasant experience, especially arrivals with no hassle, delays long walks or congestion, much more a feel of quality & attitude throughout the whole place.

    Amsterdam remains A “Buddhist temple” of travel for me -, smooth modern, clean, art all over the airport, rest & sleep areas, plenty of space, easy connections, great lounges, & good use of psychology & colour & light everywhere. they really are making green projects happen, solar panel stairs, recycling, use of runways, take of angles etc. Transport is truly integrated, cheap & accessibile, reliable in every form.
    Then again, perhaps the Dutch make this also so pleasant, & their values & attitudes, & style of social responsibility but parred with ethical business values.
    The UK could learn much from this style of business & efficiency.


    Mark – my wife’s Dutch so I thought it best not to comment on AMS! Having said that, I do broadly agree with you.


    I am quite amazed at the moment!! Simon Rowberry I do not know you!!-but your top 5 of the worst and best Euro airports are almost identical to my choices, even the short comments of the airports are almost alike. Very creepy indeed!! But I think most frequent flyers in Europe nowadays expererience the same pictures of the airports which have been mentioned earllier.
    Even Mark Roberts9 view of AMS airport is similar to what I experienced lately. Well, is not it good blokes? That most Euro airport-managements finally reconsidering that an airport like SIN Changi or AMS which are going “Green” and beyond that giving the pax the whole packages for relaxation, shopping and stressless transiting….are the future of a thriving business and at the same time fulfilling the needs of the pax for a reliable gateway to the world.


    Is it really true that BAA security staff at LHR are as surly as the staff at VIE? I haven’t experienced VIE so I’m curious.
    But,generally, I agree with the choices.LHR is a mediocre airport, which is why some of us come down hard on it VK. Having said that, T5 doesn’t seem to suffer from the same drawbacks as the other 4.And, at least BAA don’t charge you for drop-offs at LHR.Still, Ferrovial should simply invite the people behind Changi or Chep Lap Kok to come and run LHR!
    As for AMS, not a bad airport but, with short connections, it can be quite hit-and-miss.I’m guessing if you miss,say,your only KLM flight of the day to La Paz, the relevant authorities either rebook you on another airline or put you up at one of the Schipol hotels?
    As far as regional airports go, ABZ and EDI are pretty handy and easy to use.


    I recently had the voice of comtempt and rolled yes at LHR
    for taking my belt off during a search instead of just undiong it. as in structed.

    And the rolled eyes at Phili for not taking a belt off….

    It must be a long tiring day dealing with some nitwits (me included)
    but it doesnt help when you get the odd one with attitude .

    Worst major airport in europe cdg by a country mile!!!!


    Airpocket – the staff at VIE are as generally mixed as at any Airport (having to deal with idiot pax like us every day, I guess). However, the staff in the bars, shops, restaurants seem to have a surlier approach in general than at most airports. The airline and security crew seemed fine, though.

    The biggest issue with VIE for me is that it looks great on plan – shaped like a snail shell when seen from above, yet it doesn’t work well ergonomically. When you add to the mix the fact that the signing isn’t clear, it’s a bit of a nightmare. It’s the kind of airport where the signs to the shops visually dominate the signs for airport use – you know what I mean, those signs that tell you things of little commercial value, like where the bloody gates are!

    On a related point. I’ve noticed elsewhere a debate (e.g. re Kuwait Airlines) about airline crew surliness where a few of you (including Airpocket) have been accused of being anti certain parts of the world and it seems that if we suggest that a certain nation has a predominant socio-cultural attitude which may tend to typify their behavioural norms in terms of maters like customer service, this is seen as unacceptable, or racist.

    An observation of how these socio-cultural trends can work both ways: I recently went to a concert at Wembley Arena. Everyone I dealt with, from the car park, box office, through security to the people who served in bars and showed you where your seat is, were fantastic. Really, really helpful. Yet not one of these was British. They were either Antipodean and Continental European. The contrast was highlighted at the break when I went for a vastly over-priced hot dog and it was served to me by one of the surliest, least customer-focused people I’ve ever had the misfortune to be served by. She was utterly disinterested, preferred to talk to her friends on her mobile, and practically threw the food at me. She was British. Interesting comparison of attitudes, although we often seem to forget in this Forum that it’s hard to generalise as it’s always down to the individual and their own values (and, folks, that includes us as pax too!).


    Inresting observations! Personally, having worked in customer services myself, I can honestly say that the more well-educated British (publich school, university, post-graduates, reasonably well-travelled, multi-lingual) try and offer a high standard of customer service since we know that, quite simply, if you treat a client well, they will keep coming back and no amount of flashy advertising can buy that sort of loyalty.
    Alas, the less educated or worldly-wise tend not to give a damn. Your average Darren,Tracy, and Chardonay (!) would rather gawp at Jordan’s t*ts and fake tan than do their jobs to an acceptable (to customers) standard.
    And,yes, every country has its fair share of rude,lazy, and arrogant workforce. I just seem to encounter them whenever I connect through the Gulf.But, I’m sure visitors to the UK find our workforce just as abrasive and unco-operative.I know I do.
    So, back to VIE, would it make more sense to get the train from Munich than fly into VIE?

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