Travel Celebrities Call Out The Most Confusing Airports

Airport flight board Chase O'Black/Flickr, http://bit.ly/1pKXLOb
Turn right. Turn left. Elevators, escalators, follow the moving platform...
Airports can be maddening places, especially for travelers on a tight schedule. And the last thing you want to hear on the way to your connecting flight is that you're in the right gate but the wrong terminal, or that you were closer to your destination before you started walking. From crazy crowds to epic runarounds, get ready to take a deep breath (and maybe a map) before tackling these 8 confusing airports.
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Birds-eye view of Atlanta airport Photo by redlegsfan21/Flickr, http://bit.ly/1uzpJvM
At 4,700 acres, Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport is the largest in the world, and one of the busiest. Travel Channel host Samantha Brown notes “Atlanta is well laid-out but can be disorientating due to its overwhelming size. There are escalator rides so long I have forgotten where I was going. People complain about the crowds, but I once landed in ATL at 2am and found myself completely alone in one of the terminals and couldn’t find my way out. Now that was scary.”
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Paris Charles de Gaulle airport Photo by Andrew Parnell/Flickr, http://bit.ly/1ipp22z
With an airport as large and busy as Charles de Gaulle (it serves 80 million passengers per year), finding an accurate and quick route can be tricky. “I've always found Charles de Gaulle Airport outside Paris really daunting,” says Pauline Frommer, editorial director of Frommer's and nationally syndicated radio talk show host. “It's huge, the signage is not good, and in the cases when I've asked directions from people who work there, they've sent me in the wrong direction. Last time I was there, I was flying in from New York and had to transfer to a plane to Nice. I sprinted, full out, for a good 40 minutes to get to my gate on time after a number of false turns.”
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Construction on escalators at SeaTac's airport Photo by Oran Viriyincy/Flickr, http://bit.ly/1iCySU8
Construction and renovation may lead to improvements in the long run, but in the short term they mean constantly changing terminal pathways and inconsistent signage. <BR><BR>According to airport expert Harriet Baskas, contributor to the USA Today column At the Airport and author of the blog Stuck at the Airport (stuckattheairport.com), “Major parts of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport—my home airport—were under construction for many years and I always found it confusing to make my way through the ever-changing paths.” The latest project, an expanded International Arrivals Facility, is expected to be completed in 2018. Get ready for some serious navigation woes.
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Airport sign designer Jim Harding says that the best signs are intuitive, and they let people know with subtle cues, such as shape and color, when they are entering a new terminal. Frankfurt Airport in Germany could use a lesson from Harding—the signs there may take a traveler on an epic journey, but they do not always reveal the closest or fastest route to one's destination. Baskas says, “I recently had a connecting flight in Frankfurt and as soon as I got off of my first flight began following signs that promised to lead me from one set of gates to another. After about 15 minutes of brisk walking (good exercise, I kept thinking...) I ended up right back where I started! Had I followed the sign that said those gates were also in the other direction, I would have arrived in moments.”
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Passengers wait for flights at DFW airport Photo by Gary Lerude/Flickr, http://bit.ly/1lOV0eJ
Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport perplexes with its simplicity. Samantha Brown encountered this issue when traveling through one of the mammoth airport's terminals: “At DFW, the baggage claim areas are in each terminal and located right next to the arriving gates—no long tram to a massive baggage claim area. It’s very convenient but so unexpected you don’t trust that’s where you retrieve your bag. And once you pass through the door you can’t turn back because of security. So you just stand there asking yourself, 'Is this right?' ” There's only one way to find out.
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World Clocks in Nigeria airport Photo by neajjean/Flicker, http://bit.ly/1n7cLBb
Navigating new cultural norms can add to the stress of an airport. The Murtala Muhammed International Airport in Lagos is a prime example—stop there and prepare to be swarmed by crowds of other travelers as well as opportunists looking to profit from your confusion. “That place is a madhouse,” says Lee Abbamonte, a lifelong traveler and the youngest American to visit every country in the world. “Literally hundreds of people (are) approaching you, [and] a lot of it's a shakedown.” On top of the pickpockets, poor sanitation and a hot climate add to the concerns of a weary traveler here.
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Window at Dulles airport Photo by Paulo Ordoveza/Flickr, http://bit.ly/1yHF8iu
If you're not a fan of extra commutes and transit time added onto your airport experience, Washington Dulles International Airport may add to your terminal stress. Lee Abbamonte explains that this airport requires passengers to ride its AeroTrain system between the concourses and the main terminal, “which gets confusing,” he says. On top of that, he notes, much of the airport is overdue for renovation.
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