Europe’s
Top 10 Airports

INTRODUCTION

Summer is nearly over and while millions of Europeans are set to return from their well-deserved vacations, they may need additional strength to brace the long lines and stressful travel on their journey home. Many airports struggle with passenger peaks in high-season, and that experience trickles down to the average passenger. In order to prevent a negative passenger experience and pick the optimal hubs for future trips, we examined Europe’s 30 largest airports (by passenger volume) and ranked them in terms of passenger experience, ranked according to a mix of factors ranging from location and transportation options to in-airport experience and flight network access. This is the First Annual Edition of the European Consumer Airport Index, seeking to rank Europe’s most passenger-friendly airports. We reached out to all of Europe’s Top 30 airports and asked for relevant data, but also found data in annual reports, online statistics, and conducted our own research to collect all necessary information.

RESEARCH NOTE

We strive to improve the quality of the underlying data of this index year by year and aim to refine its methodology moving forward. We sometimes faced contradictory information and indicators measured differently by different airports (e.g. number of destinations is sometimes shown as average destinations flown to throughout the year, sometimes includes charter destinations, and sometimes show the total destinations connected to in one year). We ask the readers of this index to acknowledge the difficulties working with heterogeneous data and caution users of this index to be aware of the underlying data complications. Overall Passenger-Friendliness Index (includes the above-mentioned indicators but also adds direct rail links from airport, availability of ride-hailing services, competition of airlines, on-site hotels, number of destinations, number of airlines, convenience in changing terminals):

OVERALL SCORE: TOP 10 AIRPORTS FOR PASSENGER-FRIENDLINESS IN EUROPE:

Rank Airport City Total Score
1 Brussels Airport Brussels 166.50
2 Zurich Airport Zürich 165.50
3 Düsseldorf Airport Düsseldorf 153
4 Adolfo Suárez  Madrid–Barajas Airport Madrid 151.5
5 Manchester Airport Manchester 150.5
6 Copenhagen Airport Copenhagen 150
7 Amsterdam Airport Schiphol Amsterdam 140.00
8 Stockholm Arlanda Airport Stockholm 135
9 Frankfurt am Main Airport Frankfurt 131.50
9 Munich Airport Munich 131.50
The European Passenger-Friendliness Ranking shows mainly northern European airports in the Top 10. Madrid Barajas is the only southern European airport among the ten best ranked airports and so far no eastern European airport made it in the Top 10. The lack of eastern European airports can also be explained by three Moscow airports being among Europe’s Top 30 airports in terms of passenger volume. The three best ranked airports Brussels, Zurich, and Duesseldorf all have between 25 and 32 million passengers per year and are merely the third of the size of Europe’s largest airports London Heathrow and Paris Charles De Gaulle. Neither of these made it into the Top 10 of our ranking.

    Some implications for passengers:

  • Starting a journey at one of the Top 10 airports promises more convenient travel to the airport and a good to great passenger experience at the airport. 
  • If you need to connect in Europe, hubs in northern Europe are more likely to provide a convenient connection than those in the south.
  • Size of an airport does not necessarily mean more convenience and better infrastructure. With Amsterdam and Frankfurt Airport just two of Europe’s five largest airports made it into the ten most convenient airports of our ranking.

RANKING OF THE LIKELIHOOD NOT TO BUS TO THE PLANE (MEASURED BY ‘NUMBER OF ANNUAL PASSENGERS BY JET BRIDGE’):

Rank Airport City PAX/Bridge
1 Brussels Airport Brussels 466,835
2 Adolfo Suárez  Madrid–Barajas Airport Madrid 478,440
3 Zurich Airport Zürich 501,830
4 Munich Airport Munich 513,929
5 Istanbul Airport Istanbul 524,475

Ranking of the proximity to City Center (in kilometers):

Rank Airport City Distance from  City Center
1 Dublin Airport Dublin 7
2 Lisbon Airport Lisbon 7
3 Düsseldorf Airport Düsseldorf 7
4 Copenhagen Airport Copenhagen 8
5 Palma de Mallorca Airport Palma de Mallorca 8

Choice of Airport Lounges (measured by ‘Number of total annual passengers per lounge’):

Airport City Rank # of Lounges pax per lounge
Heathrow Airport London 1 44 1,820,461
Zurich Airport Zürich 2 15 2,074,232
Vnukovo International Airport Moscow 3 9 2,386,498
Frankfurt am Main Airport Frankfurt 4 29 2,396,905
Vienna International Airport Vienna 5 11 2,457,935

Restaurant and Shopping experience (‘Number of annual passengers per Restaurants and Shops’):

Rank Airport City pax per shop/resto
1 Zurich Airport Zürich 171,897
2 Malpensa Airport Milan 177,881
3 Munich Airport Munich 192,723
4 Orly Airport Paris 207,004
5 Amsterdam Airport Schiphol Amsterdam 227,006

About the Authors

Fred Roeder (@FredCyrusRoeder) is a German Health Economist and Managing Director of the Consumer Choice Center. He has been consulting governments, non profits, and the private sector on economic reforms in two dozen countries with a strong focus on emerging markets and post-communist countries. Besides healthcare his research areas are transportation, telecommunication, and digital technologies. He is a board member of several technology companies in Europe and North America and on advisory boards of several nonprofits and for profit corporations. Yaël Ossowski (@YaelOss) is an international consumer advocate and writer. He’s currently deputy director for the Consumer Choice Center. Since 2010, he has worked as a journalist and grassroots organizer with activists around the world. He was previously Watchdog.org’s Florida Bureau Chief, chief Spanish translator, and national investigative reporter from 2012-2015. He is also a contributor to Metropole Magazine in Vienna and editor of Devolution Review. He has worked as a multimedia journalist globally, writing for outlets in dozens of states and even more countries arround the world.

METHODOLOGY

    Overall Methodology

    • The maximum possible score is 235 points.

    Distance from City Center

  • Gets an airport a maximum of 30 points.
  • A shorter ride from/to an airport allows shorter travel and hence allows to maximize your day at your destination.
    • <10km = 30 points
    • <15km = 22.5 points
    • <20km = 15 points
    • <25km = 10 points
    • <30km = 4 points
    • < 35km = 2 points
    • >35km = 0 points

    Ride-Hailing Availability

  • (Example apps such as Uber or BOLT that can be used to get picked up) gets an airport up to an additional 10 points. We have discounted this in cases where ride-sharing services are more expensive than licensed taxis

    Direct access to metro/light rail

  • Nets an airport additional 15 points.

    Direct access to National Rail

  • Nets an airport up to an additional 15 points (depending on how comprehensive these connections are).

    Passengers per Shops and Restaurants (total)

  • Can get an airport a maximum of 20 points. More shops and restaurants allow for more food and shopping choices.
    • <200k = 20 points
    • <250k = 15 points
    • <300k = 10 points
    • <400k = 4 points
    • <500k = 2 points
    • >500k = 0 points

    Passengers per Jet Bridge

  • Gets an airport a maximum of 40 points.
  • Jet Bridges allow passengers to board a plane directly from the terminal and replace an inconvenient walk over the tarmac or a longer bus ride to a off-gate parking position.
    • <500k = 40 points
    • <750k = 20 points
    • <1,000k = 10 points
    • >1,000k = 0 points

    Choice of Airlines (Market Share of leading Airline)

  • Can get up to 15 points.
  • The larger the market share of the leading airline (group) is the more they can dictate ticket fares.
  • Airports with healthy competition among airlines allow consumers more choice and tend to offer lower fares.
    • <25% = 15 points
    • <40% = 10 points
    • <55% = 5 points
    • >55% = 0 points

    Pax/Lounge

  • Can get an airport a maximum of 15 points.
  • More lounges allow usually shorter paths to the departing gate and indicate also more space for lounge visitors.
    • <2.5mn = 15 points
    • <5.0mn = 10 points
    • <7.5mn = 5 points
    • >7.5mn = 0 points

    Easy connection between gates and terminals

  • Can get an airport up to 15 points.
  • It can be very stressful to connect between terminals or even just gates within one terminal.
  • This indicator scores convenience during layovers and low barriers (e.g. not having to walk out of the terminal building, cross the street, and go through security again).

    On-site Airport Hotel

  • Can get an airport up to 10 points.
  • This depends on whether the hotel is directly at the airport or requires a long walk or very short shuttle ride.

    Number of Airlines

  • Can get an airport up to 15 points.
  • More airlines catering to the same airport usually leaves passengers with more choice, better departure times, and more destinations.
    • >80 = 15 points
    • >65 = 10 points
    • >50 = 5 points
    • <50 = 0 points

    Number of Destinations

  • Can get an airport up to 15 points.
  • More destinations usually mean more direct flights and thus less needed connections at another airport.
    • >225 = 15 points
    • >175 = 10 points
    • >125 = 5 points
    • <125 = 0 points

    Bonus Points for airports that:

  • Have a CBP Preclearance Facility allowing passengers to clear US customs before even boarding their trans-Atlantic flight = 10 points
  • Communicate their security wait times and have clear goals to keep these low/reduce these = 5 points
  • Have reported an on time performance (delay of less than 15 minutes) of >80% of their flights = 5 points
  • Have a clear Service Level Agreement on maximum immigration wait times

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