Class A airports

Update: removed Le Bourget.

ICAO Class A (“class alfa”) airspace is the strictest of all, allowing only IFR operations (without special permission). In the U.S. and southern Canada, most airspace between FL180 and FL600 is class A (the floor is higher as you get further north in Canada).

Even the busiest airports rarely designate their control zones as class A: the U.S., for example, contains 15 of the world’s 30 busiest airports by passenger traffic, but they are designated only Class B (“class bravo”), so routine controlled VFR operations are still permitted (I’ve flown my warrior into some of them, IFR and VFR).

Around the world, however, there exists a tiny handful of Class A airports. Here are the Class A airports I know about so far:

There appears to be no single reason for the designation — it’s certainly not due to traffic alone. Tel Aviv is probably Class A for security reasons, being so near hostile soil, and Bogatá’s designation may have something to do with drug smuggling. Heathrow is busy (though not as busy as some U.S. airports), but it also operates in very confined airspace. Gibraltar has about three scheduled flights a day — go figure. (It’s near the Spanish border, but many major airports operate very close to international borders; many busy airports also operate near high terrain). Le Bourget has no scheduled flights at all, but Parisians are Parisians, and zut alors! if London has one Class A airport, Paris will show them by having three two.

Reagan National Airport in Washington DC has additional restrictions that make it similar to Class A, but is still designated Class B. Does anyone know of any other Class A airports that I’ve missed?

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8 Responses to Class A airports

  1. Marc-Olivier says:


    As a canadian leaving in Paris, I have to correct you on Le Bourget.

    Le Bourget is surrounded by prohibited airspace south of the CTR (Control Zone) and surface-based classe A around it. The Bourget CTR (Control Zone) is Class D airspace from the ground to 1500 feet MSL.

    Click to access 0902_AD-2.LFPB.pdf

    Here is the list of European Countries with Class A Control Zones (CTR)

    Click to access Classification%20mid%20april%202007.pdf

    Safe Flights

  2. david says:

    Thanks, Marc-Olivier — I’ve updated the post. Do you know which airports in Italy are class A?

  3. Marc-Olivier says:

    As far as I know, none are completely in class A. The surface based part of the CTR is generally Class C or D but in the case of Milan Malpensa 3 parts of the CTR are class A.

    Parts of Milano and Roma TMAs are also class A

    I sent you an email with the relevant part of the Italian AIP. You can access most european AIPs for free at (free registration).


  4. John says:

    Gibraltar’s classification is due to the approach path required for landings from the west side.

    [High ground is not the issue, nor is the border as such.]

    Due to airspace political reasons, when landing from the west a/c have to make a sharp right hand turn 90+ while on final approach.
    So this is the normal approach for landings from the west at GIB.

    Political reasons only – the a/c is avoiding nothing more dangeorus or solid than a line on a map (the high terrain of the rock, is in a very safe position with respect to the runway).

  5. Orly Airport, is one of the best air ports that I’ve come across in my frequent journeys to Paris. I tend to prefer Orly to Charls de gaulle, because it always is very conveniently located for my residence.

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  7. While Orly Airport is preferable to CDG, if you have the choice (and just crossing the channel) the best option is Eurostar !, it’s probably one of the most relaxed journeys that you can take.

  8. I have flown close to London Heathrow in a cessna, and yes it is Class A, there are jst a strem of aircraft going in and out

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