World’s Best Performing Large Airports

Just as Skytrax, a popular airlines and airports ranking website, stated that Seoul’s Incheon International Airport was awarded the best 2009 international airport rating, an annual study recently released by the Air Transport Research Society (ATRS) ranks a number of airports around the world in terms of their overall performance, based on: 1) Productivity and Efficiency, 2) Unit Cost Competitiveness and 3) User Charge Levels.

The 2009 study titled “Key Results of the 2009 ATRS Global Airport
Performance Benchmarking Project
” covers 142 airports and 16 airport groups spread over the U.S. and Canada, Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zeeland. The study is ongoing, as the author, Prof. Tae Oum, of the University of British Columbia, and president of ATRS, is seeking additional data from benevolent and reliable sources to include more airports.

In 2009, as far as large* international airports are concerned, the following airports received an award for their efficiency in three categories:

1) Global Airport Efficiency Excellence Award: Atlanta International
2) Europe Airport Efficiency Excellence Award: Copenhagen International
3) Asia-Pacific Airport Efficiency Excellence Award: Hong Kong International and Brisbane International

*Large airports are those that, for the statistical year 2007-2008, handled 15 million passengers or more on an annual basis. Passengers included in the statistics are both international and domestic.

The awards listed above point to overall airport management efficiency, including service levels to passengers.

The data used in selecting large airports for the ATRS 2009 awards do not explicitly take into account extraneous factors such as commuting times to and from airports, aircraft traffic noise levels in the vicinity of airports, environmental impact and other such ‘soft’ factors from an economic viewpoint.

One can only hope that other studies and awards will cast a broader net – not an easy task by all means – and include factors affecting the airports’ surrounding population.

As the ATRS annual study indicates, its focus is mainly on airport performance.

The study does mention in passing that Toronto International (Lester B. Pearson Airport) has been observed as one of the major airports charging some of the highest user fees. The study also mentions that user fees should be matched to service levels and stops short of making any value judgment about Toronto International or other airports included in its analysis. In general terms, the aim of ATRS is to foster the exchange of ideas and data, in a multi-disciplinary context, that will lead to optimum airport management and efficiency for the benefit of airport authorities, airlines and passengers.

There are a number of other organizations who post online rankings of world airports, Skytrax referred to above being one of them and airliners.net yet another popular one.  Needless to say, one should exercise caution when comparing ranking organizations with one another. The easy way to a quick answer about airports that consistently rank high is to check all of these known sources and check for results.

Hong Kong International and Madrid Barajas International keep coming up at the top of such lists, along with a number of airports that did not make it to close to the top in the ATRS study linked above.

Different methodology, different aims and different analytical resources, each and all account for sometimes widely different rankings.

What we need perhaps is a website that ranks airport ranking websites.  😉

Heck, there are a lot of very good international airports, big or small. Should I had brag about my nearby Halifax Stanfield International Airport? I would have every reason to. Simply remember the amazing job they did of accepting countless diverted airliners inbound to the U.S. on 9/11, on a very short notice.


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