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The World's Worst Lines at the World's Worst Airports

June 1, 2012 at 9:54 AM | by | ()

There's something jarring about partaking in the miracle of heavier-than-air flight, of literally dining in a chair in the sky as you fly across an ocean, and then - upon arriving at your destination in mere hours - having to stand in some horrible airport's interminable passport control line. Really? We can build commercial jets that break the sound barrier but we can't figure out how to efficiently stamp people's passports?

Here's a list of three of the worst wait time offenders. We're hoping that - all other options having been exhausted - maybe sustained public shaming will get through to them. Two are in so-called Alpha++ and Alpha+ global cities, so you'd think they'd try something now and again, and one is in West Africa, because we just can't get over how bad it is.

If you ask some of the world's most experienced travelers to list the world's worst airports, you're liable to wind up with London's Heathrow at the top (bottom?). Just today we ran down how LHR's disaster with wait times is inching toward being funny in a gallows humor kind of way. This is an airport where the frustration is so high that officials have to put up signs reminding travelers not to verbally abuse airport personnel. It's also an airport that recently missed all its targets - every single one - for processing incoming travelers in a timely way. There's at least a theory under which those two things are related.

Meanwhile a diverse mix of publications - spanning the spectrum from Lonely Planet to the San Francisco Chronicle to CNN - routinely rank Paris's Charles de Gaulle as the worst major airport in the world, which is something we've been hammering since Jaunted's earliest days. CDG takes all of Heathrow's faults - decaying architecture, crowded terminals, etc - and then mixes in aggressively rude and almost deliberately unhelpful French officials. The upshot is that not only will you stand in line for hours in the midst of crumbling walls, but at the end you may very well find out you've been waiting in the wrong line.

Of course neither London or Paris compare to Nigeria's Lagos Airport. Waiting in line for hours is one thing. Waiting in line for hours without air conditioning in a West African summer while armed guards patrol the terminal with "shoot on sight" orders, lest travelers be heckled or robbed or worse, is quite another. The airport also has a problem with officials who demand bribes in exchange for letting people enter the country unmolested. The thought is enough to almost make you long for Heathrow or de Gaulle. Almost.

[Photo: luisvilla / Flickr]

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