Highest Altitude Airports in the World

By Wiley Stickney

Published on

Daocheng Yading Airport (DCY)

Hey there, friend! Let’s talk about something pretty cool – the airports that soar high above the rest. Piloting an aircraft can be a real challenge at high altitudes where the air is thinner, making it harder to get that sweet lift. But hey, that hasn’t stopped some folks from building airports in some seriously elevated spots across the globe!

So, where are these sky-high airports? Well, buckle up because most of them are found in China. Who knows, you might’ve even flown through some of these before!

Daocheng Yading Airport (DCY)

Topping our list is Daocheng Yading Airport, nestled a whopping 14,472 feet above sea level in Daocheng County, China. While it mostly handles domestic flights, it’s got a direct route to Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport, making it a real time-saver for those looking to connect internationally.

Location: Daocheng County, Garzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, China
Elevation: 14,472 feet / 4,411 meters
Airlines: Air China, China Southern Airlines, and Sichuan Airlines
Fun fact: It holds the title of the highest civilian airport in the whole world!

Qamdo Bamda Airport (BPX)

Coming in at a close second is Qamdo Bamda Airport, sitting pretty at 14,219 feet in Qamdo, Tibet, China. But get this – it’s got the world’s longest runway, stretching out a massive 18,045 feet! Talk about giving planes some room to move.

Location: Qamdo, Tibet, China
Elevation: 14,219 feet / 4,334 meters
Airlines: Air China, China Southern Airlines, and Tibet Airlines
Fun fact: Home to the world’s longest runway

Kangding Airport (KGT)

Next up, we’ve got Kangding Airport in Garze, Sichuan Province, China, towering at 14,042 feet above sea level. This one’s a real transportation hub, handling both passenger and cargo flights for Lucky Air and Sichuan Airlines.

Location: Garze, Sichuan Province, China
Elevation: 14,042 feet / 4,280 meters
Airlines: Lucky Air and Sichuan Airlines

Ngari Gunsa Airport (NGQ)

Sharing a similar elevation to Kangding Airport is Ngari Gunsa Airport, located in Shiquanhe, Ngari Prefecture, Tibet Autonomous Region, China. This airport handles both military and civilian flights, acting as a gateway for those looking to visit sacred Hindu, Bon, Buddhist, and Jain pilgrimage sites.

Location: Shiquanhe, Ngari Prefecture, Tibet Autonomous Region, China
Elevation: 14,022 feet / 4,274 meters
Airlines: China Eastern, Tibetan Airlines, and Lucky Air
Fun fact: Both military and civilian flights take off from this airport

Garze Gesar Airport (GZG)

Garze Gesar Airport, Image Credit: TIBET.CN

Opened in 2019, Garze Gesar Airport in China is a newer addition to the region’s aviation scene. But don’t let its young age fool you – it’s got a seriously long runway and handles a whole lot of passengers every year.

Location: Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan, China
Elevation: 13,346 feet / 4,068 meters
Airline: Sichuan Airlines

El Alto International Airport (LBP)

Alright, let’s take a little trip outside of China and head over to El Alto International Airport in Bolivia. This one’s a real biggie, holding the title of the highest international airport in the world at 13,325 feet above sea level! It’s a vital connection hub, and major aircraft manufacturers like Boeing often use it for testing their planes at high altitudes.

Location: El Alto, Bolivia
Elevation: 13,325 feet / 4,061.5 meters
Airlines: Amaszonas, Avianca, Boliviana de Aviación, EcoJet, LATAM Chile, LATAM Perú
Fun fact: El Alto International Airport holds the distinction of being the highest international airport globally.

Uyuni Airport (UYU)

Sticking with Bolivia, we’ve got Uyuni Airport, named after the nearby Salar de Uyuni salt flats. At 12,972 feet above sea level, this airport offers some seriously stunning views! It’s got separate platforms for commercial and military flights, and currently handles domestic flights connecting Sucre, La Paz, and Santa Cruz de la Sierra.

Location: Potosí Department, Bolivia
Elevation: 12,972 feet / 3,954 meters
Airlines: Amaszonas, Boliviana de Aviación
Fun fact: The airport is named after the world’s largest salt flat, Salar de Uyuni.

Captain Nicolas Rojas Airport (POI)

Next up is Captain Nicolas Rojas Airport in Potosí, Bolivia, sitting at 12,913 feet above sea level. While it’s a bit lower than Uyuni Airport, its location in a valley makes it a real challenge for pilots. Currently, it’s exclusively used by Boliviana de Aviación.

Location: Potosí, Bolivia
Elevation: 12,913 feet / 2,833 meters
Airline: Boliviana de Aviación

Yushu Batang Airport (YUS)

Heading back to China, we’ve got Yushu Batang Airport, connecting Yushu City in Qinghai Province with major cities like Beijing, Chengdu, and Lhasa. At 12,762 feet, it’s no slouch in the altitude department! But get this – it played a crucial role in aiding recovery efforts after the 2010 Yushu earthquake. Pretty cool, right?

Location: Yushu City, Qinghai Province, China
Elevation: 12,762 feet / 3,890 meters
Airlines: Beijing Capital Airlines, China Eastern Airlines, Tibet Airlines

Summing Up

These airports really are the high-flyers of the aviation world, operating at altitudes that were once thought totally inaccessible. With technology constantly advancing, navigating these extreme heights has become a reality, paving the way for even more global connectivity through air travel. As the world keeps evolving, who knows what other wild and wonderful places we’ll see airports pop up? One thing’s for sure – it’s gonna be a scenic flight!

Wiley is a former commercial pilot and flight instructor, who has flown over 50 different types of aircraft, from small propellers to large jets. He writes about the technical aspects of flying, such as aircraft design, aerodynamics, navigation, weather, and safety.