Gibraltar Airport – The Runway With A Road Crossing

While walking across the runway at most international airports would get you arrested, it is actually encouraged at Gibraltar Airport. Here, the main road in and out of the British Overseas Territory crosses right over the runway.

Gibraltar Airport, Runway with road crossing, Gibraltar
One of Gibraltar’s main roads runs across the airport’s runway. Photo: Getty Images

While offering services for commercial flights, the airport at Gibraltar is owned by the Ministry of Defence. The airport sits just to the south of the Spanish border, mostly hosting flights from British Airways and easyJet to and from the United Kingdom, with a handful of services also operated by Royal Air Maroc.

81 years of history

Gibraltar Airport was built in 1939 during the second world war. The airport was constructed just south of the Spanish border. Before being used for the airport, the property was home to a horse racing circuit. The runway used to be shorter than it is now. However, rock removed from the Rock of Gibraltar was used to reclaim land for an extension.

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When it was built during the war, the runway crossed over the road from the border to the center of Gibraltar. In times gone past, this proved to be no real obstacle to traffic. However, while both land and air traffic has continued to climb, no alternative has been completed.

Gibraltar Airport, Runway with road crossing, Gibraltar
The airport sits at the foot of the Rock of Gibraltar. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

The runway with a road crossing

The airport’s runway runs roughly parallel to the Spanish border. As such, it effectively cuts Gibraltar off from the border. When an aircraft is landing or departing, the road is closed via barriers and traffic lights clearing the runway.

As there is no alternative to using the runway, it can make things difficult when there are multiple aircraft operations. In the case of using runway 27 for arrivals, or 09 for departures, the aircraft must also backtrack across the road having landed or before departure.

Gibraltar Airport, Runway with road crossing, Gibraltar
The road needs to be closed when the runway is in use. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

Airport development

Recently, given the increasing demand for both air and road traffic on the site, developments have been taking place at the airport. Passenger numbers peaked in 2017 at over half a million per year. This was due to the extensive network of flights operated by Monarch from the airport. However, following the airline’s collapse, numbers have dropped below half a million once more.

To accommodate the increasing number of passengers at the airport, the airport’s current terminal was fully opened in 2012. It features five gates, facilities for arriving and departing passengers, and both landside and airside viewing areas.

Gibraltar Airport, Runway with road crossing, Gibraltar
A new terminal was fully opened at the airport in 2012. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

To cope with the additional land traffic, a tunnel around the east of the airport is currently being constructed. This would mean that all traffic would bypass the runway. This would be a win for both drivers and the airport.

However, it would mean that the novelty of the road crossing was ended, as it would only be used in exceptional circumstances. The project is currently delayed, as it was initially to be completed by the start of 2009.

Have you walked across Gibraltar’s runway? Let us know your experience in the comments!