Business Maverick


Cape Town International ranked third-best airport in the world

Cape Town International ranked third-best airport in the world
Cape Town International Airport. (Photo: Flickr)

London’s Gatwick Airport is the world’s third worst, based on metrics like being on time, what customers think of them and the food and shopping experience.

What makes an airport great? Like much in life, it’s not a case of more being more (as impressive as Saudi’s King Fahd, Singapore’s Changi or Turkey’s Istanbul airports might be), it’s ultimately down to three factors: being on time, what your customers think of you, and the food and shopping experience. 

Cape Town International might be small fry compared with some of the world’s more impressive airports, but it has just been ranked third best in the world, out of 194 of the biggest and best-known airports.

The latest AirHelp Score for 2023 looked at flights taken from 1 January to 30 September 2023, and whittled down a list of 4,000 airports in their database to 194, based on flight traffic data and reports from air travellers. 

AirHelp, a claims management company, assists passengers in getting compensation from airlines when their flights are cancelled, delayed or overbooked. It professes to help passengers receive up to $700 compensation, no matter the ticket price, on a no-win, no-fee basis. Fees are deducted from the compensation they win for passengers: the standard fee is 35%, or 50% if a case goes to court.

These are the deciding factors in its airport ranking: 

On-time performance, which contributes 60% of the score, is defined as any flight that arrives within 15 minutes of its published arrival time. Data is cross-referenced with a variety of reliable sources such as government agencies, airport data, flight-tracking vendors and historical resources. The higher the score out of 10, the higher the percentage of on-time flights.

Customer opinion

Customer opinion contributes 20% of the score. This was assessed through a survey of 15,800 air travellers in more than 58 countries.

Travellers were asked to assess the airports they had most recently visited, based on airport staff, waiting times, accessibility and cleanliness, on a scale from “very good” to “very bad”.

Food and shops

The food and shops component contributes 20% of the score. Here, too, customers were asked to rate each airport on a scale from “very good” to “very bad”.


The top airport in the world is Oman’s Muscat International, followed by Brazil’s Recife-Guararapes International and Cape Town International. 

Japan and Brazil each have three locations on the Top 10 list of best global airports, while the US has three in the top 50: Minneapolis-St Paul International (at No. 13), Seattle-Tacoma International (No. 34) and Detroit Metropolitan Airport Wayne County (No. 38).

Europe’s best is Bilbao Airport in Spain, with a ranking of 8.04/10.

Oceania’s is Christchurch International Airport (8.02/10) and South America’s is Recife/Guararapes-Gilberto Freyre International Airport (8.49/10). 

The worst

Banjarmasin Syamsudin Noor International Airport in Indonesia, followed by Malta International, London Gatwick, Lisbon’s Humberto Delgado Airport, Belgrade’s Nikola Tesla Airport, and Denpasar International in Bali, Indonesia. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Andy Macdonald says:

    Ridiculous opinion motivated by lifestyle zeitgeist . The airport must be one of the most dangerous in the world … Its immediate setting is such that travellers are liable to be attacked/robbed/hijacked…

    • Jeff Lawson says:

      Ha Ha great minds sir ….

    • G. Strauss says:

      I absolutely agree that safe and secure accessibility should rank very high among criteria for judging an airport experience, a hellhole at the best of times. CT airport must certainly count among the worse in terms of accessibility and safety. Once you’re there, it’s not that bad. And the parking garages are a complete disaster – poorly lit, lack of staff and information, not enough pay stations and ridiculously expensive.

  • Jeff Lawson says:

    Nice airport – if you don’t get stoned, hijacked or worse on the way in or out ……

  • Lee Richardson says:

    International arrivals at Cape Town is like going back 3 decades

  • Lfcscally says:

    Did any of the folk on here disagreeing with this read the article or just the headline. If you’ve got a problem with the article then highlight its weaknesses rather than just rhetoric. I’ve been using the airport on and off for over 25 years and it’s vastly improved since 1997 when I first flew in.

    • Lee Richardson says:

      I passed through international arrivals earlier this year and was gobsmacked at the shambolic state of it. This was after travelling through world-class european airports, but still. It was dark and dingy. No information. Everything broken. Rusty trolleys. Bored staff. Appalling

  • How can you compare Gatwick to Cape Town? Gatwick has more flights taking off and arriving an hour than Cape Town does in a day! As someone else said dont hire a car and go wrong leaving the airport, you might not make it far!

  • Alison Immelman Immelman says:

    And your Uber won’t meet you at arrivals because it’s too dangerous, with precious few airport employees to guide you to departures.

    • Ed Rybicki says:

      Huh?! Ubers meet you at the e-hailing pickup point in Parking 2, very efficiently (used to be Parking 1). And why would anyone need directions to departures? It’s all very well labelled?

  • William Dryden says:

    What annoys me and is never mentioned, is that ACSA because they cannot control theft from luggage checked in, one now has to pay to have their baggage wrapped at a cost (recently 1 item is R100 at PE airport) why must we pay, ??? ACSA should provide the service for free.

  • Pet Bug says:

    O dear.
    ACSA is going to milk this nonsense- the CTIA international arrivals and departure halls need a complete rebuild.
    The arrivals has a duty free hole in the wall, dark and uninviting. Then you hit the sulking staff and the dreary baggage claim while falling over arbitrary signs and stuff standing in the way.

    To pop out into the 1980s arrivals hall with plastic cherrywood veneer and post modern shiny metal bits and bobs of detailings- but surely the utter cringe moment is the cookie-Cutter African continent platform, resplendent with fake Clifton rocks and fishing boats.
    Good lord. What were they thinking?
    Why didn’t they just ask one other person before installing that?
    That’s before one is forced to walk past a stage set scene „BoKaap“? and that’s easy 200m long. It’s sooo embarrassing collecting foreigners.

    International Departures is a bun-flight.
    Far too small, far too little seats and far too few lounges.
    It’s simply unprofessional.

  • Ryan hermanson says:

    I am flummoxed as to how this airport got to this lofty position. It is not terrible but it is pretty flawed. International departures typically has an exhaustive line at passport control because they are always understaffed. There is also no one ushering South Africans to use the self check isle so they line up with international travelers. Once you get through, the international hall has exactly one restaurant! And this restaurant behaves exactly how one would expect an establishment to behave when there is absolutely no other option/competition. They also insist on the 1970’s paging system requiring the whole airport to hear the names of passengers who are late for their flights being blasted through speakers every 30 seconds. Give it to Frankfurt or even Warsaw if you must – but not Cape Town

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