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Transportation

There's a Reason Why Trump's Beloved Airports Are So Nice

Some countries with very different priorities have an easier time building first-rate infrastructure.
Dubai's airport has the best, the greatest, the most tremendous windows in the world.
Dubai's airport has the best, the greatest, the most tremendous windows in the world.Flickr/Christian Michel

One undisputed winner emerged from the presidential debate Monday night: Dubai International Airport. The Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump praised the facility as he slammed beleaguered U.S. aviation hubs. “Our airports are like from a third world country,” he said (echoing comments Vice-President Joe Biden made in 2014). “You land at LaGuardia, you land at Kennedy, you land at LAX, you land at Newark, and you come in from Dubai and Qatar and you see these incredible—you come in from China, you see these incredible airports, and you land—we've become a third world country.”

This was one of the few moments of factual clarity in 90 minutes otherwise marked by Trump’s word-salad-tossing and Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton’s stunning poker face. Dubai International Airport is indeed a very, very swanky place. It’s estimated that one in every twenty households in Dubai is a millionaire, a fact that the state officials who run the 7,000-acre airport—which opened its fourth concourse earlier this year and surpassed London Heathrow as the third-busiest* in the world for passenger travel—seem keenly aware of. Instead of Cinnabons, a kiosk in one terminal sells gold by the ounce. Concourses feature waterfalls and indoor gardens, the largest duty-free retailer in the world, and a concierge service that allows travelers rich enough to use “VIP” arrival and departure facilities. Meanwhile, aging LaGuardia, which is currently enduring a traffic-snarling $8 billion renovation, enjoys some of the worst arrival delays in the country.