The Best and Worst Airports for Queueing Times, According to Passenger Reviews
Airport queues: the bane of every traveler’s existence.
Whether you’re a seasoned globetrotter or an occasional flier, you’ve probably experienced the frustration of waiting in long airport lines. Queuing is a common occurrence at every stage of the passenger experience; check-in, baggage drop, screening, border control, gate delays, baggage pickup, customs.
One of the primary reasons for airport queues is the continuous growth in air travel. Over the years, the aviation industry has witnessed a substantial rise in passenger numbers. According to Statista, the number of scheduled passengers boarded by the global airline industry rose from 1.9 billion passengers in 2004 to 4.7 billion in 2020 at the height of travel before the pandemic.
Following two years of lockdown restrictions, airlines and airports worldwide struggled to meet the post-pandemic demand of 2022, resulting in a significant influx of travelers and leading to delays and bottlenecks in the form of long queues.
However, some terminals are busier than others. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International in the U.S. consistently ranks as the world’s busiest airport, handling over 93.6 million passengers in 2022 alone. And in most cases, crowds = queues.
Though the travel and tourism industry has yet to return to its pre-pandemic peak, a recent report from the World Travel and Tourism Council found that the industry has recovered to 95% of what its market size was in 2019.
So, with passenger numbers set to continue increasing, this got us thinking: which airports across the world are the best and worst for queueing times?
What We Did
Individual airports and countries were separately ranked on having the highest percentage of reviews for airport queuing times with a 4 or 5 star rating.
The research also reveals which nationalities complain the most about airport queues, based on identifying the home nation of each passenger who gave the review and ranking nations on the lowest percentage of reviews with a 4 or 5 star rating.
- Singapore Changi Airport is the world’s best for queueing times (74.50% of passengers rate the queuing times either 4 or 5 stars)
- The world’s worst airport for queuing is Grenoble Alpes Isère Airport in France (just 1.59% of reviews are 4 or 5 stars)
- Four U.S. airports, including Southwest Florida Intl. Airport (66.67%) and Portland Intl. Airport (61.29%) are among the world’s best for queuing
- The UK is home to three of Europe’s worst-rated, London Stansted Airport (8.88%), London Luton Airport (9.48%) and Belfast Intl. Airport (10.53%)
- People from Malta leave the fewest positive reviews (21.21% of 4 or 5 stars) while Estonian reviewers are the least likely to complain (55.17% reviews are 4 or 5 stars)
- Jamaica is the worst country in the world for airport lines – local airports are only rated positively by passengers 6.25% of the time
Singapore Changi Airport is the World’s Best for Queuing Times
Though planning and traveling can be stressful, those traveling to or from Singapore Changi Airport are set for a smooth experience. Despite being one of the largest transportation hubs in Asia and repeatedly ranking as one of the world’s busiest airports, Changi Airport has consistently been rated as the “World’s Best Airport” by Skytrax a dozen times. It has also been rated as one of the world’s cleanest airports, something which is regularly referenced in its passenger reviews.
Adding to its accolades, our analysis shows that Changi Airport is the world’s best airport for queueing times, with 74.50% of passengers rating the queuing times either 4 or 5 stars. One 5-star reviewer said: “Despite it being large I generally find it takes 20 minutes from gate to taxi which is exceptional.”
Singapore may take the crown overall but U.S. airports dominate the results, with four among the world’s best for queuing: Southwest Florida Intl. Airport (66.67%), Portland Intl. Airport (61.29%), Detroit Metro Airport (57.89%) and Tampa Intl. Airport (57.45%).
France is Home to Four of the World’s Worst Airports for Queuing
Though a certain level of queuing is unavoidable, especially during peak travel times, some airports have longer lines than others. Dominating the results, France is home to four of the lowest-rated airports when it comes to queueing times.
While Grenoble Alpes Isère Airport is the worst of all, with just 1.59% of reviews earning a 4 or 5 stars, Bordeaux Airport (7.01%), Paris-Beauvais Airport (8.77%) and Lyon-Saint Exupéry Airport (11.11%) all make the top 20.
Paris-Beauvais Airport is one of three airports (along with Charles de Gaulle and Orly) serving the City of Light. Taking its name from the nearby town of Beauvais, BVA resides roughly 50 miles outside of Paris, which means even longer transfer times. Despite this, the airport still registered 2,066,899 passengers in 2021, likely due to its low-cost fares. Being a smaller airport still with an influx of visitors could explain its long queue times.
Elsewhere in Europe, the United Kingdom holds three places on the list of airports with the worst queueing times, including London Stansted Airport (8.88%), London Luton Airport (9.48%) and Belfast International Airport (10.53%).
Stansted Airport – the fourth busiest airport in the country – served 23,290,097 passengers across 176,914 flights in 2022 alone. That same year, the airport repeatedly made headlines for its lengthy queues and waiting times. A survey conducted by Which? revealed it as the UK’s eighth ‘worst’ airport for average reported security queue times, with passengers waiting in security lines for an average of eighteen minutes. This is probably why 8.88% of reviewers awarded it 4 or 5 stars.
United States Airports the Best for Queues in North America
More than 853 million passengers flew with U.S. airlines in 2022, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. And while that’s a lot of people navigating through terminals and customs, passenger ratings report streamlined queues and short waits in many of its airports.
Led by Southwest Florida Intl. Airport (66.67% of 4- or 5-star reviews), each of the best-rated airports for queueing times in North America resides in the U.S. The airport covers 13,555 acres, making it the third-largest airport in the United States in terms of land. Though when it comes to the number of flights and passengers, Southwest Florida Intl isn’t as busy as some of the major airports in the States. This along with its ‘easy navigation’ and ‘efficient security’, are likely contributors to those 4 and 5 star ratings.
Elsewhere, with just 3.23% of 4 or 5 star reviews, passengers rate the waiting times at the Sangster Intl. Airport in Jamaica as the worst on the continent.
While it serves as the most popular airport for tourists visiting the north coast of Jamaica, passenger reviews tell of the poor experience when it comes to delays and hold ups at check-in. One reviewer reported: “We waited for 49 min in the line (only 3 counters were available). Terrible check in experience. One member of our party who was in a wheel chair had to wait for 20 min”.
Three UK Airports Among Europe’s Worst-Rated for Queue Times
Though recent news reports that Belgrade Airport is ‘still struggling with long queues’ when it comes to passenger reviews about waiting times, the Serbian airport is rated the highest in Europe with 66.67% of passengers awarding 4 or 5 stars.
The quality of service is frequently mentioned within its reviews, which no doubt contributed to it being named Europe’s best airport for quality of service by the Airports Council International (ACI) in 2021. In 2023, the award was renewed and the airport picked up another title for the friendliest airport and the most committed team.
Of its waiting times, one reviewer said: “Very fast and efficient. Not large but enough for required traffic. Easy to navigate. Even during rush hours, you don’t need more then 20 minutes for check in and boarding and for arrival is even quicker.”
Grenoble Alpes Isère Airport (1.59%) in France, is Europe’s – and the world’s – worst airport for queuing. The airport’s passenger traffic largely consists of those seeking out winter leisure activities. But the popularity of the skiing season results in a crowded airport and long lines. One reviewer summarized: “Far too understaffed and a woefully ineffective queuing system. It took us ages to collect our luggage when we arrived too (over 1.5 hours after clearing customs, which took an hour to get through).”
Coming in second is Berlin Brandenburg Airport (5.73%) in Germany. And, while it’s said the world over that British people love a good queue, three UK airports also rank as the continent’s worst-rated for airport lines. Among them is London Stansted Airport (8,88%) which seemingly still struggles with queues, despite opening a new arrivals terminal worth £130m in 2020 to ease congestion.
Asian Airport, Singapore Changi, is Continent’s and World’s Best
According to an IATA report, by 2036, Asia is expected to produce an additional 2.1 billion passengers per year and account for 40% of the world’s airliner production – making it a crucial component in the continued success of the aviation industry. But which airports make the grade when it comes to efficiency and queueing times?
Singapore Changi Airport is renowned for its great service, so much so that in 2023, it was named the “world’s best airport” by Skytrax, for a record 12th time. It also claims the top spot in our rankings, both continent- and world-wide, thanks to an impressive 74.50% of reviews rated 4 or 5 stars.
Elsewhere in Asia, passengers at Kuwait Intl. Airport in Kuwait are no strangers to waiting around. With just 11.11% of reviews achieving that 4 or 5 star mark, passengers rate this airport the worst in Asia for queuing times. While other areas such as food and service are rated positively, its slow boarding earned it second place in the world’s worst airport round-up in 2019 by AirHelp.
Passengers from Malta and the U.S. Most Likely to Complain About Queues
A study by Washington State University looked into the relationship between frequent travel, happiness and well-being. They surveyed 500 people and found that those who traveled several times a year were 7% happier than those who rarely traveled. The study authors added that people who travel often reported being generally more satisfied with their lives.
That’s not to say that traveling is stress-free. And nothing dampens the holiday spirit like waiting in long airport queues. But where in the world do people complain about them the most?
We analyzed the home nations of people leaving positive ratings about airport queuing times. We can reveal that passengers from Malta leave the fewest positive reviews – with just 21.21% of their ratings are either 4 or 5 stars. Closely followed by the U.S. (24.96%) whose negative reviews may be down to airports in their own country being so efficient.
If you’re an airport worker longing for a positive review, you might hope for Estonian passengers. These reviewers are the least likely to complain about queues, leaving positive ratings about airport queues more than half (55.17%) of the time.
Jamaica is the Worst Country of All for Queuing Times
Several factors contribute to airport waiting times – volume of passengers, flight delays, adverse weather conditions, to name a few. And while queueing is expected at some stage of your journey, wherever you are headed, there are some destinations which are more or less favorable if you want to maximize your time spent on holiday.
For example, if you want to avoid queuing as much as possible, you might want to avoid Jamaica, where passengers leave 4 or 5 star reviews just 6.25% of the time – the lowest proportion of any country in the world. A combination of under-staffing and a huge increase in tourists are factors of the lengthy lineups and delays experienced at Montego Bay’s Sangster International Airport.
With slightly more positive reviews, though still fewer than most, airports in Kuwait (11.11%), Cuba (12.50%) and Nepal (12.90%) are also amongst the worst for queuing.
How to Beat Airport Queues
Biometric identification (verifying a person’s identity via fingerprints, facial recognition or iris scans) is fast becoming the technology of choice at airports worldwide, despite concerns around its algorithm biases and how it plans to use people’s data.
One of its selling points is the speed and accuracy at which it can screen passengers, cutting processing time for typical airport procedures in half. But while queueing may not be completely unavoidable – whether humans or machines screen us – there are a few things you can do to minimize the time spent waiting in airports:
- Use Online Check-In – Take advantage of online check-in services. This allows you to check-in for your flight and get your boarding pass in advance, usually 24 hours before departure. By checking in online, you can skip the check-in counter and head straight to security or bag drop (if you have luggage to check).
- Apply for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry – If you frequently travel within the United States, consider applying for TSA PreCheck. For international travelers, Global Entry is an excellent option. These traveler programs offer expedited security screening, which means shorter queues and not having to remove shoes, laptops, liquids, belts, and light jackets at security checkpoints.
- Arrive Early or Late – Try to book flights that depart during less busy times. Early morning and late-night flights generally have fewer passengers, resulting in shorter check-in, security, and boarding queues.
- Use Priority Lanes – Some airlines offer priority lanes for their premium customers, such as business or first-class passengers, frequent flyers, or passengers with specific credit card memberships. If you have access to these priority lanes, you can significantly reduce your wait time at security and immigration.
Methodology & Sources
To discover which airports are the best and worst for passenger queuing times, we analyzed passenger reviews about queuing times rated on a scale of 1 star to 5 stars on airlinequality.com, taking into consideration only airports with 20 or more passenger reviews.
To rank the nationalities which complain the most about queuing, we considered the home nation listed by the reviewer.
To rank countries on their general ratings for queuing times, we combined all passenger ratings of airports per country into a single aggregated score.
Airports, nationalities and countries were all ranked by what percentage of reviews rated them as 4 or 5 stars.
This analysis is correct as of July 2023.