Heathrow is ‘inferior to Calcutta’

Heathrow, widely known as one of the busiest airports in the world, is also one of the least popular with travellers, according to a report produced by the Airports Council International (ACI). The document, which was leaked to a number of newspapers, revealed that the London hub is not as attractive to passengers as Calcutta Airport in India, Moscow Airport in Russia, and Amsterdam Schiphol in Holland.

The ACI’s poll is an annual event, but the results are usually kept private. The only people who are allowed to see the report are involved with the airports themselves, such as the leaders of the British Airports Authority (BAA). ACI spokeswoman, Nancy Gautier, told the Sydney Morning Herald that the survey is paid for by the 146 airports featured in the rankings. The data is used to gauge levels of customer satisfaction.

Heathrow’s miserable performance can be attributed to its poor “ambience”, which likely refers to the overall quality of the environment inside the hub, and the long queues at security checkpoints. Frequent closures in December and ongoing capacity problems at the airport have also had a detrimental effect on Heathrow’s popularity.

In response to the ACI poll, BAA representative, Andrew Teacher, claimed that two-thirds of travellers are in fact, delighted with the London hub. “The facts show Heathrow as the second-best airport in Europe.” Mr. Teacher’s comments are at odds with previous airport surveys, which saw Heathrow voted the worst hub for delays in 2007, the worst for shopping in 2010, and the rather more ignominious title, worst airport on earth, in 2007, 2008, and 2009. Coming in at 99th in the ACI’s poll of world airports seems like an achievement in comparison.

The BAA can at least take solace in knowing that Heathrow is more popular than Frankfurt Airport in Germany (126th place), Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport in France (137th), and Melbourne Airport in Australia (104th). The BAA’s other hub in London, Stansted, took 111th place, behind Gatwick in 106th position. At the other end of the scale, Singapore Changi, which won 25 awards in 2010 alone, is the world’s favourite airport, closely followed by Seoul Incheon Airport in South Korea, and Hong Kong International in China.

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