Are you aware of the world’s most dangerous airports? Have you flown to any of them? While we all know that statistically, flying is by far the safest, fastest and most reliable way of traveling, many of us still suffer from a terrible fear of moving through the sky on a 200 ton metal contraption (give or take a few tons). Sadly these airports do not alleviate those fears at all! If you are one of those people who start to sweat before every take-off, or worse, tremble at the mere mention of an airplane, you will definitely want to avoid traveling to/from the airports featured in this post. Conversely, if you are a total thrill seeker and are looking for your next adventure, by all means, book the next flight. We have to hand it to the pilots who fly in and out of these treacherous locations on a day to day basis because they must have some massive jewels to deal with these landing strips. From a New Zealand airport whose main runway is crossed by a railway to a Tibetan airport perched high up in the Himalayas, these are 25 Dangerous Airports That Might Just Keep You From Traveling.
Svalbard Airport, Norway
Located 3 km (2 mi) from Longyearbyen, the largest settlement and administrative centre of Svalbard, Norway, the Svalbard Airport is the world´s northernmost airport with public scheduled flights. Surrounded by ice-cold sea and high mountains, this airport was a site of the worst air crash in Norwegian history as 141 people died here in an aviation accident in 1996.
Kai Tak Airport, Hong Kong
Sitting right among the Hong Kong´s skyscrapers, the Kai Tak Airport was so dangerous it actually had to be closed in 1998. Once called “the mother of all scary airports”, it was replaced with the new Hong Kong International Airport built 30 kilometers (19 miles) to the west of the Kai Tak Airport.
Los Angeles International Airport, California, US
With over 70 million handled passengers in 2014, the Los Angeles International Airport is one of the busiest airports in the US. Unfortunately, this airport has also witnessed numerous air crashes and incidents including shootings and even bomb explosions, which makes it one of the most dangerous US airports.
Princess Juliana International Airport, Saint Martin
Located on the Caribbean island of Saint Martin, a territory belonging to France and Netherlands, the Princess Juliana International Airport is notorious for its extreme proximity to a local beach. Incredible photos of planes flying just above the heads of tourists are famous all over the world.
Tenzing-Hillary Airport, Nepal
Also known as Lukla Airport, the Tenzing-Hillary Airport is a small airport situated at an enormous height of almost 3 km (1.8 mi) in the town of Lukla in eastern Nepal. Affected by high winds, cloud cover, and changing visibility, this airport was ranked as the world´s most dangerous airport in 2010 by the History Channel.
Tribhuvan International Airport, Nepal
Situated just about 6 km (3.7 mi) off Nepal´s capital Kathmandu, the Tribhuvan International Airport is another feared airport found in this Asian country. The sole international airport in Nepal, it only handles about 3.5 million passengers per year but the occurrence of various incidents caused by severe weather conditions is very high here.
Madeira Airport, Portugal
The Madeira Airport is practically the only way to get to this Portuguese archipelago known for its breathtaking nature and beaches. Unfortunately, the safety of the local airport is far less amazing. Infamous for its unusually short “bridge” runway, landing on the Madeira Airport is often a nightmare even for the most experienced pilots.
Kansai International Airport, Japan
Found in Osaka Prefecture, Japan, the Kansai International Airport is notable for its unique location on an artificial island. However, its location is also the reason why this airport is so dangerous. The extremely low elevation combined with frequent earthquakes, cyclones and harsh weather conditions are enough to scare even the bravest of travelers.
Old Mariscal Sucre International Airport, Ecuador
Once one of the major airports in South America, the Old Mariscal Sucre International Airport was the busiest airport in Ecuador. Due to its location right in the middle of Quito, the country´s capital, the airport was a site of tens of tragic incidents, which makes it one of the most dangerous airports in the world. In February 2013, it was finally closed.
Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport, Saba
The only airport of Saba, a little Caribbean island belonging to Netherlands, the Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport is famous for its runway that “boasts” the title of the shortest commercial runway in the world. With a length of just 396 m (1,300 ft), the runway is only used by small planes but even these have problems while landing on it.
Gibraltar International Airport, Gibraltar
With just about 380,000 passengers handled annually the Gibraltar airport is one of the smallest on the list but the fact its runway cuts through a local major road makes it one of the most bizarre and dangerous airports in the world. In fact, the History Channel program Most Extreme Airports ranked this airport as the world´s fifth most extreme.
Gisborne Airport, New Zealand
But a main road is not the only thing that can cross an airport´s runway. Located on the east coast of the North Island of New Zealand, the Gisborne Airport is famous for having a railway line crossing the runway. While managing air traffic alone is usually very demanding, we can only guess what coordinating airplanes and trains together can be like.
Wellington International Airport, New Zealand
Landing in the New Zealand capital´s airport can also turn into an unintentional adrenaline experience. Frequent gusty winds and the channeling effect of the Cook Straight often cause rough take-offs and landings here. Moreover, this airport´s runway is very short, bordering with the ocean coast on each side.
Matekane Air Strip, Lesotho
Perched at the edge of a 600 meters (2,000 feet) cliff, the Matekane Air Strip is a regional airport in Lesotho. Used mostly by charity organizations and medical staff to access local remote villages, this airport´s runway ranks among the scariest in the world. Measuring just 400 meters (1,300 feet), it runs right off the cliff.
Ibrahim Nasir International Airport, Maldives
Also known as Malé International Airport, the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport is the main airport in Maldives, a popular tourist destination in the Indian Ocean. Permanently threatened by floods, the airport´s main runway is also infamous for its little maneuvering space.
Ice Runway, Antarctica
Used to deliver supplies to the McMurdo station, the Ice Runway is an airport in Antarctica. Considering the extreme location of the airport, the main threat is obvious – the severe Antarctic weather. In 1960, a US Navy Lockheed EC-121 Warning Star from Oceanographic Development Squadron Eight crashed while attempting to land on the Ice Runway.
Congonhas Airport, Brazil
Named after the neighborhood where it is located, the Congonhas Airport in Brazil is another airport that sits right in a city downtown. When the airport was built in the 1930’s, it was outside the built-up area but over the years urban sprawl has crept up on the airport and gradually taken it over, leaving little space for planes to land.
Courchevel Altiport, France
Perched at a height of over 2,000 meters (almost 6,600 feet), the Courchevel Altiport is an airport serving Courchevel, a ski resort in the French Alps. Apart from being exposed to the harsh mountain weather and frequent fogs, the airport is also notorious for a very short runway (537 meters or 1,762 feet) with a hill in the middle of it.
Barra Airport, Scotland
Operated by Highlands and Islands Airports Limited, a Scottish airline company, the Barra Airport is the only airport in the world to use a beach as the runway. The beach is set out with three runways in a triangle, marked by permanent wooden poles. As the runways get flooded with the tide, the flight times vary accordingly.
Catalina Airport, California, US
Catalina Airport is a privately owned airport located 10 km (6 miles) northwest of the central business district of Avalon, California in the middle of Catalina Island. The airport is open to the public and allows general aviation aircraft to land there but usually, only experienced pilots fly there as the airport’s short runway ends with a steep drop off.
Qamdo Bamda Airport, China
Also known as Changdu Bangda Airport, the Qamdo Bamda Airport is an airport serving Qamdo, the third largest city in Tibet. Located at an incredible height of 4,334 m (14,219 ft), it used to be the world´s highest airport until 2013. The extreme altitude can make passengers feel dizzy and even the planes´ engines may not perform as well as they usually do.
Paro Airport, Bhutan
Another airport found high up in the Himalayas, the Paro Airport is the only international airport in Bhutan. With surrounding peaks as high as 5,500 meters (18,000 feet), the Paro Airport is considered one of the world’s most challenging airports. In fact, only a few pilots in the world have been certified to land at this airport.
Tufi Airport, Papua New Guinea
Serving Tufi, a coastal town located on the peninsula of Cape Nelson in Oro Province, Papua New Guinea, the Tufi Airport is a little airport operated by PNG Airlines. Currently featuring just a short dirt runway, the airport has ambitions to become an international airport connecting Papua New Guinea with Australia.
Agatti Aerodrome, India
Located on the southern end of the Agatti Island some 460 km (285 mi) off the west coast of India, the Agatti Aerodrome is the only airport on the archipelago. Surrounded by the Indian Ocean’s crystal clear waters, it has just one tiny asphalt runway which can be a nightmarish experience for even the most practiced pilots.
Sandane Airport, Norway
Wedged between two massive fjords, the Sandane Airport is a regional airport serving the town of Sandane in Norway. Apart from the unfavorable geographical location, planes using this airport have to deal with gusty winds and severe turbulences, which makes the Sandane Airport one of the most feared airports in Europe.