What is the worst high-volume international airport in the U.S. or Europe?
(I made this restriction only because otherwise Narita or Mumbai win, and it is not interesting. Not trying to slight our Asian friends, but when it comes to bad airports, y'all are professionals. I am just interested in the amateur competition here. And, yes, I'm classifying Moscow--Sheremetyev as "Asian," for the same reason. Professional sucking is disqualified. Further, it is likely true that 3 or 4 of the top 5 BEST internatonal airports are in Asia, because they were built recently and rationally. So don't think I am disrespecting Asia. Except for Sydney. Sydney sucks. I am disrespecting Sydney, I admit.)
Ahem. Back to the contest: In my mind, it has to come down to Heathrow-London vs. JFK-New York. Yes, CDG-Paris is excruciating, the bus system in Frankfurt is appalling, and there are other candidates (Atlanta. What is up with baggage thing, for international travellers? What are they thinking?). But in terms of simple perverse construction and mistreatment, I don't think that the Ameri-Euro airports can hold a candle to the Heathrow -- JFK pairing. Here is a poll, in which JFK comes out on top as the bottom, the worst, the armpit, the place-where-if-the-world-got-the-runs-would-flood-first.
So, I mostly want to get your thoughts. But, I'll start:
1. JFK sucks worse. The tiny little separate terminals, blocked off by walls that are obviously recent additions to maximize walking distance. No departure or arrival monitors, anywhere. If you don't know what terminal you are headed for, you are S.O.L. Unbelievably clueless personnel (at least they are really, really rude, to make up for having no idea how to answer questions). Guaranteed wait times, either to pull up to your gate if you are arriving, or to leave your gate/taxi, if you thinkn you are leaving, of one hour if you are LUCKY. Very difficult to find the "Air Train," and in order to go anywhere you have to go outside the security zone. If you happen to go to the wrong terminal, you have to go BACK out of security, and through it again. I speak English (fairly well, and I certainly read it fine), and I get lost almost every time I visit this God-forsaken hellhole. Man, do I hate JFK.
2. Heathrow sucks worse. Clearly designed to maximize both distance and discomfort. Tiny little twisting corridors. In order to get to security, customs, or pretty much anything, you have to walk in circles, like waste matter circling the potty trap. It feels like you have to walk 3 or 4 kilometers, and if you look up you can see the place where you were 20 minutes ago. An airport should not seem like rock-climbing, but Heathrow manages to do that. Then...THEY DON'T ANNOUNCE THE FREAKIN' GATES! Sure, JFK doesn't have monitors. But Heathrow has monitors, but all they say is, "Please wait". If the ill-tempered Brit bureaucrat in charge of passenger torture that day is in a good mood, s/he will post your gate on the monitor a full 30 minutes before the flight leaves. Read that carefully: not 30 minutes before it boards; 30 minutes before it LEAVES. And, of course, international flights board starting 40 minutes before departure. And the gates at Heathrow are divided into sections: 1-40 here, 41-73 here, and 73-89 here. With each "here" being 300 meters apart, with no moving sidewalk to speed your fat ass with 60 pounds of carry-ons to get there. That is if you are lucky enough to be in the correct terminal. Now, this is only a problem on international flights...BUT England is a fleck of fly poop on the world map; EVERY FLIGHT AT HEATHROW IS INTERNATIONAL! Lord, Heathrow sucks.
So...JFK vs. Heathrow, class. Discuss.
(And, seriously, don't give me any fuss about Mumbai, Narita, Manila, or Sheremetyev. Of COURSE they are worse. But they have lost their amateur status).