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The world’s top 10 highest airports

Ever wondered where the highest airports reside? We have delved into the archives to bring you the top 10 highest airports, according to altitude.

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High altitude airports are forced to respond to some very specific problems which affect aircraft.

At altitude, the air is thinner which means that the atmospheric pressure is extremely low. This makes it very difficult for aircraft to gain lift as they take off. Consequently, these airports require longer runways to facilitate the lower air pressure, but the aircraft also require faster take off speeds to create the levels of lift needed to be in line with taking off at sea level. Due to the thinner, less dense air, the low atmosphere pressure also makes it harder for aircraft to slow because of reduced air resistance. This additionally means that less fuel is required at higher altitudes as lower air density means there is less friction on the aircraft. 

So where are these high-dwelling airports? Read on to find out…

1. Daocheng Yading Airport 

Altitude – 14,472 ft

Location – China

IATA Code – DCY

Runway Length – 4,200m

The terminal building of Daocheng is designed to look like a UFO and is built to accommodate 280,000 passengers. Originally opened in 2013, the terminal cuts travel time from two days by bus, to 65 minutes by plane to the capital of China’s Sichuan province, Chengdu.  

2. Qamdo Bamda Airport

Altitude – 14,216 ft 

Location – China 

IATA Code – BPX

Runway Length – 5,500m (THE WORLD’S LONGEST RUNWAY) 

The expansion project of Qambo was completed in 2015 and saw the passenger number capability jump to 180,000. The project cost nearly US$45 million and developed the aprons, terminal building and warehouse. 

3. Kangding Airport

Altitude – 14,042 ft 

Location – China

IATA Code – KGT

Runway Length –  4,000m

Commercial flights from Kangding Airport began in late 2008 and was part of a US$120 million development. The airport welcomes for 330,000 passengers and 1,980 tonnes of cargo per year and reduces travel time to Chengdu City by 35 minutes.

4. Ngari Gunsa Airport

Altitude – 14,022 ft 

Location – China

IATA Code – NGQ

Runway Length – 4500m

The construction of Ngari began in 2007 and the airport is expected to handle 120,000 passengers on a daily basis by 2020. It is a dual-purpose airport, catering for both military and civilian flights.  

5. El Alto International Airport

Altitude – 13,323 ft

Location – Bolivia

IATA Code – LPB

Runway Length – 4,000m 

Operated by Abertis Airports, El Alto International Airport has been in operation since 1965. It was redeveloped in the 1970s and again in 2006. 

6. Uyuni Airport

Altitude – 12,972 ft

Location – Bolivia

IATA Code – UYU

Runway Length – 4,000m

The airport opened for service in 2011 and has two different platforms, one military and one commercial. The airport hopes to have international flights to Chile, Argentina and Brazil in the near future. 

7. Captain Nicolas Rojas Airport

Altitude – 12,913 ft

Location – Bolivia

IATA Code – POI

Runway Length – 2,833m 

Because of the rural nature of the airport, a non-directional beacon is used to locate air traffic from the terminal at long distances and at lower altitudes, using the curvature of the earth for guidance. 

8. Yushu Batang Airport

Altitude – 12,762 ft 

Location – China

IATA Code – YUS

Runway Length – 3,800m

The airport served 7,484 passengers during the first year of operation in 2009 and is expected to handle 80,000 passengers per annum starting from 2015. The airport has cut the travel time between the Jiegu town of Yushu and Qinghai’s capital of Xining to 70 minutes, down from 15 hours.

9. Inca Manco Cápac International Airport 

Altitude – 12,552 ft

Location – Peru 

IATA Code – JUL

Runway Length – 4,200m 

The airport was opened in 1959 originally, and despite being called an international airport, there are no non-stop services to international destinations currently in operation from the airport. Flights from here have been known to be cancelled with little warning if the passenger numbers for the flight are particularly low. 

10. Golog Maqin Airport

Altitude – 12,428 ft 

Location – China 

IATA Code – GMQ

Runway Length – 3,800m 

Construction of the airport began in September 2012 with an estimated total investment of US$191 million; the airport started operations in July 2016.

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