London Heathrow "worse than Calcutta": secret airport industry rankings

By John Walton, March 31 2011
London Heathrow

A leaked set of confidential reports from Airports Council International -- the insider trade association for airports -- has ranked Heathrow airport in 99th place among the world's 146 main airports, reportedly behind the airport in Kolkata (Calcutta).

The secret surveys, obtained by The Times of London, were carried out by the airports trade body using passenger questionnaires, and are never usually made public. 

The confidential top ten list is generally unsurprising, although there are three airports that stand out as odd to be included. The full list:

  1. Singapore Changi
  2. Seoul Incheon
  3. Hong Kong
  4. Al Ain 
  5. Beijing Capital
  6. Shanghai Pudong
  7. Seoul Gimpo
  8. Jackson, Mississippi, USA
  9. Humberside, UK
  10. Kuala Lumpur

The anomalies of three tiny airports scoring so highly are bound to raise questions about how many people filled out the questionnaire in each airport, and how reliable the survey is as a result:

  • Al Ain is a tiny airport in the United Arab Emirates -- don't confuse it with Dubai or Abu Dhabi -- with flights only Afghanistan, India, Jordan, Pakistan, Qatar and Sudan.
  • Jackson, Mississippi is another small airport, with only ten destinations (all within the USA) served by just a handful of airlines.
  • Humberside, near Hull in the northeast of England, is equally miniscule, and has only two non-seasonal flights (to Aberdeen and Amsterdam), with the rest low-cost and charter airlines to holiday destinations. 

The leaking of the secret reports have come the same day that airline and airport rating organisation Skytrax announced its own airport ratings, including changes to the top of the "best airport" listings.

John Walton

Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.

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