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: 312521

Reported Deaths: 5498
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion42641849
Lake27152455
Allen18010298
Elkhart17177221
St. Joseph16799229
Hamilton13011167
Vanderburgh9751120
Tippecanoe858727
Porter827986
Johnson6389165
Hendricks6098157
Vigo608384
Monroe536750
Clark515077
Madison5060122
Delaware4905103
LaPorte465595
Kosciusko462339
Howard344277
Warrick325672
Bartholomew316863
Floyd316277
Wayne307770
Cass299931
Marshall299144
Grant272550
Noble255046
Hancock253852
Henry247537
Boone244554
Dubois237931
Dearborn219030
Jackson215534
Morgan210843
Knox187819
Gibson186925
Shelby182155
Clinton180321
DeKalb177831
Lawrence177648
Adams168222
Miami162614
Wabash162521
Daviess156443
Fayette149234
Steuben147113
Jasper144412
Harrison142924
LaGrange142630
Montgomery142127
Whitley137114
Ripley132115
Huntington127410
Decatur126143
Putnam124627
Randolph124519
Wells124429
White123222
Clay122523
Posey122116
Jefferson118816
Scott109020
Greene102653
Jay99013
Sullivan96416
Starke92021
Jennings85314
Fulton84518
Spencer8378
Perry82521
Fountain7798
Washington7527
Franklin69927
Carroll68613
Orange67328
Vermillion6243
Owen6087
Tipton57627
Parke5706
Newton56312
Rush5438
Blackford53412
Pike50919
Pulaski39515
Martin3585
Brown3424
Benton3402
Crawford2941
Union2702
Switzerland2575
Warren2382
Ohio2317
Unassigned0266

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 382743

Reported Deaths: 6274
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin51161671
Cuyahoga37222743
Hamilton30493372
Montgomery20518236
Butler15199148
Lucas14566417
Summit13933327
Stark9193206
Warren841976
Mahoning7530300
Lake710067
Lorain6690106
Clermont593651
Delaware572537
Licking564577
Trumbull5584147
Fairfield554464
Greene538066
Clark5218101
Allen494989
Marion476759
Medina471657
Wood4598107
Miami437568
Pickaway404048
Portage358972
Columbiana357698
Tuscarawas342667
Richland328539
Wayne327394
Mercer296047
Muskingum252510
Hancock245940
Ross244559
Auglaize236435
Darke232560
Erie230268
Putnam229449
Ashtabula228354
Geauga211851
Scioto200616
Union19668
Shelby194017
Lawrence193039
Athens19134
Seneca182919
Belmont170229
Madison163119
Sandusky157729
Preble156521
Huron155519
Defiance144823
Holmes140439
Logan133517
Knox131718
Fulton128726
Jefferson128613
Crawford126817
Washington125227
Ottawa124530
Clinton109115
Williams10799
Ashland107825
Highland103718
Brown10135
Henry101323
Hardin99719
Champaign9825
Van Wert97318
Jackson96212
Fayette92717
Morrow9202
Guernsey89314
Coshocton85215
Perry82912
Adams80313
Pike7661
Gallia76513
Wyandot73217
Paulding66511
Hocking64516
Noble62224
Carroll48810
Meigs39612
Monroe32321
Morgan2685
Vinton2246
Harrison2193
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Overcast
46° wxIcon
Hi: 47° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 41°
Angola
Overcast
45° wxIcon
Hi: 45° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 39°
Huntington
Overcast
45° wxIcon
Hi: 47° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 40°
Decatur
Overcast
46° wxIcon
Hi: 48° Lo: 38°
Feels Like: 42°
Van Wert
Overcast
46° wxIcon
Hi: 49° Lo: 38°
Feels Like: 42°
Cloudy Thanksgiving
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events