lhasa gonggar airport

Lhasa Gonggar Airport is an airport located in the autonomous region of Tibet in China. It serves Tibet’s capital city, Lhasa. Lhasa Airport, as it is commonly known, is considered as one of the highest airports in the world with its elevation of 3,570 metres or 11,710 feet. The airport was constructed back in 1965, but was upgraded with a second runway in 1994 and new terminal facilities in 2004.

The airport is currently the hub for Tibet Airlines and is the domestic hub in the Tibetan Plateau. It connects many other airports in other areas in Tibet.

Fast Facts

Chinese name:  拉萨贡嘎机场
Address: Jiazulin Town, Gonggar County, Shannan Prefecture
IATA: LXA
ICAO: ZULS
Telephone: 0891-6216465

Distance

The Lhasa Gonggar Airport is located 62 kilometers southwest of the city of Lhasa, which is part of the Gonggar County of Shannan Prefecture. The airport is not far from the road going to Tsetang, the capital of the Shannan Prefecture. Thus, aside from Lhasa, the airport also serves passengers traveling to and from the Shannan Prefecture.

Although Lhasa Gonggar was intended to serve Lhasa, the space in the said city was a bit limited for an airport. Thus, the airport was constructed at its location, which is near the Yarlung Tsangpo River. It lies to the west of Rawa-me, the capital of the Gonggar County and just near the entry to the Namrab Valley. This is 87 kilometers away from Tsetang.

Terminals and Flights

The Lhasa Gonggar Airport features a newly expanded terminal building where the first floor consists of the ticketing office and baggage collection, and the second floor of shopping malls, restaurants, and kiosks. The airport also has four aero bridges to facilitate the boarding of passengers. The expansion of the terminal occurred in 2004, and it allowed the airport to handle up to 1,300 passengers per hours at peak hours.

Old flights served by the airport include a Beijing and Chengdu route, while newer flights have been added over the years. These include flights to Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chongqing, Hong Kong, Xian, Xining, Kunming, Diqing, and Chamdo. Its international routes are still limited to Kathmandu, Nepal, and Lhasa.

All these flights are handled by seven Chinese airlines namely

• Air China
• China Eastern
• China Southern
• Shenzhen
• Hainan
• Sichuan
• Tibet Airlines

Challenges in Tibetan Air Travel

Building an airport in Tibet proved to be a challenge. The Tibetan government had to go through a process of trial and error, which resulted in many fatal accidents especially during World War II. This challenge is due to the location and nature of Tibet. In the aviation world, flying over Tibet is termed ‘flying over a Hump’ in the Tibetan Plateau. It took until May 1956 to build the first airport there, and when Russian aircraft successfully landed at the former Damxung Airport, Tibet’s status as a ‘forbidden air zone’ was finally lifted. However, it took another nine years before commercial air routes to and from Tibet became available. Shortly afterwards, the Gonggar Airport was finally constructed, and the Damxung Airport was decommissioned.

Transportation

To facilitate the transport between the airport and Lhasa, a new highway was recently built. It is a four-lane road that extends from the National Highway 318. It begins at the Lhasa Railway station, goes through the Caina Township in the Qushui County, and ends between the north entrance of the Gala Mountain Tunnel and the south bridge head of the Lhasa River Bridge. It also passes over Lhasa via the Liuwu Overpass. This is the fastest road going to the airport for passengers traveling by car.

To facilitate the transport between the airport and Lhasa, a new highway was recently built. It is a four-lane road that extends from the National Highway 318. It begins at the Lhasa Railway station, goes through the Caina Township in the Qushui County, and ends between the north entrance of the Gala Mountain Tunnel and the south bridge head of the Lhasa River Bridge. It also passes over Lhasa via the Liuwu Overpass. This is the fastest road going to the airport for passengers traveling by car.

Passengers can also take a taxi, which will cost them 150 RMB from the Gonggar Airport to downtown Lhasa.

However, due to the high altitude, it is best to make transportation arrangements ahead of time to avoid any discomfort while waiting for or looking for a ride.

Other Airports in Tibet

1. Chamdo Bangda Airport

The Chamdo Bangda Airport is considered as the first lateral airport in Tibet. It is recognized for having the highest altitude among all airports in the world and for having the longest runway. Construction for the airport began in 1993 and it was quickly finished in October 1994. It is built 4,334 meters above sea level. Its high altitude is the reason why it requires a long runway as this is key to overcoming the flying challenges posed by the thin air.

The Chamdo Bangda Airport currently serves two airlines and flies five times per week to Lhasa and Chengdu. The limited number of flights can be blamed on the sand, hail, thunderstorm, and snowstorm that often plague the area.

2. Nyingchi Milin Airport

The Nyingchi Airport is another airport in Tibet. It is part of the Nyingchi Perfecture, which is best known for its highly fertile land and its mild climate. With nearly half of the area blanketed by a luxury forest, the Nyingchi Milin Airport welcomes nature lovers to one of the largest virgin forests in China.

The Nyingchi Airport has an altitude of 3000 meters. However, its location gives it an advantage as it is just 400 kilometers from Lhasa and just 120 kilometers from the Yarlong Tsangpo Canyon. It is considered therefore as a very convenient gateway to Lhasa since it is closer compared to Chamdo Bangda Airport. It is also known for its punctual flights, unlike the Lhasa Gonggar Airport, which is vulnerable to wind blowing with sand in certain seasons. The Nyingchi Airport currently serves seven direct flights between Nyingchi and Chengdu every week.

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