As global travel has increased exponentially, we’ve seen airports develop from simple travel hubs to complex entertainment centers. Not only can you shop and eat in them, but you can also hire luxury beds, swim in rooftop pools, and wander through botanical gardens. Although these airports are often praised, they lack a certain charm found in smaller airports. If you’re into aviation, you’ll appreciate the chance to get up close and personal with your carrier, and even if you aren’t into it, you’ll be more aware of your pilot’s skill when navigating through the smallest of airports. So, let’s take a look at where the smallest airports in the world are hiding.
The Juancho e Yrausquin Airport is located on the Caribbean island of Saba, which is actually owned by the Netherlands. This minute airport is home to the shortest runway in the world, which is an astonishing 400 meters long and surrounded by cliffs and ocean on three sides. With some aircraft being longer than this in length, the pilots are clearly very skilled at landing on such a small area – there hasn’t been a single accident in the process.
The only aircrafts that operate out of the airport are those owned by Windward Islands Airways, and they fly short routes to the neighboring islands of Saint Martin and Saint Eustatius.
Location: Saba Island, Netherlands
Airline: Windward Islands Airways
Fun fact: Home to the shortest commercial runway in the world
Next up is the Moshoeshoe I International Airport, named after a king of Lesotho from the 1800s. It’s located not far from Maseru, the capital city of the Kingdom of Lesotho. Despite its tiny size (there are only two runways, one of which is not more than 1000 meters in length), the airport runs not only domestic flights but also international ones bound for Johannesburg in South Africa.
Delays aren’t uncommon here, but at least you can while away some time in the bar, restaurant, and gift shop – more entertainment than we were expecting! It’s also situated at around 5,000 feet above sea level, making it one of Africa’s highest airports.
Location: Mazenod, Lesotho
Airlines: Mission Aviation Fellowship (domestic), South African Airways (international)
Scotland isn’t the largest country, so perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise that one of the smallest airports in the world can be found there. Barra Airport is situated on Barra Island in the Outer Hebrides and is not only the smallest airport in the UK but also in the whole of Europe. Flights arrive there daily from Glasgow and are operated by LoganAir airline.
While the airport has three runways, it’s very unique in that one of them is actually formed of sand rather than concrete. There are few airports in the world with direct beach landings, which might not be surprising seeing as flights can’t operate at high tide, and this had made it a popular choice for filmmakers. The scenery around this airport is also pretty iconic, and we were surprised to see that the airport even has car-hire facilities to get you on your way.
Location: Outer Hebrides, Scotland
Morgantown Municipal Airport has just one commercial airline (United Airlines) that operates flights over to Clarksburg, West Virginia, and Washington. The planes take off from a runway just 844 meters long, and we were surprised to see that the airport has a restaurant (and even free coffee and WiFi?!), making it an excellent place to watch the skilled pilots do their thing.
Location: West Virginia, United States
Airline: United Airlines
Nepal attracts thousands of tourists each year excited to climb the mighty Mount Everest. Lukla is a small village located in the east of Nepal from which many of these tourists begin their journey and so, when the airport was built, it was named after the first two climbers to ever summit the mountain (Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay).
Not only is the runway incredibly short, at just 527 meters, it also features an 11.7% gradient and is flanked by sheer cliffs. This combination has led to some tragic accidents over the years, and the airport has a bad reputation in terms of safety. Nonetheless, the vast majority of flights operate without a hitch, and the airport continues to be used by thousands of travelers each year.
Location: Lukla, Nepal
Airlines: Agni Air, Gorkha Airlines, Nepal Airlines, Sita Air, Tara Air
Although small, the Luang Prabang Airport is the second largest airport in the whole of Laos, and it provides essential flights to a surprising amount of neighboring countries (Thailand, Cambodia, China, and Vietnam). As you might expect from an international airport, however small, there’s a restaurant and a few shops knocking around if you need to kill some times.
Due to its heavy traffic, the airport was expanded back in the early 2000s, and this involved the one and only runway being enlarged to a whopping… 2,200 meters in length (which still isn’t huge – prior to this, it was severely limited in terms of which aircraft could land here).
Airlines: Bangkok Airways, China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Lao Airlines, Tonlesap Airlines, Vietnam Airlines
Any last, but by no means least, is the Dawson Community Airport, located in Montana. This quaint little airport has actually been designated the smallest commercial airport in the whole of the United States by the Federal Aviation Administration, and it only sees a few thousand passengers annually. Despite this, it’s super convenient for those hoping to travel to Montana’s impressive national parks.
Location: Montana, United States
Airline: Cape Air
As we’ve seen, size clearly isn’t everything when it comes to airports. Despite their humble infrastructures, smaller airports provide access to some hard-to-reach corners of the earth, including steep mountainsides, tiny tropical islands, and luscious national parks. Although you might wonder how to pass the time before your next flight without hundreds of shops to peruse, if you find yourself in one of these airports, we definitely recommend finding yourself a decent spot to settle down and watch the skilled pilots at work – hats off to them.
Anna is the co-owner of expert world travel and can't wait to share her travel experience with the world. With over 54 countries under her belt she has a lot to write about! Including those insane encounters with black bears in Canada.