Initially built with a paved 3000 m runway and a large terminal and apron, the airport has not recovered from the 2002 eruption of the volcano Nyiragongo, 14 km to the north. The airport couldn’t handle any wide-bodied aircraft except for freight operations run by relief agencies and the United Nations. A stream of fluid lava 200 m by 1000 m wide flowed onto the runway and through the city center as far as the lake shore, covering over the northern 1000 m of the runway and isolating the terminal and apron which were only connected by taxiway to the northern end. The lava can easily be seen in satellite photographs, and aircraft can be seen using the 2000 m southern section of the runway which is clear of lava. A temporary apron was made at the side of the operational part of the runway. A Douglas DC-8 was left stranded on the terminal apron, which is now used by commercial passengers and the military. In December 2012, a contractor began work on cleaning up and fencing in the airport. In February 2017, satellite imagery showed the runway has not yet been repaired where the lava damage occurred.
News reports first indicated that lava from the 2021 Mount Nyiragongo eruption reached the airport. It was later confirmed that the airport was unaffected