The Most Dangerous Airports in the World, Ranked

Lukla Airport Nepal
Vadim Petrakov/Shutterstock.com

Written by Niccoy Walker

Updated: September 22, 2023

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You may be asking yourself, what exactly makes an airport dangerous?

Several factors can make an airport unsafe for travelers and personnel. First, those with short runways can be risky for landings and takeoffs. And if the runway is located in a tricky location, such as nestled between mountains and oceans, it can require a lot of mastery to stick the landing just right. In fact, some airports on this list require special skills and clearances to land at them. Some airports can also be unsafe due to frequent poor weather conditions or high altitudes. 

Lukla Airport is the most dangerous airport in the world!

While thrill-seekers may put these runways on their bucket lists, others will plan their trips accordingly to avoid them. Discover the 10 most dangerous airports in the world, including their locations and why you may think twice before flying into them.

1. Lukla Airport (Tenzing-Hillary Airport) – Nepal

Lukla airport, Khumbu valley, Solukhumbu, Everest area, Nepal Himalayas,

Lukla airport has been the most dangerous airport in the world for over 20 years.

Serving as the starting point for Mount Everest hikes, Lukla Airport faces almost every risk imaginable with landings and takeoffs. It has been considered the world’s most dangerous airport for over 20 years. Not only is climbing Everest insanely dangerous, but getting to the base of the mountain is, too. The airport is at a high altitude in the Himalayan Mountains, which can cause trouble for slowing down planes. The runway is also very short and allows for no missed landing opportunities. In other words, if a plane begins its descent, it has to keep going until it lands. Additionally, the weather at Lukla Airport is unpredictable, which often leads to low visibility. 

2. Barra International Airport – Scotland

Barra Airport

Barra Airport uses the beach as its runway, which also becomes flooded during high tide.

Located at the northern tip of Barra Island in Scotland is the famous short-runway airport known as Barra Eoligarry Airport. It is the only airport in the world that uses the beach as a runway. There are actually three runways. And all of them get submerged during high tide. The airport can’t be used during times of high winds, high tides, or at night. 

3. Toncontin International Airport – Honduras

Toncontin Airport

This Honduran runway is short, difficult to approach, and surrounded by mountainous terrain.

Toncontin is the second-busiest airport in Honduras. And is also one of the hardest airports in the world for pilots to navigate. The runway is treacherous and filled with difficult navigation. And during times of inclement weather, it can be downright deadly. The runway is short, difficult to approach, and surrounded by mountainous terrain.

4. Princess Juliana International Airport – St. Martin, Caribbean Islands

Airplane flying over people during landing at Maho Beach in Saint Maarten at Princess Juliana airport.

Airplane flying over people during landing at Maho Beach in Saint Maarten at Princess Juliana airport.

The Princess Juliana International Airport is the primary transportation hub on the island of Sant Martin. And also serves as the main outlet to smaller islands. While the airport is relatively busy, its runway is cause for concern. It wasn’t built to handle large aircraft due to its short runway that barely misses the crowded nearby beach. This airport is especially dangerous for spectators, who can be killed or injured by jet-engine blasts.

5. Paro Airport – Bhutan

Splendid view of Paro airport, Bhutan

This airport is in a deep valley surrounded by tall mountain peaks.

Paro Airport is located in Bhutan in the Eastern Himalayas. It lies on the Paro Chhu River bank in a deep valley and is surrounded by enormous mountain peaks. The area has extreme crosswinds, no radar to guide planes, high altitude, and rugged terrain. As one of the most difficult and dangerous airports, only eight pilots are certified to land at Parro Airport. 

6. Courchevel Airport – France

The runway of the mountain airport in Courchevel in the French Alps with the snow-capped mountains in the background

The runway of the mountain airport in Courchevel in the French Alps with the snow-capped mountains in the background.

The Courchevel Airport, or altiport, is located at a ski resort in the French Alps. This airport has an extremely short runway of only 1,762 feet and is surrounded by rugged mountains. While only smaller aircraft land here, there are no landing procedures or aids, such as instruments and lighting. The runway is sloped upward, which is very difficult to land on. And during times of inclement weather, it is almost impossible for pilots to see. 

7. Kansai International Airport – Japan

Kansai Airport Japan

The airport of Kansai is vulnerable to natural disasters, such as earthquakes and cyclones.

Kansai is the main airport near Greater Osaka, Japan. It is situated on an artificial island in Osaka Bay, meaning the strip is surrounded by water. Its location makes it vulnerable to natural disasters, like cyclones and earthquakes. But due to rising sea levels, the airport is a threat of being completely submerged in the ocean.

8. Gibraltar International Airport – British Overseas Territory

Gibraltar Airport, Spain

Gibraltar Airport features a runway that crosses a busy public street.

Located in the British overseas territory of Gibraltar, the airport’s runway is in a peculiar spot. One of the main roads in the area intersects the runway, meaning people have to wait to cross the street when planes are taking off. While there are traffic signals to control vehicle movement, this system is not ideal for safe travel. The airport is also notorious for experiencing strong crosswinds over the Bay of Gibraltar.

9. Svalbard Airport – Norway

Svalbard Airport

Svalbard Airport has a runway built on ice and is surrounded by a harsh snow-covered landscape.

This Norwegian airport is one of the northernmost airports in the world. And it has a negative reputation for being one of the most dangerous airports in the world due to its runway being built on ice. The airport is also surrounded by hills, and it sits at a high elevation, where it regularly experiences poor weather conditions. It was also the site of the worst plane crash in Norway’s history. 

10. Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport – Saba, Dutch Caribbean Island

Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport

The Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport has the shortest runway in the world, measuring only 1,312 feet.

Located on the Dutch Caribbean Island of Saba, the Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport has the shortest runway in the world, measuring only 1,312 feet. Not only is the runway extremely short, but both ends abruptly drop at cliffs that give way to the sea. Large aircraft are not permitted for landing at this airport. But even small planes can miscalculate and end up in the ocean.

Summary of The Most Dangerous Airports in the World

RankAirportLocationDanger
1Lukla Airport (Tenzing-Hillary Airport)NepalAltitude and weather
2Barra International AirportScotlandFlooding
3Toncontin International AirportHondurasMountainous terrain
4Princess Juliana International AirportSt. Martin, Caribbean IslandsAdjacent to a populated beach
5Paro AirportBhutanDeep valley
6Courchevel AirportFranceSurrounded by Alps
7Kansai International AirportJapanVolcanoes and earthquakes
8Gibraltar International AirportBritish Overseas TerritoryCrosses a street
9Svalbard AirportNorwayBuilt on ice
10Juancho E. Yrausquin AirportSaba, Dutch Caribbean IslandShortest runway


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About the Author

Niccoy is a professional writer for A-Z Animals, and her primary focus is on birds, travel, and interesting facts of all kinds. Niccoy has been writing and researching about travel, nature, wildlife, and business for several years and holds a business degree from Metropolitan State University in Denver. A resident of Florida, Niccoy enjoys hiking, cooking, reading, and spending time at the beach.

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