This airport’s weird layout meant cars were forced to stop for planes

  • The runway at Gibraltar International Airport is dissected by a major road
  • Cars using the road would have to stop to allow planes to pass
  • A bypass tunnel was finally opened in 2023 to help solve the problem 

Published on Jun 27, 2024 at 2:24 AM (UTC+4)
by Claire Reid

Last updated on Jun 28, 2024 at 1:30 PM (UTC+4)
Edited by Tom Wood

The runway at Gibraltar International Airport is dissected by a major road running right through it. 

Previously known as North Front Airport, Gibraltar International Airport serves the British overseas territory. Its runway and aerodrome are both owned by the Ministry of Defence and are operated by the Royal Air Force as RAF Gibraltar.

It also has a civilian-operated terminal which is used by locals and holidaymakers alike. 

READ MORE! Abandoned European airport still has planes waiting for takeoff on the runway

A major road runs through the airport

Unusually for an airport – it is situated near bustling urban centers. This means those who are traveling in or out can simply walk to and from there, if they fancy. 

Even more unusually for an airport, its runway intersects with one of the busiest roads in the city. 

The island’s main road heading towards the land border with Spain – Winston Churchill Avenue – cuts through the runway. 

This meant that, until recently, whenever a plane took off or landed the road had to be closed so the aircraft could cross the road. 

Sounds chaotic, right? 

So much so that, in a list of the most ‘extreme airports’ it came fifth – ahead of the now-defunct Kai Tak airport.

The odd layout meant that congestion and traffic jams were a fairly common occurrence – sometimes there were as many as 15 delays a day. 

The road has become an unlikely tourist attraction

The airport’s own website refers to the unconventional design, saying it is one ‘of the many unusual tourist attractions of Gibraltar’.

“Visitors are often surprised that they are walking across the runway they had just landed on only minutes before,” it adds. 

The busy road is open to pedestrians, but the site goes on to warn visitors to exercise caution if they decide they want to take a quick selfie while crossing. 

“Naturally the spot near Air Traffic Control is an epic selfie/photo opportunity, but we must remember the area is an active runway,” the website continues. 

However, the problem was put to bed once and for all on March 31, 2023, when a new bypass tunnel was opened. 

Although the road remains in place, private vehicles are no longer allowed to use it. 

Meanwhile, a second tunnel was opened for pedestrians and cyclists, but it’s still permitted to cross the road on foot – just keep an eye out for any planes, yeah?

# Tags - Airplanes


Claire Reid

Claire Reid is a journalist who hails from the UK but is now living in New Zealand. She began her career after graduating with a degree in Journalism from Liverpool John Moore’s University and has more than a decade of experience, writing for both local newspapers and national news sites. Across her career she's covered a wide variety of topics, including celebrity, cryptocurrency, politics, true crime and just about everything in between.