Extreme airports: World records from highest altitude airport to shortest runway

Just like Jamaica's gold medallist Usain Bolt, airports can set impressive world records of their own. Here's our list of unique achievements by airports around the world.

World’s highest altitude airport

If a trek to Tibet is on your travel bucket list, you may be able to say you’ve touched down at the highest airport in the world. Qamdo Bamda Airport (BPX) is 14,219ft (4,334 metres) above sea level and sets another record for having the world’s longest runway.

The low air density at this high altitude means that aircraft need to reach higher speeds to take off. The runway here is 18,045ft (5,500 metres) long: almost twice the length of a typical runway. The airport is served only by Air China and Tibet Airlines.

World’s lowest altitude airport

The lowest altitude airport in the world is in Israel. Source: Pat Hawks/Flickr

The lowest altitude airport in the world is in Israel. Bar Yehuda Airfield (MTZ), just south west of the Dead Sea lies 1,240ft (378 metres) below sea level: deeper than US Navy submarines are allowed to travel (officially 250 metres). The airport is not served by any scheduled flights but welcomes charter and sightseeing flights.

Airport with the world’s shortest commercial runway

The world’s shortest commercial runway can be found in the Dutch Antilles in the Caribbean. Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport (SAB) is served only by Winair’s fleet of Havilland Twin-Otter and J32 aircraft that can safely land on its 1,300ft (396 metre) stretch of runway.

Dallas Fort Worth Airport has seven runways. Source: Flickr/KMJ Photography

Airport with the most runways

To find the most runways at one airport, you will need to venture to the United States. Chicago O’Hare International (ORD) and Dallas Fort Worth International (DFW) each have seven runways.

World’s single largest airport terminal by floor space

The Emirates also like to build it big, and have constructed the world’s single largest terminal building (Terminal 3) at Dubai International Airport (DXB) with 1.185 million square metres of floor space. It is only beaten in size by one other building in the world: the Abraj Al Bait Towers in Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

World’s busiest airport

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is currently the world’s busiest passenger airport. Source: redlegsfan21/Flickr

The world’s busiest airport takes us back to the USA. Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) serves the most flights and passengers in the world. Over 92 million people – mainly domestic passengers – passed through the airport’s doors in 2011.

World’s shortest commercial flight

If you didn’t read our recent coverage, the world’s shortest commercial flight is between two airports in Scotland’s Orkney Islands.

World’s most isolated airport

The most isolated airport in the world lies on Easter Island in the Pacific Ocean. The island’s airport, Mataveri International (IPC) lies more than 2,000 miles away from Santiago International Airport (SCL) in Chile. The flights between them by LAN Airlines are technically domestic, as Easter Island is a special territory of the South American country.

But it is far from being the longest domestic flight. That honour goes to Air Austral, which flies non-stop between Charles De Gaulle (CDG) in Paris and Roland Garros Airport (RUN) in Réunion, its home island. The journey covers a distance of 5,807 miles (9,346 kms).

World’s longest international flight

The longest non-stop international flight in the world – for now – is a Singapore Airlines flight between Newark (EWR) in the US and Singapore (SIN): a distance of 9,523 miles (15,327 km). The flight is 18 hours 40 minutes long.

World’s shortest international flight

The shortest international air route covers less than 16 miles (26km) of ground. The Royal Air Maroc flight travels from the Congo capital, Brazzaville (BZV) across the Conga River to Kinshasa (FIH), capital of the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.

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