Say it with a smile: The world's happiest airports

A waist-high army of smiley-faced machines is popping up in airports and public spaces around the world.You ma...

Posted: Dec 14, 2017 1:57 PM
Updated: Dec 14, 2017 1:57 PM

A waist-high army of smiley-faced machines is popping up in airports and public spaces around the world.

You may have already used one of HappyOrNot's 25,000 customer satisfaction terminals, registering your feedback by touching one its four response buttons, from a jubilant green to grumpy-faced red.

But having tapped and walked away to your destination, where does your data go?

HappyOrNot, founded in Finland in 2009 by Heikki V--n-nen and Ville Levaniemi, has exclusively shared its first airport report with CNN Travel.

It reveals the airports with the highest customer satisfaction globally, measured by the percentage of people hitting the dark green or light green buttons.

It also tells us the happiest and unhappiest times of day, week and year to fly -- as well as the parts of the airport journey most likely to make us hit the red button of rage.

World's happiest fliers

The report is based on feedback from 158 million data-points from HappyOrNot smiley terminals in 160 airports across 36 countries.

HappyOrNot analyzed data collected between November 2016 and November 2017, from airports which received more than 120,000 button-presses in the past year across more than two areas of the airport -- security, baggage reclaim, washrooms and so on. Some 68 airports in 22 countries met the criteria to be included in the rankings.

And it turns out that the happiest airport in the world is a teeny terminal in southwest England, handling fewer than a million passengers a year.

Exeter Airport -- gateway to the cathedral city of Exeter -- has a satisfaction rating of 88.66%, 12% higher than the global average of 76.52%.

Eight airports worldwide have satisfaction levels of above 86% (with a drop of 3% before the ninth spot). Most of them -- apart from big-hitters Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (No.4) and Rome's Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport (No.2) -- are on the itty-bitty side, proving that what small airports lack in amenities, they can make up for in convenience, manageability and all-round lower stress levels.

"Exeter Airport is seeing increasing numbers of tourists from mainland Europe," says Stephen Ayres, the airport's communications manager.

In the heart of picturesque Devon, the only English county to have two separate coastlines, the region offers, says Ayres, "historic buildings, award-winning places to eat" and "sandy family-friendly beaches."

English as a global language

Curiously, although HappyOrNot services airports on every continent, six out of the eight top airports are in English-speaking countries, which HappyOrNot co-founder Ville Levaniemi attributes to English being "the essential language of air travel."

He tells CNN Travel, "The ability to communicate and understand is so crucial when offering a service, and this is perhaps reflected in our data."

Iceland's Keflavik International Airport -- in eighth place -- appears to be coping admirably with the country's tourism boom. It processed 6.8 million passengers in 2016 -- a full five million more than in 2004 -- but 86.35% of passenger feedback was happy.

Airports with the highest satisfaction levels

1. Exeter Airport, UK -- 88.66%

2 (tie). Cork Airport, Republic of Ireland -- 88.45%

2 (tie). Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport (Rome), Italy -- 88.45%

4. Dallas Fort Worth International Airport, USA -- 87.35%

5. Newcastle International Airport, UK -- 87.05%

6. London Southend Airport, UK -- 86.79%

7. Cardiff Airport, UK -- 86.57%

8. Keflavik International Airport, Iceland -- 86.35%

When and where are we happiest?

Globally, passengers are most likely to hit the green buttons at 9 a.m. on a Tuesday in October or November.

We're most unhappy when we find ourselves in baggage reclaim at 2 a.m. or 3.a.m. on a July weekend. Sunday, when we return from our vacation to face the Monday slog, is the lowest-scoring day of the week, followed by Saturday.

Fliers in July are the unhappiest (80.9%) followed by those flying in April (81.1%) -- prime time for Easter breaks.

It's not surprising that the crowded airports of peak season and busy weekends drive us nuts or that we might regret booking those attractively priced early-morning flights.

Levaniemi tells CNN Travel, "What the trend does suggest is that often the happiest passengers are those visiting airports at their full capacity -- with all staff on the top of their game to keep operations ticking over."

When it comes to our journey through the airport, we're at our happiest (84.6%) when we've successfully cleared security and can at last check out duty-free or grab a coffee.

Our spirits dip when we hit those airport washrooms -- 74.4% -- while the worst stage of all is hanging around at baggage reclaim (69.9%).

It's a strong argument for going hand-luggage only.

So are the feedback terminals just emoji-faced placebos, or does our button-hitting make a difference to how the airport is run?

"For the user, it provides a candid way for people to express themselves while the experience is fresh in their mind." says Levaniemi.

"For the airports, management teams can see people's happiness in real-time: allowing dirty washrooms to be inspected within minutes, or extra staff apportioned to a section of the airport that is performing badly. [We] give staff the means to be flexible and react to the environments around them."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 751242

Reported Deaths: 13795
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion1032931788
Lake556911009
Allen41692692
St. Joseph36990565
Hamilton36588417
Elkhart29398461
Tippecanoe22901226
Vanderburgh22556400
Porter19356325
Johnson18471389
Hendricks17682317
Clark13226195
Madison13149344
Vigo12614253
LaPorte12419221
Monroe12207176
Delaware10966198
Howard10321225
Kosciusko9630121
Hancock8576146
Bartholomew8169157
Warrick7860156
Floyd7811180
Grant7242179
Wayne7162201
Boone6966103
Morgan6761141
Dubois6218118
Marshall6209116
Cass6016110
Henry5900110
Dearborn589878
Noble581488
Jackson509076
Shelby501496
Lawrence4742122
Gibson444894
Clinton442355
Harrison441875
DeKalb439885
Montgomery438090
Whitley406543
Huntington402681
Steuben400159
Miami395269
Jasper388054
Knox375991
Putnam372960
Wabash361983
Ripley347170
Adams345555
Jefferson335886
White331953
Daviess3033100
Wells295281
Decatur289992
Greene286885
Fayette284864
Posey273835
LaGrange273072
Scott270156
Clay267148
Washington246036
Randolph244783
Jennings235349
Spencer234531
Starke228058
Fountain220948
Sullivan214643
Owen211858
Fulton202942
Jay200932
Carroll193620
Orange188255
Perry187237
Rush175926
Vermillion174844
Franklin170335
Tipton166246
Parke149416
Pike138234
Blackford136232
Pulaski120647
Newton113936
Brown104243
Crawford102516
Benton101714
Martin91715
Warren84015
Switzerland8148
Union72810
Ohio57911
Unassigned0420

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 1108902

Reported Deaths: 20166
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1287491467
Cuyahoga1158082211
Hamilton814091250
Montgomery525571043
Summit484351001
Lucas43359820
Butler39018606
Stark33338929
Lorain25675505
Warren24595303
Mahoning22376603
Lake21211388
Clermont20124253
Delaware18856136
Licking16663222
Fairfield16576204
Trumbull16551482
Medina15612271
Greene15284248
Clark14237306
Wood13292200
Portage13251215
Allen11914239
Richland11607211
Miami10849225
Wayne9146223
Columbiana9034230
Muskingum8906135
Pickaway8664122
Tuscarawas8650250
Marion8642138
Erie8056165
Ashtabula7161179
Hancock6999132
Ross6945161
Geauga6838151
Scioto6534106
Belmont6157174
Union584649
Lawrence5732102
Jefferson5679158
Huron5546122
Sandusky5442126
Darke5420129
Seneca5350128
Washington5320109
Athens523960
Auglaize502187
Mercer487385
Shelby476895
Knox4572112
Madison444366
Ashland435797
Putnam4336103
Defiance432399
Fulton432174
Crawford4040110
Brown402461
Logan387677
Preble3856105
Clinton379166
Ottawa373681
Highland359865
Williams348278
Champaign344859
Guernsey324953
Jackson318254
Perry297350
Morrow291840
Fayette285450
Hardin275365
Henry273467
Holmes2702101
Coshocton269060
Van Wert247264
Adams243256
Pike242835
Gallia240750
Wyandot234556
Hocking220563
Carroll197348
Paulding176542
Meigs148440
Monroe136344
Noble136239
Harrison114138
Morgan109624
Vinton85717
Unassigned03
Fort Wayne
Partly Cloudy
66° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 66°
Angola
Mostly Cloudy
° wxIcon
Hi: 70° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: °
Huntington
Partly Cloudy
66° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 66°
Decatur
Partly Cloudy
66° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 66°
Van Wert
Mostly Cloudy
68° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 68°
Calm and cool conditions are expected across the Midwest through the middle of the work week.
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events