Doha Hamad has topped the 2024 world airport shopping rankings in the Skytrax World Airport Awards for the second year in a row. It was also named World’s Best Airport, knocking Singapore Changi into second position.

The top 10 included most of the usual suspects. Istanbul and Rome Fiumicino made the biggest moves – Istanbul dropped from 2nd to 8th place and Fiumicino from 6th to 10th. Copenhagen and Zurich fell out of the top 10, replaced by Dubai and Tokyo Narita. Here’s the full list of the Top 10:

1 –  Doha Hamad
2 – London Heathrow
3 – Singapore Changi
4 – Paris Charles de Gaulle
5 – Dubai
6 – Seoul Incheon
7 – Tokyo Narita
8 – Istanbul
9 – Munich
10 – Rome Fiumicino


What Does This Ranking Measure?

All that sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? But what does this ranking actually tell you? Unfortunately, not a lot.

Why?  Basically, because the survey is only numerical. It measures the choice of shopping, whether Duty Free or other outlets. Out of the 40 questions in the survey, this was the only question about shopping.  Since all airports carry the core Duty Free offer of tobacco, alcohol, and fragrances, this choice essentially means the extent of the Tax Free offer and the number of free-standing specialist, designer, and luxury boutiques at an airport.

Nothing about the quality of the stores, their pricing, or the airport’s online retail presence.

For example, in terms of quality, Munich Airport has a large number of stores, but they’re mainly mid-level specialist shops.  Munich only has a few of the high-end luxury brands the other top airports boast. Hong Kong and Bangkok have a much better range.

As far as pricing goes, the UK no longer allows tax free sales at airports. Except for some mid to low priced items discounted to the Tax Free price, all the high end retailers sell at the Domestic price. So, there’s little advantage vs. the high street. That means that Heathrow isn’t a very good deal. So does that sound like a top 10 shopping experience?

At Paris and Munich, you don’t get your full VAT deducted. In Munich, in fact, you have to reclaim it through Global Blue. Thus, they’re both a bit of a ripoff. Rome is the only European airport on the list that deducts the entire (22%) VAT, but it dropped from 6th to 10th place. Go figure.

Online retail presence is a bit of a mixed bag.  Clearly,  Heathrow is the gold standard.

Dubai, Tokyo, Seoul, and Rome are pretty good. Singapore and Paris show only the core Duty Free offer. Munich shows a limited selection of special offers. But Doha and Istanbul only show brand or shop directories.

If you want to find out what Tax Free shopping at airports is really all about, and how airports actually stack up, check out my posts on the Tax Free offer and on the Specialist, Designer, and Luxury Boutiques.


You can participate in the Skytrax World Airport Survey

The Skytrax World Airport Survey is based on online self-completion questionnaires filled out by respondents on a voluntary basis. You can participate by signing up on the World Airport Survey website when the survey opens in August.