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 12:57 PM
Updated: Dec 14, 2017 12:57 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."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 313942

Reported Deaths: 7240
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto21580258
Hinds20330415
Harrison17879309
Rankin13594278
Jackson13429246
Madison10088217
Lee9970174
Jones8370163
Forrest7670152
Lauderdale7188241
Lowndes6387146
Lamar622486
Lafayette6184118
Washington5332133
Bolivar4801132
Oktibbeha462198
Panola4582106
Pearl River4506146
Marshall4435103
Warren4386121
Pontotoc420172
Monroe4107133
Union410076
Neshoba4030176
Lincoln3962110
Hancock378486
Leflore3493125
Sunflower335990
Tate333384
Pike3316105
Scott315773
Alcorn312768
Yazoo311469
Itawamba299777
Copiah296865
Coahoma295179
Simpson294988
Tippah288168
Prentiss279760
Adams278782
Marion269080
Leake267473
Wayne262641
Grenada261386
Covington258281
George247848
Newton246261
Winston227081
Tishomingo226667
Jasper221048
Attala214273
Chickasaw207757
Holmes188873
Clay185254
Stone182433
Tallahatchie178541
Clarke177980
Calhoun170532
Yalobusha164238
Smith162334
Walthall133945
Greene130533
Lawrence128524
Montgomery126742
Noxubee126734
Perry126338
Amite123042
Carroll121828
Webster114532
Jefferson Davis107033
Tunica105226
Claiborne102430
Benton99525
Humphreys96533
Kemper95728
Franklin83623
Quitman80716
Choctaw76318
Wilkinson67230
Jefferson65528
Sharkey50217
Issaquena1686
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 531404

Reported Deaths: 10985
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson765501522
Mobile41036805
Madison34789503
Tuscaloosa25788453
Montgomery24340589
Shelby23449249
Baldwin21154308
Lee15882171
Calhoun14511314
Morgan14306279
Etowah13843353
Marshall12232223
Houston10570281
Elmore10068205
Limestone9974151
Cullman9676194
St. Clair9661243
Lauderdale9427241
DeKalb8831186
Talladega8227176
Walker7241277
Autauga6926108
Jackson6814112
Blount6678137
Colbert6306134
Coffee5519119
Dale4838111
Russell441538
Chilton4296112
Franklin426082
Covington4129118
Tallapoosa4023152
Escambia393677
Chambers3573123
Dallas3551152
Clarke351161
Marion3122101
Pike310977
Lawrence300398
Winston274473
Bibb260964
Geneva250477
Marengo249564
Pickens234461
Barbour231057
Hale223077
Butler216069
Fayette212562
Henry188844
Cherokee185245
Randolph180542
Monroe177540
Washington167339
Macon159650
Clay156756
Crenshaw152557
Cleburne148941
Lamar142535
Lowndes138853
Wilcox127130
Bullock122841
Conecuh110529
Perry107726
Coosa107628
Sumter104732
Greene92534
Choctaw60724
Out of AL00
Unassigned00
Tupelo
Mostly Cloudy
62° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 62°
Columbus
Cloudy
62° wxIcon
Hi: 70° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 62°
Oxford
Partly Cloudy
59° wxIcon
Hi: 68° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 59°
Starkville
Cloudy
59° wxIcon
Hi: 68° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 59°
A few showers linger early in the morning. But these should gradually push away from our area, leaving us mostly cloudy and cool through the midday and afternoon hours. Some clearing may occur later in the afternoon, leaving us mostly clear by Thursday morning.
WTVA Radar
WTVA Temperatures
WTVA Severe Weather