Airport Comparison – Beijing, HK and Mumbai

Well, I had the pleasure of going through three airports twice during the same week (last week).

My rating is as follows, I am giving the ratings at the beginning of my post to avoid any doubts, or delays in scrolling down, et al :

Hong Kong #1
Mumbai #2
Beijing #3

Hong Kong Airport is clearly ahead, with world-class facilities, amazing shopping malls, clear signages, neat wash rooms, fantastic layout, and friendly staff, though not always able to understand when we speak a different kind of English, but still smiling and seeking to clarify things.

Mumbai Airport has got a very good upgrade from where it was just couple of years ago, still some way to go in terms of being able to handle the volume of passengers. It has good shopping now, fast processing (even better than Hong Kong) at Check-in counters and Immigration counters, and improved signs all around to direct passengers. However, it still lacks the cleanliness in the washrooms, broad alleys when you get out of the gates, lack of vestibules to directly get you into the airport, delays while disembarking passengers from flights, long queues at Immigration upon arrival, etc., Delays at Immigration Counters are much less these days with fast clearances, and even faster processing for passengers with long-term / life-long visas. There is no longer any delays at Customs as well, just being a formality of getting the bags thro’ X-ray machines and walk out. There is ofcourse confusion while boarding taxis which they have to urgently improve.

Beijing is a confusing airport, one has to be really careful to arrive much earlier and navigate the difficult airport. It is a large airport, no doubt. But the English-speaking counter staff at check-in are few and far between, and they have to go and get a manager to even make a small change. No freedom, I guess.

To reach the departing terminal, one needs to take a train which takes 3 minutes, and I don’t understand why they separated Check-in from Immigration and Security – may be the building design. The Immigration clearance takes an inordinately long time, unless you join what is called the “Emergency Queue” with some reason. There are no questions at the Immigration, just processing of the passport/visa and repeated look at one’s face ! Then you go thro’ a slow security check, takes long time due to the long queues, and then you are out into airport shopping area which did not impress me at all. Overall, the Beijing Airport is an impersonal, confusing, cavernous, and difficult airport to navigate around. It is critical to reach the gate on time due to the crowds which look bigger than in other airports.

Well, there you go……Hong Kong is still the airport to beat.


Vijay Srinivasan
24th July 2010


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