Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Truly International Airports
Sprawling More Than One Country

Geneva in the background, France on this side of the runway. Creative commons licensed photo by Dr. Bernd Gross.
How to make people even more confused about international air travel? And to create additional nightmares for border control guards, while you are at it? 

Establish an airport that is actually based in two, or even three, countries. 

Yeah, whatever! Would anyone do something as stupid? Or as smart? You will after all save space and create synergies between town and cities in several countries. 

There are actually six airports in the world that sprawl more than one country. The most schizophrenic one actually serves three countries. That's a truly international airport for you. 

EuroAirport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg
You can even tell by the slightly geographically confusing name; EuroAirport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg

Basel is in Switzerland. 
Mulhouse is in France. 
Freiburg is in Germany. 

The runway is actually located in France, but there are two customs areas, one Swiss and one French. Which country you leave from or enter into depends on the airline. The airport is furthermore only 4 kilometers from the German border and serves that country too. You can technically cross the border inside the airport terminal as long as you have a valid passport or an ID card. Crossing between the carparks outside the terminal is however not possible. And as if that wasn't complicated enough, the airport even has three IATA airport codes, you know those three letter codes you see on checked in luggage. BSL is for Basil, MLH is for Mulhouse and EAP is for Freiburg, according to Airlinecodes.co.uk. Confusing? The luggage handlers must think so. 

Geneva International Airport
The Swiss and the French must like the idea of sharing airports. Also the airport of Geneva in Switzerland can be accessed from both both countries, but the airport is physically located in Geneva. But only a few meters from France. Parts of the runway and the border line actually run in parallell. Sort of. The airport does however only have one IATA code: GVA. It is also by far the busiest airport of the six mentioned here, counting almost 14 million passengers annually, according to Wikipedia

4 airports in USA and Canada
There are also four smaller airports in both the US and Canada. All four are rather small and they have unusal IATA callsign consisting of two digits and a letter. None of them have scheduled air traffic.

Piney Pinecreek Border Airport (48Y) was originally located only in the US, but a needed runway extension was only possible by expanding into the neighbouring country to the north. 

Del Bonita/Whetstone International Airport (H28) will see you take off on the US-Canadian border, but your aircraft can park on either side of the border. 

Coronach/Scobey International Airport (8U3) is owned by both the two governments. You can land there, but only during the opening times of the border crossing, and only after giving at least two hours notice. Sounds convenient. 

And finally Avey Field State Airport (69S) is a small privately owned and operated, yet unattended airport. It is located in the state of Washington and the province of British Colombia in western North America. The airport recommends that you do an overflight of the airport to rule out possible obstructions such as people, vehicles or animals. May I suggest that you bring a camera for that prize winning black bear photo? 

Any others? 
Did I miss any truly international airports? Please let me know.

Tijuana Airport in Mexico, a few meters across the border from San Diego, is set to open a US terminal in 2014. In the meantime, see that none of the top ten air routes in the world are in North America on Europe


  1. Soon Tijuana airport will join this list. It's right on the US border and there is a special border crossing being constructed for US passengers. Not sure what the status is.

  2. Batumi airport (Georgia/Turkey) is another shared airport, it is entirely in Georgia (with IATA code BUS) but it also serves domestic/international flights to Turkey as Hopa/Batumi (turkish airlines etc. code XHQ). Aqaba airport (Jordan) is planned to also be a joint-coorporation with Eilat (Israel), but this has not materialized and might not happen in the current political climate. St Maarten (Princess Juliana) allows for joint Dutch/French border control, but for now there is no one who has requested this option. Gibraltar airport is also partly on spanish soil (still disputed). About Basel/Mulhouse IATA assigns EAP as the metropolitan area code not an airport code, it has only two airport codes BSL/MLH. Although it does serve Freiburg as well, the airport code to use would be MLH preferably because of border/customs rules within EU. Several airports as well as EuroAirport claim to serve more countries, but border wise there are no further facilities. Such airport would include CPH (serves southwestern Sweden) as well as MMX who claims to serve Copenhagen area as well. Niederrhein/Weeze serves nearby cities in Netherlands as well as its german area. Nice airport serves Monaco. Senai/Johor Bahru serves Singapore from Malaysia. Several more exists I am sure. There are also several non-US airports who have US CBP pre clearance facilities.

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