By Ray Fleming

WHICH is Britain's best airport? Hull's Humberside! No, it's not an April Fool joke -- it's the opinion of the Airports Council International whose confidential annual survey somehow found its way into the UK media yesterday and provoked predictable newspaper headlines like “Heathrow: Terminal Decline”. In eighth place Humberside is the only British or European airport in a top ten dominated by Asian airports; to find Heathrow it is necessary to go down the global rankings to ninety-ninth place where it is closely followed by Gatwick and Stanstead. However, the apparent disgrace is somewhat modified by the fact that London's number one airport keeps company with Amsterdam Schipol in the nineties listings while Madrid, Frankfurt and Paris, Charles de Gaulle, are to be found even further down in the low hundreds.

Even when all Heathrow's many shortcomings are recalled it is still reasonable to ask in its defence how these rankings are compiled by the Airports Council International: Who makes the assessments? Are they passengers or airport professionals? What criteria do they use? Without such information the published results mean very little. Even if it is true that Humberside can be compared in some respects to Singapore Changi and Hong Kong International, can it be considered as an international hub offering services to all points on the globe?