Flying is not typically a pleasant experience for the vast majority of passengers. Whether you have the pleasure of traveling on a terrible airline, experience endless delays, or even losing your luggage, it is unfortunately often the only option to travel to the desired destination.
However, a plane’s final descent into an airport is usually the most frightening part of any journey, which explains why certain individuals may feel the need to loudly applaud at the end of the ordeal. That being said, there are certainly some airports which even the bravest of passengers would rather not have to experience a landing at.
#10 London City Airport (LCY), United Kingdom
While London City Airport’s comparatively central location makes for a short hop into the heart of London, it also means the final descent onto the runway is done uncomfortably close to nearby skyscrapers. To be fair, for residents and workers in these buildings, the prospect of planes whizzing by their windows is probably as equally unsettling.
#9 Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA), USA
Due to a high number of no-fly zones above the skies of Washington DC, any landing at Ronald Reagan airport is preceded by a number of sharp turns and skilled maneuvers by the pilots. To make matters worse, as recently as June 2021, a Frontier Airlines plane overshot the tarmac during one particularly rough landing.
#8 Innsbruck Airport (INN), Austria
Surrounded by the stunning Alps, Tyrol’s main city of Innsbruck hosts an airport that continues to challenge pilots aiming for a steady descent. Unpredictable winds gusts that come off a 2,400m high mountain peak which must be flown over mean that careful adjustments and often last-second turning maneuvers are needed to safely land.
#7 Madeira Airport (FNC), Portugal
Anyone who has been (un)lucky enough to have flown to the Portuguese island of Madeira is well aware that the airport carries a reputation of being particularly difficult for even skilled pilots to successfully land at. To make matters worse, due to inconsistent and sudden changes to wind, landings are often cancelled all together with flights then forced to divert. The runway at Madeira Airport is set right at the end a cliff to further put passengers on the edge of their seats.
#6 Princess Juliana International Airport (SXM), Sint Maarten
It is difficult not to have already seen countless videos of planes landing precariously low over the beach directly next to Sint Maarten Airport. YouTube is inundated with footage of beach goers flinching at the sight of a 747 seemingly barely scraping over the small fence that separates the beach from the airport. This fear is not unfounded as in 2017, a woman was in fact killed by a jet engine blast as she held onto the airport fence. For those on board, taking off is perhaps even worse given that the direction of travel appears to be straight towards a towering mountain.
#5 São Paulo–Congonhas Airport (CGH), Brazil
São Paulo’s second airport was no stranger to being flooded by water prior to 2007. However, more recently the runway was upgraded to prevent this issue from reoccurring. Regardless, landing here can test the nerves of even the most seasoned traveler. With the airport being just a couple miles from São Paulo’s downtown the single runway, which initially opened in the 1930s, is surrounded by a large urban sprawl. This means that any landing will be preceded by close encounters with apartment blocks and rooftops until touchdown.
#4 Saint Helena Airport (HLE), Saint Helena
Expect a rough landing while flying to the small British Overseas Territory of Saint Helena. Dangerous wind gusts alongside with sheer cliff faces means that any daring pilot must be absolutely certain of their skill. In fact, the airport has a special category which means that pilots must be specially trained to land there.
#3: Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport (IXL), India
While the airport at Leh in the Kashmir region of may only be the 23rd highest airport in the world, it certainly feels much higher when you realize that it at over 3,250 meters above sea level. With a short runway and surrounded by massive mountains, the airport often experiences strong winds in the afternoon, which restricts landings and departures only to mornings. Similarly, to St. Helena, pilots landing here must first receive special training.
#2 Paro International Airport (PBH), Bhutan
Although Paro is Bhutan’s only international airport few pilots are allowed to even attempt landing there due to restrictions. Pilots must also navigate between mountains and over houses before turning sharply onto the runway. The final approach is made particularly difficult as there is no radar present at the airport, as such, planes must make a manual approach. Landings are therefore only permitted in good visibility conditions and during the day,
#1 Lukla Airport (LUA), Nepal
Whether it’s strong winds, towering mountains, short runways or a lack of airport infrastructure, Lukla Airport in Nepal has the full set. The gateway to Everest has been called on many occasions the world’s most dangerous airport. Nestled in the Himalayas, Lukla has its runway set out at the end of a literal cliff before dropping straight into a void. To assist planes in slowing down enough, the runway is slanted upwards. So precarious is this landing strip that any plane on its final descent must land as second attempts are simply not possible.
We’ve been bombarded with terms like Hygge or Fika, but what about some of the more churlish Nordic vocabulary that aren’t as known?