Nepali Times
The world’s worst airports

Hate flying? You're not alone. But often, it's not the crowded, overly air-conditioned airplanes themselves that are the problem. Just getting on and off the plane is the real nightmare. Foreign Policy magazine looks at five airports around the world that make travelling hell. To which we add our own Tribhuban International.

L?opold S?dar Senghor International Airport, Dakar

First-hand account: 'There is only squalor, an unnerving sense of confinement, and to some extent danger.' Patrick Smith,

Why it's so bad: Because it's standing room only. As a regional hub, an ordeal at Senghor is often unavoidable for travelers to West Africa. Once you're in the terminal, don't plan on relaxing: There are no seats, and guards will advise you to stop loitering if you hang around in one spot too long. Immigration lines can take up to three hours. And in any event, it's best to keep moving since you can expect to be surrounded by vendors selling counterfeit goods and unofficial 'porters' who will pressure you into hiring their services if you happen to come to a standstill. But the good news is that help may be on the way. The Senegalese government has begun construction on a new airport set to open in 2010. No word yet on whether the new terminal will actually have chairs.

Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi

First-hand account: "Of all the regional capital airports this one takes the cake . Bring the bug spray." -Anonymous commenter, The Budget Traveller's Guide to Sleeping in Airports

Why it's so bad: Because it's sheer chaos. The IT boomtowns of Hyderabad and Bangalore have built shiny new airports in recent years, but old standbys like New Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport have failed to benefit from India's economic expansion. Visitors report aggressive panhandlers, filthy bathrooms where attendants charge for toilet paper, and used syringes on the terminal floor. Things have hopefully gotten a little safer since a young girl died on a malfunctioning escalator and an Australian tourist was murdered by a taxi driver leaving IGIA in 2004. But there's still a danger of things going slightly awry: in 2005, an act of sabotage in an ongoing feud between cable television providers led to a pornographic film appearing on the airport's television monitors. Let's just hope it provided a much-needed respite from CNN International.

Mineralnye Vody Airport, Russia

First-hand account: "Mineralnye Vody airport is a lower circle of hell." The Economist

Why it's so bad: Because nobody told Mineralnye Vody that the Soviet Union is no more. In a war-torn region of the Caucasus not far from the Chechen border, the airport remains a stubborn throwback, right down to the large map of the Soviet Union that hangs in the departure hall. The airport seems to have earned a special place in the hearts of Russia's foreign journalists, including the BBC's Steve Rosenberg, who wrote in 2005, 'Rather worryingly there's a man selling Caucasian swords and daggers in the departure lounge and opposite him, over on the wall, is a list of local criminals wanted for murder.'

Baghdad International Airport

First-hand account: "Before jumping out of your seat to complain to the pilot, consider the good news: You've just avoided being shot down by a missile." Alan T. Duffin, Air & Space magazine

Why it's so bad: Because it's in a war zone. The Baghdad International experience begins before you even touch the runway. That's when you're treated to the stomach-churning effects of a landing technique known as the corkscrew, used to avoid projectiles like the shoulder-fired missile that took down a DHL Airbus cargo plane in November 2003. The corkscrew involves an abrupt roll during final approach that twists into a spiraling, straight-down descent until the plane flattens out and lands at what feels like the last possible moment before crash landing. The terminal is itself not that bad, having been refurbished after the war by USAID. But after leaving the airport, visitors have to brave the infamous "highway of death" between the airport and downtown Baghdad.

Charles de Gaulle International Airport

First-hand account: 'Charles de Gaulle is a disgrace. It's like a third-world airport.' Michel-Yves Labb?, president of French travel company Directours

Why it's so bad: Because a city this great with an airport this bad is just plain embarrassing. Charles de Gaulle's most recent attempt at modernisation, the construction of futuristic terminal 2E led to tragedy when its roof collapsed in 2004, killing four people. In June, President Nicolas Sarkozy opened a new facility capable of handling up to six Airbus superjumbos at one time, or about 8.5 million passengers per year. Normally, such a move would be welcome, but CDG already boasts eight terminals and handled 57 million passengers in 2006. Making the airport bigger only makes the problem worse.

Tribhuban International Airport, Kathmandu

First-hand account: 'Long queues to pay your departure tax, long queues to check in, enormous security queues. One of my group was asked for baksheesh at the security check to let her take toiletries on board. Uncomfortable seats and very smelly toilets. Fuzzy announcements so everyone was asking everyone else. Nepal is lovely but Kathmandu airport is hard work.' Melanie Ling in

Why it's so bad: Where do we start? Corruption in Nepal may be bad, but Kathmandu airport is where it is rampant. It's a den of thieves. At security check, there is a sign in Japanese warning tourists to beware of guards asking for bribes. Handbags are searched after being scanned, and this is where security personnel extract money from passengers.

Immigration is a minefield for Nepali passengers, mainly women, who are harassed until they pay up. The airport was designed for traffic 20 years ago and is hopelessly overcrowded. There is a parking problem and planes have to circle for hours waiting for a slot. Xray machines and baggage carousels are often out of order and if you land at night it's dark and dingy because half the lights in the terminal don't work. And don't get us going about the dilapidated airport taxis and the touts outside. NTB should forget about promoting Nepal abroad and clean up the airport first.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)