Jeddah Airport: The 'World's Worst'!

01 January 2017

By Tariq A. Al-Maeena

Over time, the city of Jeddah has earned distinction as the gateway to the Kingdom and rightly so. It is through its ports, both land and sea, that millions of pilgrims have disembarked on their way to the two Holy Mosques.
It can also proudly boast of having the tallest flagpole in the world and the tallest control tower at the airport, not to mention the world's tallest water jet which shoots water more than 300 meters into the air.

More recently, Jeddah has earned another distinction, although not one to be carried with pride. In a survey, it has been ranked as the world's worst airport, period! The 2016 Airport Survey was conducted by The Guide to Sleeping in Airports website which asked travelers ''to rate airports worldwide based on their overall airport experience.'' They ranked their experiences based on:

Comfort (Rest Zones & Gate Seating)
Services, Facilities & Things to do
Food Options
Customer Service

This website is in its 20th year and after gathering reviews from passengers, releases annual lists of distinctions, such as best airport and worst airport. It reflects the actual experiences of travelers and is not based on public relations releases by airport authorities about how wonderful their operations and facilities are.

Over the years this website has drawn a global audience of travelers, many of whom continue to make it an important stop prior to making their flight plans. Discriminating passengers like to avoid rundown airports, because as the website explains: ''These terminals have the continued capacity to make travelers wonder why they didn't just stay home. Whether its bathrooms that lack water and toilet paper, or staff who harass and frustrate you, these are not the places you want to find yourself for hours on end… All we can hope is that if you do find yourself here, you come prepared with hand sanitizer, patience, strong bladders and personal entertainment. It could be what saves your sanity!''

Passengers criticized Jeddah's airport for a variety of factors. ''Cleanliness is but a mythical concept. The airport is said to be staffed by a team of immigration officers described as 'careless,' 'arrogant' and 'rude,' and amenity-wise, the terminal is devoid of restaurants, shopping and entertainment. During peak hours – to say nothing of when the Haj pilgrimage rolls around – the queues are unfathomable, and there are never enough chairs to accommodate. The thought of sleeping here during a long layover or flight delay is essentially unattainable. Virtually all aspects of the terminals need serious improvement''.

Now to be ranked the worst airport in the world by passengers has to be something that should make airport officials sit up and take notice. After all, this is not good public relations. It is also something that public officials do not want to see highlighted as it may reflect on their own shortcomings.

So when Jeddah airport is ranked the world's worst, one has to wonder. I mean we handily beat Juba International Airport in South Sudan, a country that came into being in 2011 when Sudan split up. South Sudan has been stricken with strife and civil disorder and its infrastructure has a long way to go. So it is understandable that that country would factor in such a list. But Jeddah airport where billions of riyals have been allocated and spent over the years? Billions! That defies reasonable logic.

This is an airport that was scheduled to be completed in 2012. I've lost count of the number of press reports I have read since then that contained airport officials' statements that the airport would be operational ''soon,'' so much so that today I involuntarily cringe when I hear that word (''soon'') in a social conversation.

However, GACA, our airport authority, was quick to dismiss the report and exercise damage control. Their spokesman claimed that ''the website's classification is not based on specific standards to evaluate airports.'' I will leave it for passengers to decide.

— The author can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @talmaeena

©  EsinIslam.Com

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