When it’s time to fly, it’s usually better to fly direct. But sometimes that’s not an option and often a layover can save a lot of money. That can mean hours in an unfamiliar airport, sometimes an okay experience and other times excruciatingly painful. Having doubts before you book? This article has some of the best and some of the worst airports for a layover.
- Copenhagen Airport Kastrup
Unlike elsewhere in Scandinavia, it’s only a cheap 15-minute metro ride to get downtown, so you’ll have a chance to explore the Danish capital, even if you only have a couple hours. The airport is a manageable size and easy to navigate, but is still a major hub for airlines like SAS and its budget competitor Norwegian. It also offers a direct 20/25-minute (20-25min) train connection to Malmö, Sweden, so you can even explore another country during a longer layover.
- Zurich Airport
Like Copenhagen, only a short 15-minute train ride from the center of town and like Copenhagen a manageable size, Zurich is a nice airport. It’s a major hub for Swiss Air, but it has much more limited budget offerings. It also has a Migros supermarket located near the train station.
- Reykjavik Keflavik
Yeah, Reykjavik has its problems. It’s become a little shabby since the COVID-19 pandemic, has no good public transportation, can be too crowded at peak times, and the North American wing lacks good food options, but it still offers unrivalled transatlantic connectivity. Every dawn, bleary-eyed travellers stumble off overnight flights from the US and Canada, bound to be reshuffled onto connections to differing European cities. Every afternoon, affordable Icelandair and cheaper Play airlines facilitate the reverse. It also offers an easy way to pass the border into the Schengen area, something more complicated with connections in the UK and Ireland. If you have more time, you can often get a deal on a one day stopover.
It’s a mess. There’s only a slow, unreliable, and expensive bus connection downtown, unsuitable for all but the longest layovers. Every transfer in Dublin means crossing the Irish border, and understaffed Dublin airport has some of the worst immigration lines of any airport in Europe. Prepare to wait hours. Although it has many cheap Ryanair flights, the terminal housing Ryanair is especially shabby. Local competitor Aer Lingus isn’t much better. Flights to the US offer the supposed perk of border preclearance that means you have to show up for your flight even earlier. If you’re not flying into Dublin itself, avoid the airport.
- London Stansted
Yes, it offers a lot of budget flights, and yes, there’s an okay rail connection to Cambridge, England. But getting into London is too lengthy and expensive to be realistic. The airport also feels like a budget airport, a bit tawdry, especially compared to the larger hubs at Heathrow and Gatwick. It also requires crossing the UK border, a major inconvenience for flights from the rest of Europe.
- Paris Charles de Gaulle
It’s a big mess. The new-ish budget airline terminal is a bit primitive and poorly connected to the rest of the airport. Getting downtown is too lengthy to be realistic, and transfers can often mean being jammed into the airport people-mover to switch terminals. Getting to Paris is much easier by train.