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Readers Weigh in on World’s Scariest Airports

Our recent report on the world’s scariest airports sure got you talking! While many of you agreed with our top 10 choices, there were lots of frightening airports you thought should have been included on the list. Check out these hair-raising reader alternatives that will have you clutching the armrest!

St. Maarten

Princess Juliana International Airport is at the top of helenor’s list, who writes, “One comes in just over a beach and heads toward a water landing at the end of the runway. ‘Interesting’ is a good way to describe it.” Upon approach, planes pass over a public beach, and it’s hard to say who should be more afraid–airplane passengers, or innocent beachgoers.

St. Barts

The Gustaf III airport in St. Barthelemy ranks high on a number of readers’ lists. “The plane has to drop immediately after flying a few feet above a mountain and road,” says jaylkay, and “the pilot must make an immediate drop to hit the runway, which is short and ends in the ocean.” The aptly-named whitekunckle agrees, saying, “It is like coming off a ski jump.” If you’re a true adventure-seeker, you may want to book your next flight here since, as Cotatikid says, “Most St. Barts flights connect with St. Marten/Maarten for a real thrill ride at both ends.”



The 49th state has more than its share of scary airports, according to readers. Ketchikan International Airport, located on Gravina Island, made an impact on tygar: “The ocean is just feet from the side and each end, and the mountain is very close to the runway with only the terminal between them. It rains 150 to 190 inches a year and it blows the rain sideways most of the time … On top of all that, the runway is very very short and the pilot has to really reverse hard and hit the breaks to keep from running off the runway. [Plus], if you do go in the water, hypothermia will kill you in a matter of minutes.”

Allakaket Airport left an impression on SailGirl, who went there in the 1990s. “In winter, you landed on the frozen river. We went there in early November [and] flew along with a bush pilot delivering mail … The river wasn’t wide, and the straight section not very long so it was a good thing we were in a little single-engine Piper … Don’t know if they still do this, now that they have a new airport, but it was quite a thrill.”

Even Juneau International Airport makes several readers’ lists. “Juneau has a relatively short runway,” says rpmschevy, “and has to have a sharp right hand turn, or risk running into a glacier. You go through mountains on the ascent, and the winds buffeted the airplane.” Breathtaking landings are par for the course in Alaska. JNUGirl says that flying is “pretty much the only way to get around in our state, and certainly not for the faint of heart, which is why if you get an Alaska Airlines pilot you know you are getting a good one!”

Hong Kong

Although the notorious Kai Tak airport is now closed, it was once among the world’s most electrifying runways. Reader cho10 writes, “A memento of the past was Kai Tak Airport in Hong Kong with its scary 90 degree left turn to land.” The airport’s location in the midst of the city provided some terrifying moments, as 4whlr recounts: “Dropping very steeply, seemingly only meters above the roofs of surrounding skyscrapers onto a short runway was an experience I won’t forget.” And thomas7331 remembers one particularly frightening touchdown: “One night, arriving during a monsoon, the 747 was being tossed by the winds right up to the end. Just as the wheels touched the runway, a gust of wind hit the plane and the whole plane skidded sideways on the runway. The plane shook and some of the luggage bins came open, but we came to a safe stop. I never looked forward to landing at that airport.”

San Diego

Closer to home, the San Diego International Airport’s proximity to office buildings gives many of our readers pause. JCinDC sums it up by saying that “big planes need to drop down quickly between office buildings from the Old Town approach to land on a white knuckle short swatch of runway conjoined by Harbor and Shelter Islands. I can recall many a descent where I could actually see into my office before landing incredibly hard with a thump and a bounce. Then the brakes are slammed on and the jet pivots at ridiculous speeds to the terminal.”

Lukla, Nepal

Tenzing Hillary Airport in Nepal, named after the first people to reach the summit of Mount Everest, is a challenge in and of itself, according to mikeact. “Lukla Airport … on the way up to the Everest National Park takes a lot of beating … landing uphill to be greeted by a stone wall. Takeoff is even more exciting, rushing downhill.” Reader rbyrne3 agrees, saying that “Although [it’s] not an international airport, flying in or out of Lukla in Nepal is an amazing experience … Only twin otter planes land there and at the top there is still the wreckage of a plane that did not stop quick enough.” If you’re an intrepid traveler looking to conquer the highest mountain in the world, your adventure will begin before you even step off the plane.

Saba, Netherlands Antilles

The Caribbean island of Saba makes the lists of several readers. Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport “is like landing on an aircraft carrier,” says iroman71. And one2fish says “the runway requires a sharp turn just before approach and is said to be one of the shortest runways in the world … plus it’s carved out of the side of a mountain … Thanks, but I’ll take the ferry across, myself!” And while landings may seem treacherous, leaving the isle is just as frightening, according to fbutler203, who writes, “Takeoff depends on getting airborne as the runway ends at the drop-off into the ocean, unless the plane is not full.”

Your Turn

What’s the scariest airport experience you’ve ever had? We focused on takeoffs and landings, but there are many more criteria out there. Dubai International Airport is a pretty frightening experience, says SheGoes, who had “white knuckles on my wallet! So much shopping, such high prices. Such a long layover. Easy to find one’s way around, though.” Leave us a message about your worst airport in the comments section below!

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