The best airports in Europe for 2023 have been announced by the Airports Council International (ACI) Europe. Taking place in the stunning MNAC – National Museum of Catalunya in Barcelona, Spain, this year the Best Airport Award ceremony recognised more outstanding performers than ever before.
The Best Airport Awards recognise excellence, top achievements and thought leadership across an entire range of airport activities and for airports of all sizes and profiles. As the industry continues to shape post-pandemic future, this year’s awards have emphasised key topics such as sustainability, innovation, operational efficiency and resilience. These awards are divided into five groups based on 2019 passenger traffic (under 5 million, 5-10 million, 10-25 million, 25-40 million and over 40 million).
This year, an additional five special category awards are also given to honour outstanding performance in the areas of Accessibility, Digital Transformation, Eco-Innovation, Human Resources and World Business Partner.
The winners and highly commended airports were selected by an expert panel of judges comprising representatives from Aviation Advocacy, ECAC, the European Commission, Flight Global, International Airport Review, the International Transport Forum and SESAR 3 Joint Undertaking. Several awards submissions were evaluated in partnership with other organisations, with the Accessible Airport Award reviewed in partnership with the European Disability Forum and the Eco-Innovation Award evaluated by the Airport Carbon Accreditation Advisory Board.
1. Accessible airport award: Alicante Airport
This award recognises the most accessible airport for persons with disabilities and persons with reduced mobility. ACI EUROPE partnered with the European Disability Forum to identify the airport making the greatest progress in providing accessible services and removing barriers for travellers. Judges also consulted with national Disabled Persons’ Organisations (DPO’s) and, together, chose Alicante Airport as the clear winner, having gone above and beyond the minimum accessibility requirements set by the EU Regulation 1107/2006.
The airport has developed innovative tools and services relevant to PRMs such as providing means to contact assistance directly with the airport rather than only the airline, offering an electric wheelchair charging area, developing mobile apps to facilitate navigation for visually impaired passengers inside the airport and setting up specific PRM lanes for security and passport controls. The airport has further impressive measures planned such as the construction of a sensorial room for hidden disabilities.
2. Digital transformation award: Prague Airport
ACI EUROPE partnered with the SESAR 3 Joint Undertaking to deliver this award, recognising a European airport that has embraced digitalisation and adopted innovative technologies and procedures to improve safety, capacity, efficiency and sustainability. Submissions were required to provide details of how they are implementing a solution that matches the SESAR vision of the Digital European Sky.
This year’s winner was Prague Airport which impressed the judges with its exemplary digital transformation achievements, having deployed several SESAR solutions. It has adapted these to its local needs and benefited from adopting the latest digital innovation and technologies, such as machine learning and data integration. This approach has been rewarded with significant increases in the airport’s operational safety and efficiency.
Rome Fiumicino Airport was also highly commended in this category.
3. Eco-innovation award: Gatwick Airport
This award was presented in association with the Airport Carbon Accreditation programme to highlight an airport that has demonstrated exceptional environmental performance. To compete for the award, applicants needed to provide details of an innovative project in one of the subdivisions of Climate Change, Noise Management, Biodiversity and Wildlife Management or Circular Economy.
Gatwick Airport was chosen as the winner because of its ambitious Biodiversity Action Plan, notably emphasising a ‘net gain’ approach and zero use of herbicides by 2030. Biodiversity is of huge importance for airports and the environment, and Gatwick Airport’s initiative also reflected the positive engagement of both employees and the local community.
Vienna International Airport was also highly commended in this category.
4. Excellence in human resources award: Bologna Airport
Recognising that Human Resources management is crucial for the strategic development of an airport, the award honours an airport HR department that is implementing first-class practices and processes to develop the industry’s workforce. This year, special focus was placed on the social pillar of sustainability.
Winning in this category was Bologna Airport, which judges praised for the excellent alignment of its human management strategy and business strategy, creating a positive synergy between the two. The airport’s Sustainability Plan had a people-centric pillar, emphasising HR initiatives with a multi-faceted approach incorporating training, mobility care, diversity, equality, well-being and other key issues.
Prague Airport was also highly commended in this category.
5. World business partner award: Smiths Detection
This award recognises an ACI EUROPE World Business Partner, either individual or company, that has made significant contributions to the industry.
The winner, Smiths Detection, was selected by the ACI EUROPE Board for its active participation in the Aviation Security Committee’s work for over a decade. This WBP has also been in the vanguard from a manufacturer’s perspective in supporting and driving the adoption of Open Architecture within Security Systems.
6. Under 5 million passengers: Madeira Airport and Menorca Airport
Joint winners were announced for this category. Both Madeira Airport and Menorca Airport showcased exceptional performances, particularly in their post-pandemic recoveries, with Madeira Airport adding new airlines and routes, and Menorca Airport reaching its historic traffic record in 2022.
Madeira Airport was also praised by judges for its commitment to sustainability, coupled with its significant investments to improve accessibility and passenger experience, for instance by creating a Care Team. Menorca Airport was highlighted for its impressive commitment to smooth access for everyone, improvements in readiness and sustainability measures, and its investments in innovative technologies.
7. 5-10 million passengers: Milano Linate Airport
This award went to Milano Linate Airport, which has excelled in its sustainability efforts with the achievement of Level 4+ of Airport Carbon Accreditation and its commitment to achieving net zero by 2030. The judges commended its passenger-centric approach with a dedication to providing seamless and secure passenger travel by investing in innovative solutions such as Explosive Detection Systems for Cabin Baggage (EDS-CB) equipment and Face Boarding services.
8. 10-25 million passengers: Helsinki Airport
Winning this category was Helsinki Airport whose strong sustainability story and industry-leading commitment to achieving net zero by 2025 made it the clear front-runner. The airport has improved its resilience and operational efficiency by successfully consolidating two terminals into a single terminal facility, a challenging undertaking.
Porto – Francisco SA Carneiro Airport was also highly commended in this category.
9. 25-40 million passengers: Athens International Airport
Athens International Airport received strong praise from the judges for its focus on operational resilience and its bold corporate sustainability strategy. With an impressive ambition to be net zero by 2025, its innovative “ROUTE 2025” strategy aims to produce energy on‑site using photovoltaics to cover 100% of the airport’s electricity needs.
Brussels Airport and Avinor Oslo Airport were also highly commended in this category.
10. Over 40 million passengers: Rome Fiumicino Airport
The winner of this category, Rome Fiumicino Airport, has innovation and sustainability at the heart of its ambitious strategy to achieve net zero by 2030. Through its investment in an Innovation Hub, the airport plans to fund projects like the “Innovative Cabin Crew”. Cooperating with internal and external stakeholders, including start-ups and other enterprises, it continues to foster creative problem-solving. The airport was also the first in the world to issue a sustainability‑linked bond, a pioneering solution in achieving sustainability commitments.
iGA Istanbul Grand Airport, Barcelona El-Prat Airport and Madrid-Barajas Airport were also highly commended in this category.