Is Madrid-Barajas really the ‘worst airport in the world’?

Adolfo Suárez Madrid Barajas is the worst airport in the world. At least that's according to a recent article by a Financial Times’ journalist. Is there any reason to agree?

Is Madrid-Barajas really the 'worst airport in the world'?
Is Madrid the worst airport in the world? Photo: GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

Most of us have had bad airport experiences, whether we’ve missed a connecting flight, our luggage has gone missing or we’ve been held up in security so long that we hear our names being called out for final boarding. 

But, would your bad experiences lead you to dub that particular airport the worst in the world?

This is what happened to Financial Times’ HTSI editor Jo Ellison who criticised the distances between the terminals and the fact that all of the walkways seemed to steer passengers through duty-free shops on the way to their gates. 

However, she wrote in her article that what ultimately led her to call it the worst airport in the world was the complete lack of signage, “in any language, not even in Spanish”. This in turn led to a lot of confusion about where she had to go, causing her in the end to miss her connecting flight. 

She wrote: “Sprinting for 40 minutes on disembarkation, through arrivals, along travellators, via a giant car park, to a bus, on a highway to another terminal and a new set of departures, on a further connecting train, through the duty-free shop and down an interminable corridor to discover that I had, sadly, and by two minutes, missed my next connection, I came to this conclusion. Madrid-Barajas is the Worst Airport in the World”. 

But does the Spanish capital’s airport really deserve such criticism and is it really fair to be given the title of the worst in the world?

In December, we published a piece saying that Madrid’s airport was in fact ranked best in Spain and Europe in 2022, a complete contrast to the FT’s piece. 

This was based on two different airport awards – the Skytrax World Airport Awards 2022 and the airport ranking by claims management company AirHelp, both of which looked at the overall quality of international airports, from the staff to the ease of getting around to the facilities.

The annual AirHelp 2022 ranking revealed that Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas was the best in Europe and the 12th best in the world, receiving a total of 8.25 points out of 10. 

It particularly scored highly for punctuality, and customer satisfaction, as well as leisure spaces, shops and restaurants. Even though airport signage and distance between terminals were not specifically ranked, most customers were satisfied with their experiences at the airport with a customer satisfaction score of 8.19 out of 10. 

This is far behind the airport that came in last place at number 151 – Toronto Pearson International Airport with an overall score of 6.11.

In the other awards – Skytrax Top 100 Airports for 2022, voted for by air travellers in the 2021/2022 World Airport Survey, Adolfo Suárez Madrid Barajas came in at number 16 in the world.

The survey asked users for their opinion on the world’s best airport including factors such as public transport serving the airport, taxi prices from the airport, Covid-19 protocols, signage in the airport, walking distance to arrivals, service of the staff, cleanliness, wi-fi availability and waiting times for immigration among others.

Again this was well ahead of the worst airport on the list at number 100, which was Palma de Mallorca.

With two major awards under its belt, based on stats and passenger satisfaction, as well as particular issues that caused the journalist grievances such as signage, can the Spanish capital’s airport really be called the worst airport in the world?

Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas is the top airport in Spain, for passenger traffic, transport of goods and operations. It occupies the 5th position in the ranking of European airports according to Eurostat agency data, and is the fifteenth in the world by passenger traffic, according to ACI agency statistics.

In 2022, the airport welcomed a total of 50,633,652 passengers, making it the busiest airport in Spain, ahead of Barcelona El-Prat with 41.6 million passengers and Palma de Mallorca, with 28,573,364.

Share your own views and experiences of Madrid-Barajas airport in this quick survey. To see instant results CLICK HERE.


Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


Eight essential apps that make life easier in Madrid

Madrid, the capital of Spain is a great city for foreign residents with lots of job opportunities and a fantastic cultural scene. But, if you want to enjoy the city more and make the most of it, these 8 essential apps will help you out.

Eight essential apps that make life easier in Madrid

For new and old residents alike, Madrid can sometimes seem overwhelming given its size, but fortunately, these apps can make life a little easier, from helping you find a parking space to booking health appointments and navigating your way around the city. Here are some of the best Madrid apps. 

Metro de Madrid

Most Madrid residents can’t get far without using the metro, so this is really one of the most important apps you can have if you regularly travel around the city. It allows you to see waiting times for your nearest station, the stations that are closest to you, metro maps, the status of the network and information about tickets and fares. It will also let you know how much credit is left on your travel card. It’s available for iOS here and Android here.

Madrid Móvil

This is the official app from the Ayuntamiento de Madrid (Madrid Townhall) and really is a must-have for any Madrid resident. It covers a wide range of topics and can be used for everything from finding out where the nearest public toilets and water fountains are located to receiving city-wide alerts and booking a padel court. It’s available for both iOS and Android.

READ ALSO: Madrid to keep schools open to pupils during holidays 


If you own a car and live in Madrid, then you’ll know what are nightmare parking can often be. This app can be very useful if you want to find out what zones you can park in and search for parking meters. You can even pay for parking directly through the app, which will also remind you how much time you have left in your space. It’s available for both iOS and Android.

La Guía del Prado

Art lovers will find this app for the city’s famed El Prado museum extremely helpful when looking around. It includes more than 400 works of art with comments from the experts, as well as information about the history of the piece and all about the artist themselves. It’s available for iOS and Android.


Madrid’s electric bike-sharing scheme also has its own app. Managed by the Municipal Transport Company of Madrid, the scheme has a fleet of more than 2,000 bicycles distributed across 165 stations. The app enables users to search for the nearest bike station, top up their balance, reserve a bike ahead of time and report any incidents. It’s available here for iOS and here for Android.

Guía de Arquitectura Madrid

If you’re a fan of great architecture, then you’ll enjoy this app from the Official College of Architects of Madrid (COAM). It allows you to discover all about the city’s architectural gems, as well the lesser-known ones. It allows you to see various photos of the buildings and also find out about the most interesting building near you. You can download it for iOS and Android.

Cita Sanitaria Madrid

This app, while not particularly entertaining, will save you a lot of hassle when it comes to the Madrid health system. From here, you will be able to book appointments, access your test results and get in contact with your local health clinic. You can download it for iOS and Android

Imageen Madrid

If you’re into history, this app is a great choice to get to know the city’s past even better. It enables you to see the city as it once was. Simply point your smartphone at landmarks such as the Puerta del Sol or Gran Vía and you will be able to see a split screen showing you what they look like now and in the past. It also provides you with virtual guides so you can learn about how daily life was back then too. It is available on iOS here and on Android here