25 Most Dangerous Airport Runways

Posted by , Updated on October 20, 2018


Let’s face it: traveling can be quite stressful at times. It’s not only plotting logistics and making sure everything is in order; many times, it’s the getting there that’s the most nerve-wracking, especially if you have a fear of flying. Not all fears of flying are unjustified. As you’ll soon see, some of these destinations have the worst airport runways ever! If you are one of the many people who have a flying phobia, you’ll want to stay away from these 25 Most Dangerous Airport Runways!


Cleveland Hopkins International, USA

Sign for Cleveland Hopkins International

Technically there’s nothing wrong with the location or construction of this airport, but the dangers in this case have to do with the irresponsible staff working there. A controller working an overnight shift was once suspended for watching a DVD while he was supposed to be directing air traffic. As if that weren’t bad enough for the airport’s reputation, a supervisor once complained about the controllers on night shifts routinely taking naps during breaks and playing electronic games when traffic was light.


Wellington International Airport, New Zealand

runway at wellington international airport

Landings in this airport can be extremely hazardous due to having only one very short runway that begins and ends in crystal blue waters. Despite being a very dangerous place to land a plane, its scenic rare beauty makes it one of the most beautiful airports in the world.


Los Angeles International, USA

lax international airport

According to Travel + Leisure, Los Angeles International is the venue for what the FAA calls an “ongoing intensive outreach program” to educate pilots, controllers, and vehicle operators on the best practices, proper procedures, situational awareness, and other aspects of runway safety. Additionally, Los Angeles International has been ranked multiple times throughout the years as the most dangerous airport in the US.


San Diego International Airport, United States

san diego international airport

Similar to LAX, San Diego International Airport is also considered to be one of the busiest commercial airports in the world. Entrance to the airport is blocked on the south and east side due to the mountains, and even further south lies the border of Mexico. This means that planes have to both take off and enter on the west side, barely just passing by each other.


Agatti Aerodrome, Lakshadweep, India

agatti airstrip

This airport is surrounded by nothing except the Indian Ocean, which makes you wonder what would happen if something went wrong during landing or if the pilot needed more space to take off. The 4,000-foot-long Agatti Aerodrome is so arbitrary and small that it looks like a piece of a larger runway that was lost at sea somehow. Because of the danger the short runway presents, there have been many suggestions and proposals to extend it. In the meantime, flights continue to operate normally since this airport is the only one in Lakshadweep, an Indian Union Territory consisting of thirty-six gorgeous exotic islands.


Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport, USA

runway gravestones

In this case, we may be playing it a bit safe here since this airport is nowhere near as dangerous as the rest on this list, but something really macabre and bizarre happens here. If you ever find yourself taxiing along Runway 10 at Savannah/Hilton Head, you may catch a glimpse of something so spooky that it will definitely give you the chills. Embedded in Runway 10’s tarmac you will find a pair of grave markers that belong to the previous landowners where the airport now sits; it was their wish to be buried there.


Narsarsuaq Airport, Greenland

Narsarsuaq Airport runway from the air

Landing at this naturally beautiful and remote airport can either be an amazing or horrific experience. For the pilots, it is undoubtedly a bit of a nightmarish experience since landing there involves flying up a fjord while the threat of severe turbulence and wind shear makes things even more dangerous.


Kansai International Airport, Japan

kix airport

Kansai’s artificial island is 2.5 miles long and 1.6 miles wide, which is so large that it’s rumored to be visible from space. From an engineering point of view, the airport there is one of the most impressive in the world; unfortunately, the frequent earthquakes, powerful cyclones, and unstable seabed make this engineering masterpiece one of the most dangerous airports as well.


Don Mueang International Airport, Thailand

airport golf course

This is a “deceiving” airport where at first you see nothing unusual about it. However, if you pay closer attention, you’ll notice the weirdest thing ever: right in the middle of the two runways, someone had the brilliant idea to create an eighteen-hole golf course. That makes this airport not only a dangerous place for golfers, but one of the most bizarre airports out there as well.


Paro Airport, Bhutan

Paro Airport

The fact that only eight pilots out of thousands worldwide are qualified to land here should tell you how risky landing at this Himalayan airport truly is. If you’re not impressed by the aforementioned fact, you might be impressed learning that Paro Airport is 1.5 miles above sea level and surrounded by sharp peaks of up to 18,000 feet, while the runway is just 6,500 feet long.

It’s rumored that the passengers flying to this tiny airport, which is literally nestled among the steep mountains of the Himalayas, usually take anti-anxiety meds before the flight to steady their nerves.


Kai Tak Airport, Hong Kong

kai tak airport after closure

This place was considered by many pilots as the world’s scariest airport, and for that reason, it was closed in 1998. The strong crosswinds and the surrounding mountains added to the difficulties of landing there. At one time, this destination was one of the most avoided for local travelers. They didn’t call it “the mother of all scary airports” for nothing.


Barra International Airport, Scotland

plane taking off from barra int airport

Barra International Airport is truly unique for being the only airport in the world where scheduled flights use a beach as the runway. Yep, you read that right; the beach is set out with three runways in the shape of a triangle, marked by permanent wooden poles at their ends which almost always allows Twin Otters to land into the wind.


Congonhas Airport, Brazil

brazil airport

The dangerous detail about this airport is that it’s located only five miles from the city’s downtown. Most populous and big cities in the world construct their airports several miles away from the city’s center for safety reasons, but apparently the people of São Paulo didn’t get the memo. As a result, every landing at this airport becomes a challenge in terms of safety, and the pilots may need a strong dose of alcohol after the flight to calm their nerves down.


Gisborne Airport, New Zealand

Gisborne Airport

It might sound like an overstatement to some, but this might be the craziest and most strangely dangerous airport in the world. Why? See, the Palmerston North–Gisborne railway line cuts straight across the airport’s main runway. Yep, you read that correctly: the air traffic controllers must coordinate takeoffs and landings with train arrivals among other things. The rail line has recently closed because of storm damage, but the airport is still open and functional; however, it now only carries freight and has not carried people since 2001.


Lukla Airport, Nepal

Lukla Airport

This tiny airport in the town of Lukla, Nepal, is also known as Tenzing-Hillary Airport and was rated the most dangerous airport in the world in 2010 by the History Channel. It’s located at an immense height of 2,900 meters, while its landing strip has a high mountain on one end and over a thousand meter drop on the other. Ideal for your landing, right?


Courchevel Altiport, France

Courchevel Altiport

Courchevel Altiport is one of the most dangerous airports in the world despite serving the rich who want to ski in the French Alps. Getting to the iconic ski resort requires navigating the formidable French Alps before making a hair-raising landing at Courchevel Airport. The runway is about 1,700 feet long, but the real surprise is the large hill toward the middle of the strip.


Old Mariscal Sucre International Airport, Ecuador

Mariscal Sucre International Airport

The Old Mariscal Sucre International Airport was the worst nightmare for even the most experienced of pilots. Mariscal Sucre was a high-altitude airport that lay right in the heart of Ecuador’s densely populated capital, which dramatically increased risk factors. Furthermore, the mountainous terrain, active volcanoes, and fog made landing there nearly a mission impossible. To top it all off was the horrible runway that was known for being notoriously bumpy. Fortunately, it finally closed and was replaced by the new Mariscal Sucre International Airport in 2013.


Toncontin International Airport, Honduras

toncontin airport

The History Channel’s Most Extreme Airports ranked this airport as the second most dangerous airport in the world and for a good reason. Its runway is located in a valley surrounded by mountains, and the way in is the same as the way out, which of course increases the risk for plane crashes. Despite all these extremely high-risk factors, planes as enormous as Boeing 757’s land and take off from this airport daily.


Gibraltar International Airport, Gibraltar

Gibraltar airport

This airport may look perfectly normal at first, but if you take a closer look, you’ll notice a couple of unusual features about the international airport of Gibraltar. Undoubtedly, the most exceptional feature about this airport is that the main landing strip passes through the city’s main street. Yep, you guessed right. Every time an aircraft has to land or take off, the vehicles in the city have to stop for the train to pass . . . oops, we meant for the plane to fly.


Madeira Airport, Portugal

Madeira runway

This international airport that takes you to the beautiful island of Madeira, Portugal, has a very short runway even though its size was doubled back in 2003. Additionally, the ocean is on one side, and high rough mountains are on the other. It’s widely considered one of the most dangerous airports in the world, and after looking at a picture of it, we’re sure you can immediately understand why.


Princess Juliana International Airport, Saint Martin

Princess Juliana International Airport

Princess Juliana International Airport is one of the busiest airports in the Caribbean. It’s also one of the most complicated airports to land at due to the fact that pilots have to fly over a small public part of the beach, cross over a fence, pass over a road, and then finally, land on the runway. This complex landing strip makes it a candidate for the title of the most dangerous airport in the world.


Ice Runway, Antarctica

Antarctic Ice runway

Ice Runway is one of three major airstrips used to haul supplies and researchers to Antarctica’s McMurdo Station. It was developed to allow Boeing 757’s to bring passengers there, freeing up space on incoming C17’s for greater cargo capacity. As you can probably imagine, the real dangers with this airport have more to do with the extreme weather conditions rather than the design or position of the airport itself.


Gustaf III Airport, Saint Barthélemy

Gustaf III Airport

This airport has an incredibly short runway that typically accommodates small aircrafts carrying fewer than twenty passengers. The runway is at the base of a slope that ends on the beach. Additionally, planes exercise caution during the approach because of the hilltop traffic, while taking off literally occurs over the heads of all the people who are sunbathing on the sand or swimming in the water.


Qamdo Bamda Airport, Tibet

Tibet Airport

Tibet is located in the world’s highest mountains, the Himalayas, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that Qamdo Bamda is one of the world’s highest airports. This airport is perched more than 14,000 feet above sea level. Another extraordinary feature of this airport is its 3.5-mile-long runway, which is considered to be the longest in the world. The low concentration of oxygen at such altitude may cause some discomfort to newcomers and also lowers the aircraft engines’ performance, making landing a nightmarish experience for everyone on the plane.


Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport, Saba Island

saba airport

Getting to this beautiful Caribbean island can be quite an experience, since this airport is really nothing more than a 1,300-foot-long runway. Surrounded by high cliffs, this dangerously short runway comes awfully close to a steep slope that leads directly to the ocean. As one can easily understand why large planes don’t land there, the small runway is difficult even for Cessna aircrafts and others.

Photo: Featured Image - shutterstock, 1. Pia L at the English language Wikipedia, Saba airport.jpg, CC BY-SA 3.0, 2. https://tripandtravelblog.com (Fair Use: Illustrative Purposes Only), 3. Torrey Wiley, Gustaf III Airport Runway, CC BY 2.0 , 4. Eli Duke, Antarctica McMurdo Ice Runway Skytraders A319, CC BY-SA 2.0 , 5. Lawrence Lansing, Princess juliana international airport approach, CC BY 3.0 , 6. Jarvin - Jarle Vines, Aeroporto da Madeira runway, CC BY-SA 3.0 , 7. Scott Wylie, Airport and Stadium in Gibraltar, CC BY 2.0 , 8. enrique galeano morales, 757landing-toncontin, CC BY 2.0 , 9. Ssr, Mariscal Sucre International Airport, Quito, Ecuador, CC BY-SA 3.0 , 10. Ian Gratton from Sutton-n-Craven, North Yorkshire, England, Courchevel Altiport, CC BY 2.0 , 11. https://www.flickr.com, Lukla Airport, CC BY 2.0, 12. chirlula, Rail-run-way-crossing, CC BY-SA 2.0 , 13. Valter Campanato/ABr, Pista Congonhas01, CC BY 3.0 BR , 14. Steve Houldsworth, Barra Airport Arrivals (geograph 3230484), CC BY-SA 2.0 , 15. Wpcpey, Kai Tak Grid Neighbourhood overview 201707, CC BY-SA 4.0 , 16. Doug Knuth from Woodstock, IL, Paro day 1-57 (8202276889), CC BY-SA 2.0, 17. MNXANL, 201701 Golf Course at DMK, CC BY-SA 4.0 , 18. Tdk, Kix aerial photo, CC BY-SA 3.0 , 19. Algkalv, Narsarsuaq-airport-runway-from-air, CC BY-SA 3.0 , 20. Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport via thestate.com (Fair Use: Illustrative Purposes Only), 21. Julio, Agatti Airstrip, CC BY-SA 2.0 , 22. Joe Mabel, DHL & UPS jets at San Diego International Airport 01, CC BY 3.0 , 23. Alan Wilson, LAX International Line-up 2, CC BY-SA 2.0 , 24. shutterstock, 25. shutterstock

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