Airports are inherently chaotic. The general stress of travel already has everyone on edge, and some airports don’t help things much. They are poorly organized with worn-down terminals that come complete with threadbare carpeting, uncomfortable seating. depressing fluorescent lighting and an overall atmosphere straight from the 1980s — or earlier.
Luckily, some of the world's most uncomfortable hubs are scheduled for major upgrades in the coming years — a step that should improve the passenger experience. For a few terminals, however, it seems like it might be better to give up on the old venue entirely and simply start from scratch.
Here are eight major commercial airports that are desperately in need of an upgrade.
1. New York LaGuardia
LaGuardia is widely considered one of America's least user-friendly airports. People have become so skeptical of the New York City hub that even the announcement of a planned $4 billion renovation project has been met with criticism. Vice President Joe Biden got in on the complaining, saying that passengers who traveled through LaGuardia could be forgiven for thinking that they "must be in some third-world country."
What is so wrong with this East Coast hub? Built in pre-terror-alert days, the airport lacks enough room for modern security checkpoints. People have to push through a never-ending scrum to get from landside to airside. The terminal layout is disorganized and fractured. Aside from a couple of modest renovations, LaGuardia's halls seem straight out of the "Mad Men" era — think overused and outdated, not retro hip. According to Arch Daily, blueprints for the "new" LaGuardia show that it will still be lagging behind most of the world's other major airports in terms of design and user-friendliness.
2. São Paulo-Guarulhos
Despite receiving upgrades to handle passengers for the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, São Paulo's air hub is still known as one of the worst airports in Brazil. Just before last year's soccer tournament, Guarulhos scored worse than any other airport in Brazil in a nationwide passenger survey.
People cited poor customer service, overpriced food and costly Internet access as reasons for their low opinion of Guarulhos. Also, during the World Cup, international visitors without any Portuguese language skills found it difficult to get information in English. That is a huge negative for an airport that serves Brazil's largest city and most important economic hub. Other complaints call the terminals poorly lit, dirty and overcrowded. A new terminal, used by members of Star Alliance, has made things slightly better, but Guarulhos is still lagging far behind other major international hubs in terms of quality and user-friendliness.
3. Tribhuvan International
The Tribhuvan International domestic terminal. (Photo: calflier001/Wikimedia Commons)
Nepal is a relatively small country, so people probably don’t hold its main airport to the same standard as a major hub in, say, the U.S. or Western Europe. That said, Tribhuvan is dark, dirty and disorganized. These are bad traits considering the fact that Nepal relies so much on tourism. Airport renovations that were part of the 2011 campaign to improve the tourism infrastructure in the country still left a lot to be desired.
One of the biggest complaints, according to CNN (which named Tribhuvan one of the world's 10 worst airports), is the lack of a coherent security system. Rather than passing through a single checkpoint, passengers are subject to seemingly random baggage checks and hassled by security personnel from check-in through boarding. Perhaps even more concerning is the relatively high number of incidents, from bird strikes to weather-induced crashes, that occur at Tribhuvan.
4. Ninoy Aquino International
Manila's Aquino airport has endured plenty of bad buzz recently. The U.S. travel site Sleeping in Airports names Aquino one of the world's worst airports year after year. The Filipino press picked up on the niche site's criticism recently and amplified the negative buzz. Things got so embarrassing that the country's president actually apologized for one of the main issues at Aquino, the lack of functioning air conditioning.
NAIA, as it is called by locals, is old. Floor tiles are broken, check-in and security lines are unbelievably long, bathrooms are dirty, lighting is dim and the aforementioned air conditioning works sporadically. Aquino does have one redeeming trait: the army of airport staff that are on hand to politely usher passengers to where they need to go.
5. Paris Beauvais
Passengers gather in the boarding room at the Beauvais Tille Aeroport outside of Paris. (Photo: Sergio Calleja (Life is a trip)/flickr)
The problems with Beauvais Airport start even before passengers arrive. Officially, the airport is called "Beauvais Tille Aeroport." It is 53 miles outside of Paris, but airlines and travel agents refer to it as "Paris Beauvais" for marketing purposes. Some people arrive expecting to be in the French capital only to find that they need to make a long train or bus journey with their luggage to reach the city center.
Most of the flights into this airport are operated by low-cost carriers RyanAir and Wizz Air. Because of cramped gates and ticketing areas, a general rundown feel and a lack of user-friendliness, Beauvais has made several "worst of" lists recently — and some of the negative buzz can probably be blamed on the airlines that use Beauvais.
6. Murtala Muhammed International Airport
The exterior of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos, Nigeria. (Photo: afromusing/flickr)
Despite being a major hub in Africa's fastest growing city, the main airport in Lagos, Nigeria has suffered from some serious image problems. The airport is cooled by small air conditioning units, most of which don't work. Baggage handling can be extremely slow and some passengers still complain about "officials" demanding bribes for "missing" forms or vaccinations certificates, none of which are required.
The transportation site Jalopnik has called Muhammed International the world's worst major airport overall, saying that it is all-but-necessary to have a fixer to help you through the corruption and chaos.
7. Islamabad Benazir Bhutto International Airport
In response to almost universally poor ratings, Pakistan's third-largest airport, Bhutto International, undertook a major renovations project. The work was completed in early 2015, but that didn't solve the problem. Things were so bad that officials decided to scrap the airport altogether. There are currently plans to build a new airport in Islamabad to replace the current one. The new hub should be operational by 2016.
What makes Islamabad's current hub so bad? It's poorly laid out, so it always seems crowded, even when it's not. There is no coherent security strategy and multiple checkpoints, so passengers are virtually guaranteed some sort of hassle before they reach their gate. Instead of using scanners, some security checks involve going through luggage by hand. This past year, Sleeping in Airports named Bhutto International the worst airport in the world, citing not only the long lines, but the unusably dirty restrooms, lack of working climate controls and aggressive security staff.
8. Tan Son Nhat
Passengers check in for their flights at Tan Son Nhat International Airport (Photo: Daily Photos/Shutterstock)
People who followed the events in Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s are probably familiar with the name Tan Son Nhat. It was the main hub used by U.S. forces during the conflict between America and Vietnam. Despite opening up to the West in the 1990s and experiencing one of the world's most stunning turnarounds, Vietnam's economic capital still relies on aged Tan Son Nhat as its main hub.
Actually, some Tan Son Nhat passengers praise its central location, only a few miles from the center of the city, while others complain about the lack of crowd control outside of the entrance. The problem is that the city has grown up around the airport, so expansion is impossible. Tan Son Nhat is already operating near maximum capacity. The ever-increasing number of arrivals is expected cause an overload before a replacement airport, suburban Thanh Long International, can be built. Thanh Long is slated to go online in 2020.