22 Most Dangerous Airports In The World

Do you know that Cristiano Ronaldo has An airport? And the airport is one of the most dangerous airports in the world?

I remember the time my plane tried to land in Africa on a sandy airstrip but had to abort the landing because a group of tenacious giraffes had taken up residence on the runway.

Almost a month later, I landed in Bhutan in a scenario straight out of Star Wars, with my commercial airliner banking wildly to squeeze through the tiny, inaccessible mountain terrain.

I have had many incredible travel experiences, from snowstorms and lightning strikes to the severe turbulence that injured our flight crew, but I have always been able to keep my cool and trust that everything will work out.

When organizing a trip, we consider numerous factors, including transportation, accommodations, and activities. Including such finer points as airport amenities.

The idea of adventure starts at the airport with this list of the most dangerous airports in the world. You’ll be praying more than on a roller coaster as you approach landing at one of these most dangerous airports, whose hazards range from icy runways to flat surfaces. So, let us take a look at the most dangerous airports in the world right now and all you need to know.

22 Most Dangerous Airports In The World Right Now

The rugged coastline of St Helena at Prosperous Bay Plain near the St Helena international airport
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Rating Airline Names Location
1st Tenzing-Hillary Airport Nepal
2nd Princess Juliana International Airport St. Maarten
3rd Paro International Airport Bhutan
4th Madeira Airport Portugal
5th Narsarsuaq Airport Greenland
6th Gibraltar International Airport Gibraltar
7th Courchevel Airport France
8th Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport Saba
9th St. Helena Airport St. Helena
10th Toncontín International Airport Honduras
11th Congonhas Airport Brazil
12th Telluride Airport Colorado
13th Aspen/Pitkin County Airport Colorado
14th Wellington International Airport New Zealand
15th McMurdo Station, Antarctica
16th Gisborne Airport, New Zealand New Zealand
17th Barra International Airport Scotland
18th Tioman Airport Malaysia
19th Svalbard Airport Norway
20th Sudan’s Khartoum International Airport Sudan
21st Kinshasa N’djili International Airport The Democratic Republic of the Congo
22 Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere International Airport Tanzania

1. Tenzing-Hillary Airport

Tenzing–Hillary Airport, also known as Lukla Airport, is a small airport in the town of Lukla, in Khumbu, Solukhumbu District, Nepal
Image Credit: Shutterstock.
  • Location: Nepal

This airport is the most dangerous airport in Asia. Lukla Airport (also known as Tenzing-Hillary Airport) is situated in the Himalayas at an altitude of 9,383 feet. Compared to the more typical runway length of 7,000 to 10,000 feet, this one is only 1,729 feet long and is perched precariously on the edge of a cliff with a 2,000-foot drop and a stone wall on one side.

Due to the extreme variability of mountain weather, aircraft only take off in the morning. Cancelations of flights due to unexpected snowfall or dense fog are all too usual.

Once the pilot begins the descent, there is no turning back; thus, bad weather could prompt him to turn back to Kathmandu.

Pilots of the small planes and helicopters that may land and take off here must undergo extensive training, including at least 100 short takeoffs and landings, one year of experience in Nepal under such conditions, and ten successful flights to Lukla with a licensed instructor.

However, there has been another plane crash there. In 2019, a plane crashed with a helicopter after it drifted off the runway. The crash resulted in the deaths of three individuals. When a plane crashed while trying to land here in 2008, 18 individuals lost their lives. There has been an increase in the number of incidences.

Facts About Tenzing-Hillary Airport

Lukla, a village of fewer than 500 people and the usual starting point for trekkers heading to the summit of Mount Everest, is a popular destination in its own right. Traveling by plane from Kathmandu to Lukla only takes 40 minutes, saving you time that you can put toward taking the bus, taking a private helicopter, or, of course, hiking to the town.

Over 500 emergency landings and 20 plane disasters occurred this year, although none were at high-risk airports, as shown by the Aviation Global Incident Map.

Many of these airports I have had the pleasure (and good fortune) of landing in, and I can only wish the same for you.

These airports are in some of the most beautiful and frequently inaccessible locations in the world, and getting there requires more than just a dramatic and perfectly managed landing.

These airports can typically only be reached by pilots with extensive experience and training. Only 17 pilots in the world are qualified to land in Paro, Bhutan, and landings in small airports in remote regions like Norway and Antarctica are even more spectacular.

The many skilled pilots who often accomplish this impress me. Please see below my personal ranking of the world’s most exciting airport landings.

Located in the Himalayas, the most common starting point for trekkers to the region is the Tenzing airport, which was named for the first two people to reach the summit of Mount Everest.

The airport sits on a mountainside, and its single, short runway has steep angles and slopes and is only 1,600 feet in length. The mountain wall at one end of the runway contrasts with the stunning drop of 2,000 feet into the valley at the other.

2. Princess Juliana International Airport

plane flying over beach in sint maarten
Image Credit: Deposit Photos
  • Location: St. Maarten

St. Maarten has an airport located next to a public beach, and the planes fly so low that the beachgoers always get a nice dose of wind and sand every time an airplane lands.

The runway is only 7,100 feet long and is surrounded by the ocean on one side and mountains on the other. People who are interested in aviation often gather on the beach to take pictures of the spectacular takeoffs and landings.

Nonetheless, there are plenty of signs warning people to stay aside since jet blasts from planes can knock them over, leading to injuries. A woman was standing near the airport’s fence in 2017 when she was pushed over and sustained fatal head injuries.

3. Paro International Airport

Paro, Bhutan- December 8,2018: Paro Airport in the Mountains - Bhutan. mountain landscape with village and mini airport
Image Credit: Shutterstock.
  • Location: Bhutan

So, what do you think of an airport so complicated that only 17 pilots are authorized to land there? Located in the heart of the Himalayas at an altitude of 7,364 feet, Paro International Airport is Bhutan’s only international airport.

Only during the daytime hours are landings and takeoffs permitted, and even then, only if the pilot is competent enough to keep the aircraft’s nose from scraping the mountains. In order to safely descend from the cliff, they tilt the plane at 45 degrees and steer clear of houses perched on the edge.

The little airport has a 6,500-foot runway, but once you’re outside in the fresh air, you can admire the surrounding 18,000-foot mountain peaks.

4. Madeira Airport

Funchal, Madeira Island, Portugal. August 25, 2021. Smart Wings airline at Cristiano Ronaldo International Airport
Image Credit: Shutterstock.

Landing at Madeira Airport, also known as Cristiano Ronaldo International Airport, can humble even the most seasoned traveler.

The short airstrip is conveniently located between the cliffs and the ocean, and it is extended with 180 columns in the sea to ensure the safety of aircraft landing there. Atlantic storms are always a source of tension, and the region is well-known for its rough waters and scary waves. It’s easy to see why so few aircraft are given permission to land at this airport.

5. Narsarsuaq Airport

Narsarsuaq (Airport BGBW) and Brattahlid located on Eriksfjord - aerial view
Image Credit: Shutterstock.
  • Location: Greenland

This airport in southern Greenland is terrifying for a number of different reasons. Its location among Fjords makes for a beautiful photo but presents some challenges for aircraft.

When approaching the 6,000-foot runway in the fjords, pilots must turn 90 degrees, which can be difficult in high winds. To further impede visibility, adjacent volcanoes frequently spew ash into the air.

Landings and takeoffs are restricted to daylight because flying at night is risky.

6. Gibraltar International Airport

Airport terminal in Gibraltar. April 21st 2023
Image Credit: Shutterstock.
  • Location: Gibraltar

Gibraltar Airport is the most dangerous airport in Europe and doubles to be on the list of worst airports in the world. At Gibraltar, the airport runway leads directly to a giant rock. Pilots need to apply the brakes the second they set foot on the runway since it ends abruptly in the water on both ends and is sandwiched between a rock and a busy metropolis.

However, that’s not the scariest part. The runway in Gibraltar is located in the middle of a busy street, making it necessary to close the roadway whenever a plane lands or takes off.

7. Courchevel Airport

Courchevel, France February 2018: Private jet plane in the French mountains.
Image Credit: Shutterstock.
  • Location: France

The Courchevel Airport provides an exhilarating pre-run for skiers and snowboarders before they ever reach the French Alps. Planes have to navigate a challenging landscape of mountains and valleys to reach this location, which is 6,500 feet above sea level.

Takeoffs are tense since the runway is only 1,700 feet long and has a downhill grade of 18.5%. Due to the lack of any sort of artificial lighting, flying here is not recommended during stormy weather.

8. Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport

Airport, on island of Saba in Caribbean area, has one of the shortest runways in the world, only 400 metres long. Flanked on one side by high hills, with cliffs that drop into the sea at both ends.
Image Credit: Shutterstock.
  • Location: Saba

Traveling by boat from St. Maarten to Saba is preferable for those who are afraid of flying because to the short 15-minute travel time. The airport on Saba is notorious for its small runway, which is only 1,312 feet long.

The runway, which is hemmed in by hills on one side, is perilously near to the water in the Caribbean, and any piloting error may send an airplane falling into the water.

9. St. Helena Airport

ST HELENA - OCTOBER 12, 2015: View from the air traffic control tower at St Helena's international airport as construction nears completion
Image Credit: Shutterstock.
  • Location: St. Helena

St. Helena, located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, is a distant British Overseas Territory. It could be reached by boat from Cape Town, but it would take five or six days, so local authorities advocated building an airport instead.

After years of delays, construction was finally completed in 2015; however, flights were grounded because of excessive wind shears. All pilots and passengers, as evidenced by the 2016 trial flight, will have to endure a hair-raising, roller-coaster flight due to the impact of ocean winds on the cliffs where the airport is located.

After yet another setback, the opening of St. Helena Airport was branded “the world’s most useless airport.”

In 2017, commercial operations resumed (only to be temporarily halted by COVID-19), and landing there requires highly specialized training. It’s still not always smooth sailing when you’re trying to land on this island, despite its reputation for trails and whale sharks.

10. Toncontín International Airport

TEGUCIGALPA, HONDURAS - Mar 11, 2022: An airplane landing on a dirt runway in Honduras outback
Image Credit: Shutterstock.
  • Location: Honduras

Tegucigalpa’s airport is notorious for being one of the deadliest in the world. The airport has been the scene of countless accidents; it is surrounded by mountains, and aircraft have to make a sharp 45-degree turn only minutes before landing in the valley, all while avoiding the nearby homes. Furthermore, the deadly consequences of missing the tabletop runway’s length of 7,000 feet are real.

Is it any surprise that construction on a new airport in the Comayagua Valley is proceeding at a rapid pace to take the place of Toncontin? A new airport with a longer runway and upgraded amenities were opened in Palmerola in October of this year.

11. Congonhas Airport

Sao Paulo, SP / Brazil - October 05 2011: Avianca A319 taking off in Congonhas Airport
Image Credit: Shutterstock.
  • Location: Brazil

Sao Paulo Airport has runways that are notorious for their short length, difficult approach, and slick surfaces. It’s unnerving to come in for a landing so close to the city, with its seemingly unending rows of roofs.

A jet crashed into a gas station and a storage facility after missing the runway in 2007. There were a total of 187 fatalities on board, plus 12 on the ground.

12. Telluride Airport

Sunbeam through Telluride Valley view from Telluride Airport, Colorado
Image Credit: Shutterstock.

There is really little wiggle room here. At an impressive 9,070 feet in altitude, the Telluride Airport in Colorado boasts the title of America’s highest-altitude commercial airport. The San Juan Mountains are notoriously difficult to fly over due to the strong winds and precipitous rocks.

13. Aspen/Pitkin County Airport

Aspen, USA - July 3, 2019: Colorado town with small airport in famous city during summer day with fence by road and mountains
Image Credit: Shutterstock.
  • Location: Colorado

Aspen/Pitkin County Airport, located near the renowned ski resort of Aspen, Colorado, is another terrifying airport in the United States (elevation: 7,800 feet). There have been multiple collisions because of the variable wind speeds, poor visibility, and proximity of mountains on both sides of the area. It’s undeniably one of the most challenging landing strips in the country.

14. Wellington International Airport

WELLINGTON - AUG 21 2014:Jetstar Airways plane at Wellington International Airport.Jetstar Airwayairline was established by Qantas in 2003 as a low-cost domestic subsidiary.
Image Credit: Shutterstock.
  • Location: New Zealand

The airport has a single runway that measures 6,351 feet long and appears to begin and end in the ocean. Landings are notoriously difficult to manage due to the hard approach through the mountainous terrain, which is known for its fierce winds. And after you get off the boat, the hurricane winds might pick you up and carry you away. Positive emotions!

15. McMurdo Station, Antarctica

Phoenix Airfield, Mcmurdo Station, Antarctica- November 5 2018: U.S Airforce c17 Lands at phoenix airfield near Mcmurdo station Antarctica to support the national science foundation
Image Credit: Shutterstock.

Located on the exposed volcanic rock of Ross Island’s Hut Point Peninsula, this Ice Runway is constructed entirely of “white ice” (four inches of compacted snow.)

Because of its proximity to McMurdo Station and its generally good condition, the Ice Runway is a summertime mainstay of the US Antarctic Program. There is no daylight at all during the winter months at this military base, which is also the only major airport on the continent. Pilots are conditioned to land in the dark and in a whiteout.

16. Gisborne Airport, New Zealand

Fenced hilltop scenic lookout and picnic spot with wooden seating, Makorori headland, Gisborne, New Zealand
Image Credit: Shutterstock.
  • Location: New Zealand

This airport, on the outskirts of Gisborne, New Zealand, features a railway that crosses the runway. There are three grass runways and one main runway at this airport, and the national train line crosses all of them. Scheduled landings are coordinated with precision to avoid collisions with oncoming trains.

17. Barra International Airport

Barra, Scotland-August 17, 2010: A twin otter aircraft gets ready for take off at barra's beach
Image Credit: Shutterstock.
  • Location: Scotland

This airstrip is situated on a small, uninhabited island in the shallow harbor of Traigh Mhr. Flying pilots have to keep an eye on both the weather and the tides as they make their way to the airport. At high tide, all three runways are totally flooded, and the runway itself is only five feet above sea level.

18. Tioman Airport

Tioman Island, Malaysia, 7th Marc 2023. A turbo prop aircraft oarked at airport
Image Credit: Shutterstock.
  • Location: Malaysia

When landing on Tioman Island, aircraft must first travel directly into a mountain before performing a sharp 90-degree turn to align with the runway. Since there is a cliff with a very steep drop into the waters below at the end of the runway, the one-way landing needs to be very quick.

19. Svalbard Airport

LONGYEARBYEN, SVALBARD, NORWAY - JULY 25, 2010: Passengers disembarking outdoors from a commercial jet airplane.
Image Credit: Shutterstock.
  • Location: Norway

This runway is 8 miles long and was constructed right on the ice. There are culverts beneath the runways for mountain runoff to escape. Since there aren’t any runway lights, planes can only take off and land during daylight hours, which is a problem in the dead of winter when there’s never a chance of a takeoff.

The airport’s runway had to be insulated against the earth so that it wouldn’t melt during the summer, and the airport itself had to be constructed on permafrost.

20. Sudan’s Khartoum International Airport

Aerial of Juba, the capital of South Sudan, with river Nile on the right
Image Credit: Shutterstock.
  • Location: Sudan

This airport features to be the most dangerous airport in Africa as of today owing to uncompleted buildings and infrastructural changes going on in the airport.

21. Kinshasa N’djili International Airport

Pastoral visit of the sovereign pontiff to Kinshasa received at the foot of the plane by the Prime Minister of the DRC Jean Michael Sama lukonde on January 31, 2023 at n'djili international airport
Image Credit: Shutterstock.
  • Location: the Democratic Republic of the Congo

This is also on the list of Africa’s most dangerous airports to fly from or land.

22. Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere International Airport

DAR EL SALAAM tANZANIA 10 20 2011: Precision Air Services Plc (operating as Precision Air; DSE:PAL) is a Tanzanian airline based at Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salaam
Image Credit: Shutterstock.
  • Location: Tanzania

Facts About Most Dangerous Airports In The World

Woman shocked face with open mouth and big eyes.
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There were nearly 500 emergency landings and 20 plane disasters globally in 2018, but none of them occurred at any of the world’s most dangerous airports, as shown by the Aviation Global Incident Map.

I’ve been fortunate enough to touch down in several of these terminals, and I wish the same for you. In addition to being located in some of the world’s most stunning and often inaccessible regions, reaching these airports often requires a series of perfectly choreographed aerial maneuvers.

Only highly skilled pilots will be able to land at several of these airports. Landings in small airports in remote regions like Norway and Antarctica are even more spectacular than the one in Paro, Bhutan, where only 17 pilots are trained to navigate it.

The numerous skilled pilots who consistently pull off these landings have my deepest respect. These are the airport landings that I found to be the most exciting around the globe.

What Is The Most Deadliest Airport In The World?

Tenzing–Hillary Airport, also known as Lukla Airport, is a small airport in the town of Lukla, in Khumbu, Solukhumbu District, Nepal
Image Credit: Shutterstock.

The deadliest airport in the world right now is the Lukla Airport, Nepal. Lukla Airport, located at an altitude of 2,438 meters (almost 8,000 feet), is often considered to be one of the most dangerous airports in the world. This airport is used by those heading to Mount Everest, despite its lack of power and its exceedingly short landing and takeoff strips.

What Is The Most Dangerous Airport In Asia?

Tenzing–Hillary Airport, also known as Lukla Airport, is a small airport in the town of Lukla, in Khumbu, Solukhumbu District, Nepal
Image Credit: Shutterstock.

If you are flying from Asia, Lukla is the most dangerous airport in Asia, either for landing or taking off.

What Is The Most Dangerous Airport In Africa?

Departure lounge of Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. 20th November 2021
Image Credit: Shutterstock.

The most dangerous airports in Africa include Libya’s Tripoli International Airport, Sudan’s Khartoum International Airport, Kinshasa N’djili International Airport in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere International Airport.

What Is The Most Dangerous Airport In Europe?

Airport terminal in Gibraltar. April 21st 2023
Image Credit: Shutterstock.

Gibraltar Airport was rated to be the worst and most dangerous airport to land in Europe and double to be on the list of most dangerous airports in the world.

What Are The 10 Most Dangerous Airports In The World?

21.12.2023. Airplane from Norwegian Air International landing at madeira island.
Image Credit: Shutterstock.

Following are the top 10 most dangerous airports in the world right now:

1. Tenzing-Hillary Airport

2. Princess Juliana International Airport

3. Paro International Airport

4. Madeira Airport

5. Narsarsuaq Airport

6. Gibraltar International Airport

7. Courchevel Airport

8. Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport

9. St. Helena Airport

10. Toncontín International Airport

Where Is It Most Dangerous To Fly?

LUKLA, NEPAL - MAY 14, 2017 : The aircraft on the runway of the Tenzing-Hillary airport Lukla - Nepal, Himalayas
Image Credit: Shutterstock.

The most dangerous airport to fly to is the Tenzing-Hillary Airport in Lukla. A single runway at Tenzing-Hillary Airport in Lukla, northeast Nepal, slants precipitously down a valley below, earning it the reputation as the world’s most perilous airport.

What Airport Is The Hardest To Land At?

Paro, Bhutan- December 8,2018: Paro Airport in the Mountains - Bhutan. mountain landscape with village and mini airport
Image Credit: Shutterstock.

The most difficult and hardest airport to land in is the Paro Airport. Bhutan’s Paro International Airport is located between two towering peaks in the Himalayas, each of which is more than 18,000 feet high. Due to the narrowness of the runway and the presence of mountains in the landing area, this airport is one of the riskiest in the world.

Why is Tenzing Hillary Airport dangerous?

Mount Everest Base Camp, Nepal
Image Credit: Shutterstock.

There are no go-around procedures at this airport because a missed approach is unlikely to be completed safely due to the terrain. There is a common belief that Tenzing-Hillary Airport is the world’s most hazardous airport.

Fly At Your Own Risk

Woman shocked reaction
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Do you know the individuals who cheer every time a plane touches down? It may seem absurd to applaud a safe and easy landing, yet there are situations when it is warranted.

Pilots may need specialized training and certification to land safely at particular airports. Cliffs, small runways, and wind shears still present challenges, however.

On such flights, people will clutch the armrests with white knuckles as they try to calm their queasy tummies from the turbulence.

When taking off or landing at one of the world’s riskiest airports, you’ll be treated to spectacular sights if you can keep your eyes open long enough.

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