If you’re one of the more than 240 million travelers who will fly this summer, there’s a good chance you or someone you know will face delays or layovers. While many airports like Hong Kong International Airport and Heathrow Airport in London leave many travelers wishing they had a few hours to shop and dine at top restaurants, there are still many — most in far flung locales, but several in surprisingly metropolitan airports — to be avoided.
When The Daily Meal set out to determine the 11 Worst Airports for Food, plenty of terrible terminals in airports near and far came to mind. While most would expect airports in smaller countries like Nepal and the Turks and Caicos would be rustic at best, we were surprised to discover that some of the world’s busiest airports had a depressing dearth of dining options, too.
From Asia to Europe to the U.S., it seems no continent is immune to lousy layover food. While many airports like Chicago Midway Airport and Taipei Taoyuan International Airport have added new food courts offering outposts of noteworthy local restaurants like Manny’s Deli in the Windy City and Tu Hsiao Yueh in Taipei (#43 on The Daily Meal’s 101 Best Restaurants in Asia 2013) in recent years, there are others that have yet to catch on to the culinary concourse craze of opening celeb chef restaurants or local favorites.
Only the world's busiest airports were considered; this eliminated smaller, developing countries like Nigeria and smaller regions that are popular with travelers like Tibet. We also considered airports in close proximity to the world’s hottest travel destinations.
Airports that appeared on The Daily Meal's 35 Best Airport Restaurants list were automatically eliminated because there’s the chance your flight could take off or arrive in the terminal that houses one of these top restaurants. Even if your flight is parked in a different terminal, some folks may have enough time to venture to these terrific terminals for a quick bite.
The Daily Meal then consulted travel editors, business travelers, well-traveled food experts, and our editors for input. We created a preliminary list of 100 airports. In the end, we kept what we consider to be the 11 most disappointing airports for dining. These include airports with no celebrity chef restaurants or locally-famous or popular restaurants.
While some of the 11 Worst Airports for Food do have edible, viable options like M&S Simply Food in Gatwick Airport near London, the airports that made our inaugural list are deemed a huge disappointment considering the number of flights, connections, passengers, location, and their region’s notable culinary heritage.
Our list isn’t meant to dissuade folks from traveling to these fantastic destinations (more than 38 million trips were avoided last year because of travel hassles like this), but it is a culinary cautionary tale. This is a gastronomy guide to help hungry travelers who may, if they’re lucky, only get their food fix in the friendlier skies. It’s times like these —when you’re stuck in a virtual food desert — that it’s comforting to know some airlines still serve complimentary snacks.
Lauren Mack is the New York City Travel Editor at The Daily Meal. Follow her on Twitter @lmack.
#11 Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (Florida)
We hope the folks who avoid busier Miami International Airport in favor of the less congested Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport aren’t hungry. While there’s plenty of fast-food (Dunkin Donuts, Miami Subs, and Red Mango), we have to wonder why they haven’t upped their game to compete with nearby MIA. Local Chef Allen Susser (of Miami’s famed Chef Allen restaurant) opened up Burger Bar by Chef Allen in 2011 but we’re disappointed it didn’t inspire more local eateries to follow.
#10 Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas Airport (Spain)
In a city with nine Michelin-starred restaurants and three Bib Gourmand restaurants, we expected much more from Adolfo Suárez Madrid–Barajas Airport in the Spanish capital. Yes, you can get Iberico ham here, but there's nothing else that stands out among the miscellaneous restaurants and fast-food options like McDonald’s. Instead, we drowned our sorrows with a couple of cervezas and jamón Iberico from MasQMenos in Terminal T4S.