Six airports with bad reputations that have greatly improved (and three that haven't)

Sydney's international airport has some new shops, so I guess you'd have to say it has improved. Melbourne's Tullamarine, too, has had extensive renovations in the last few years, and so is technically better than it used to be.

But it's hard to get excited about Australian airports when there's still no train connection to the city (Melbourne), and when the domestic and international terminals are so mind-bogglingly far apart (Brisbane, Sydney, Perth). And it's difficult to believe that the introduction of high-end shops such as Tiffany and Armani are improvements when so few of us ever shop there.

Some airports, however, have genuinely improved. Some were always great and are now greater. Some are former hellholes that are now so much better they would be unrecognisable to those who haven't visited in a while.

Timelapse: Inside the world's best airport

A day in the life of Singapore's Changi Airport, one of the world's busiest, portrayed in a stunning timelapse. Video: Changi Airport Group

If you're flying through any of these hubs in the near future, you're in for a pleasant surprise.

LAX

This has historically been one of my least favourite airports in the world – but I have to admit, it's getting better. A lot better. More than $US515 million has been spent upgrading LAX, which includes the creation of the Tom Bradley International terminal, a spanking new facility with great restaurants, modern facilities, good shops, upgraded security checkpoints, and automated baggage inspection  (take a look at the highlights in the gallery above). It runs smoothly. It's pleasant to visit. Now to bring the rest of the airport into line …

See also: Here's what you can do during a layover at the new and improved LAX

Singapore Changi

Aerial view of Jewel Changi Airport. Changi Jewel, Singapore.? Stroy by Stephen Clark life & Leisure.

Going to show that an airport doesn't have to suck to improve, I present to you, Singapore Changi, the best airport in the world, which just got better. Last year saw the opening of Terminal 4, a passenger facility the size of 27 football fields that features a "heritage hub", as well as 62 new shops and 19 restaurants. But, of course, this is Changi, so more is on the way: the Jewel project (above), a multi-use facility that links three terminals and features the world's largest indoor waterfall, an entire rainforest, a hedge maze, and a retail mall with 280 shops. It's due to open next year.

KLIA

tra6-online-airports most improved airports
KLIA 2, Kuala Lumpur / Malaysia - 10.27.2017 : KLIA2 International Airport Sepang Kuala Lumpur Malaysia

Photo: Shutterstock

If you remember the bad old days of the "LCCT", Kuala Lumpur's Low-Cost Carrier Terminal, where budget aircraft dropped you off at what was basically a glorified cow shed, then you'll rejoice at the sight of KLIA2 (above), the world's largest purpose-built budget carrier terminal. This cavernous space isn't exactly luxurious – and why should it be? – but it is a vast improvement on the old facility, and it makes the typically long layovers here bearable. It's also connected directly to KL Sentral station by high-speed train.

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Istanbul Ataturk

This Sept. 23, 2018, photo, shows an aerial view of Istanbul's new airport ahead of its opening. The first phase of the airport, one of Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's major construction projects, is scheduled to be inaugurated on Oct. 29, 2018 when Turkey celebrates Republic Day. The massive project, has been mired in controversy over worker's rights and environmental concerns amid a weakening economy. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel) Istanbul new airport

Istanbul New Airport is now operating. Photo: AP

The most improved thing about the notoriously painful Ataturk Airport is the fact that you'll no longer have to fly into or out of Ataturk Airport. Istanbul's main hub has been supplanted by an all-singing, all-dancing new facility called Istanbul New Airport, which commenced limited operation a few days ago, and will be properly up and running from the beginning of next year. The new airport is one of the biggest in the world, and will take the code "IST" from Ataturk in 2019. If you're flying through Turkey, prepare for a much more comfortable experience.

Nadi, Fiji

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Nadi airport upgrade, June 2018

Photo: Rob Rickman

Nadi used to be the worst. It had a cramped space with barely any seating, a couple of very average takeaway food joints, a few dinky souvenir stands, and that was in. The aircon often didn't work properly. It was a blessing to get out of there and into a long metal tube. This year, however, the airport unveiled its $FJ129 million refurbishment, a new international facility with a much higher ceiling, more lounges, improved food options, an additional baggage carousel, and a new airconditioning system. Happy days.

Rome Fiumicino

tra6-online-airports most improved airports
Modern Airport Terminal Interior Of Rome Fiumicino International Airport in Italy - July, 2018

Photo: Shutterstock

Rome's main airport used to resemble much of Rome itself: dilapidated, though without any of the old city's charm. Last year, however, the airport opened up a shiny new international departures area with modern furnishings (some that are actually comfortable), fancy shops, and restaurants that reflect the gastronomic traditions of this amazing city, with pizza and pasta that you'd actually want to eat, and even an Ajisen ramen shop. Molto bene.

COMING SOON…

The improvements that are on their way

LaGuardia

New York's LaGuardia, aka The Worst Airport in The World, is currently undergoing a major overhaul, a complete reconstruction that will cost more than $US2.4 billion, and will hopefully make it at least not terrible.

Beijing Daxing

Beijing's new airport is due to open next year and will feature one of the largest passenger terminals in the world. If you're flying China Eastern or China Southern, expect to call through here.

Berlin Brandenburg

Berlin: great city, terrible airports. Tegel and Schonefeld are notoriously old and tired; however, by 2021 the city will have a new facility, Brandenburg, a multi-billion-euro airport adjacent to Schonefeld.

Long Thanh International

Ho Chi Minh City is finally getting a new airport: Long Thanh, which will be located 40 kilometres to the east of the city and is due to open in 2025.

HALL OF SHAME

The airports that could really use some improvement

Dubai International Airport

People sleeping in airport, Dubai.

Photo: Shutterstock

Given how amazingly good the Emirates airline is, and how obsessed Dubai is with having the biggest and best of everything, you would expect the city's airport to be top-class. And yet, it isn't.

Bangkok Suvarnabhumi

Bangkok International Suvarnabhumi Airport, where the incident took place.

Photo: Jon Reid

This is a huge and very busy airport – too busy, in fact. Suvarnabhumi has been operating above capacity for years now, and yet still has a baffling lack of simple services like food and beverage outlets.

London Stansted

Still not sure how Stansted gets away with calling itself a London airport, given its location almost 30 kilometres north of the M25, the British capital's major ring road. You almost need another flight to get to where you're going.

What do you think are the most improved airports in the world? Are there any you think need major improvement? How do Australia's hubs stack up?

Email: b.groundwater@fairfaxmedia.com.au

Instagram: Instagram.com/bengroundwater 

See also: The world's best airport named for 2018 named

See also: Where to find the world's best airport shopping

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