Norwegian’s relentless push into new bases and new markets could take an even bigger step next year as it plans a possible new base which would give low-cost access to South America and the Caribbean.
The airline is looking at opening a new base at Las Palmas in the Canary Islands, which puts its Boeing 737s – and especially the future 737MAX fleet – in easy reach of destinations such as Brazil and the various holiday islands of the Caribbean.
Norwegian is currently suffering set backs in its plans to establish an Irish subsidiary which would offer low-cost flights to America from the island with its Boeing 787 Dreamliners. However, given that it already operates a number of Spanish bases and would bring about significant employment and income to the country with this new venture, it seems more likely to succeed should it go ahead.
This could open up a lot of opportunities for cheap, one-stop flights to destinations which are usually quite expensive to get to, and offers an interesting alternative to the full service airlines flying the routes.
Many of the most enjoyable spotting trips are when you can relax in the sun or take photos in a stunning locations. A lot of the world’s airports and runways back onto beaches, which turn out to be great spotting locations.
All of the locations listed here are accessible, public places.
1. Phuket, Thailand
By Andy Mitchell (Flickr: Transaero Airlines B747-300SR VP-BGW) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Thailand’s holiday island is popular with many airlines arriving from near and far, including both domestic and long-haul airliners. Probably the best location to spot at the airport is Nai Yang Beach running along the western side of the airport, which is accessed by walking around 15 minutes from the road.
Any aircraft approaching runway 09 can be easily photographed, and by finding an area of high ground you can also see over the perimeter fence and photograph aircraft on the ground easily.
One of the best spots for photography and plane spotting at Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport is The Beach off General Holmes Drive, at the east side of the airport.
You can spot here from both the car park and the beach itself, with aircraft using the runways in view, especially 16R/34L which passes very close to you and can lead to some spectacular photographs.
3. St. Maarten, Caribbean
Air France A340-300 landing at St Maarten. (c) Yasu To
Not much can be written about Maho Beach that hasn’t already been said. Some of the most stunning aviation photography in recent times has been of aircraft passing incredibly low over the heads of people on this beach, on the island of St. Maarten in the Caribbean. This is especially fun since huge widebody airliners use the airport, and tend to land as early as possible, barely missing the perimeter fence.
The bar on the beach is known to list the arrivals due at the airport each day, meaning you can keep an eye on what’s due as you sip cocktails and soak up the sun.
4. Larnaca, Cyprus
Mackenzie Beach lies just off the northern perimeter of Larnaca Airport, with aircraft passing close by before landing or after takeoff. You can reach the beach off Piale Pasa, at the southern end of the city.
5. Lanzarote, Canary Islands
When aircraft are arriving on runway 03, the beach running around the southern portion of the airport is an ideal position to spot and photograph aircraft arriving at Lanzarote Arrecife Airport. Due to the position of the sun, this location is best in the morning for photography, and a fence can obstruct some shots of aircraft on the ground. But if you’re just watching the action it is perfect.
The location is reached along Avenida Playa Honda.
6. Boston Logan, MA
By James Wang from Boston, Mass, USA (British Airways 747 (Oneworld livery)) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
There are actually two beaches at Boston Logan Airport which are good for spotting.
Constitution Beach is best for aircraft using runways 22L and 22R, and the taxiways associated with these runways. You can get some good action shots of aircraft arriving and departing. Better in the afternoon and evening for photography. This beach is close to Saratoga Street.
Meanwhile, Yirrel Beach at Coughlin Park is great for aircraft approaching runway 27, and to a lesser degree departing runway 09. This location is good all day for photography. The park and beach are off Shirley Street, with parking nearby.
7. Nice, France
Not the best beach for aircraft photography, however the very popular area running the length of the Promenade des Anglais in Nice offers quite interesting views of aircraft departing from the nearby airport. Aircraft need to make an immediate turn to the right following departure, following the sweep of the bay. There are few main airports situated this close to the city they serve.
8. New York JFK
Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge off Cross Bay Blvd is a well known spotting location at New York JFK, alongside Howard Beach, which is good for getting distant after-takeoff shots of heavy airliners as they make a turn.
Do you know of any good beach spotting locations? Leave a tip in the comments section below!
Spotting isn’t the cheapest hobby, especially if you want to do a lot of it. So I thought I’d look at a few of the best spotting airports that are easily accessible by budget airlines. Hopefully it’ll give you some inspiration for your next trips!
Palma is one of the busiest holiday airports in Europe, particularly during the summer months. Airlines ferry holidaymakers in droves from all over northern Europe, so you’ll see charter and low-cost airlines as well as Spanish regional aircraft. Palma is a big base for Air Berlin, and plenty of other budget airlines also fly there year-round, including easyJet, Ryanair and Vueling.
Amsterdam Schiphol, Netherlands
By Aero Icarus from Zürich, Switzerland [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Although it is one of Europe’s busiest and largest airports, and is also a stronghold of national airline KLM, Schiphol is surprisingly easy to get to by budget airline. easyJet links many destinations across Europe, whilst Flybe and Jet2 link a number of additional points in the UK.
Photo by Calvin Teo
A major Asian powerhouse and the hub of the large Singapore Airlines. Changi is also on the route map of many low cost and budget airlines, including home-based Jetstar Asia, Tigerair and Valuair, plus regional carriers Air Asia and Lion Air. Long haul low-cost flights are provided by Jetstar and Scoot to destinations across Asia and Australia.
Dubai International, UAE
You may think of Emirates when you think of Dubai, but the second largest carrier at the Middle East hub is Flydubai, a budget airline serving destinations across Africa, the Middle East, Indian subcontinent They even fly into Europe. It makes a more affordable way to reach the airport for some spotting.
Atlanta Hartsfield International, GA
Atlanta was known as the busiest airport in the world for many years, largely because of the huge presence of Delta Air Lines reaching across the globe and to many points across the United States. However, the airport’s second largest carrier is Southwest Airlines following its acquisition of Airtran. This means you can get to Atlanta from destinations across America at great prices.
Dallas Ft Worth, TX
Another US airport which is dominated by a home based legacy carrier – in this case American Airlines – you may be surprised to find that you have good budget options that don’t require a trip to nearby Love Field. Spirit Airlines recently announced a number of new routes from Dallas to regional and leisure destinations to add to its existing network from the airport.
Warsaw Chopin, Poland
The capital of Poland is a major hub for budget carrier Wizz Air which fights bitterly with full service national carrier LOT. You can also reach Warsaw via carriers Norwegian, Air Berlin, Germanwings and Vueling.
Moscow Domodedovo, Russia
By Milad A380 (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
For years it was only possible to reach Moscow via traditional full service airlines, or one of Aeroflot’s classic Soviet airliners. However, recent agreements have led to a number of low cost airlines from outside Russia offering flights to Domodedovo. Most significant perhaps is easyJet, which flies from two points in the UK. Other budget airlines flying to Moscow include Air Berlin, Germania, Niki, Meridiana fly, Vueling and Air Arabia.
St Maarten, Caribbean
A spotters paradise which is on the bucket list of many who like to photograph airliners at close quarters. But it’s not necessary to spend mega bucks getting there with big airlines, particularly from North America, since budget airlines such as Jetblue, Sun Country and Westjet fly regularly to the island.
Aeroflot retired its fleet of Ilyushin IL-96 aircraft earlier this year as it moves towards more modern, Western types for its widebody operations.
One of the aircraft has even been destroyed by fire since it was retired.
However, now there’s a bit of hope for those who like to see Russian planes in the skies, or those who haven’t flown on the type yet (myself included) as both Cubana and Red Wings are taking on some of the former Aeroflot IL-96s for their own operations.
Cubana uses the type on some domestic schedules, and also to places like Buenos Aires, Madrid and Paris Orly from its Havana base. It will take one ex-Aeroflot aircraft.
Red Wings is planning to use the aircraft on flights from Moscow to Simferopol in Crimea. It will take three ex-Aeroflot aircraft. I think it’ll look fantastic in their colours!
If you’re like me, you’re not easily phased by somewhat seat of the pants flying. The focus of this Greatest Flights piece is Winair’s DHC-6 Twin Otter flights from St Maarten to St Barthelemy (St Barths for short).
Flying in and out of St Maarten is an experience in itself, given the spectacular beach location of the runway. But flying from there to St Barths gives passengers the chance to experience a very steep approach to a short runway, barely skimming the tops of cars and heads of cyclists on a road close to the end of the runway. At the opposite end is the sea, so you’d better hope the pilot knows where the brakes are!
According to CH-Aviation, Delta’s recently retired Douglas DC-9 fleet could return to service with another airline in the near future.
PAWA Dominicana is an airline based in Santo Domingo, Punta Cana. Although it suspended operations in February 2012, it has maintained that it will return to service under its new management later this year.
The airline is reportedly planning to take on 20 of Delta’s DC-9-50 aircraft, which flew their final flight on 6th January, in addition to two ex-Northwest Airlines DC-9-30s and an ex-American Airlines MD-82.
We don’t often get news from the Caribbean, but one story I wanted to highlight was the expansion planned by Seaborne Airlines.
The carrier will add four more Saab 340 aircraft to its fleet in early 2014, bringing its fleet to 13 aircraft.
It will also add a new route from San Juan Luis Munoz Marin Airport to St Kitt’s Bradshaw International and onwards to Nevis Vance Amory International, starting on 15th January 2014. Flights will operate daily.
Has anyone flown on Seaborne Airlines or any other interesting airlines in the Caribbean? Don’t forget to share your stories and pictures with us!
New Haitian carrier Sunrise Airways is working on establishing its base at Port-au-Prince, and has now added its first international service.
It will start regularly scheduled passenger service between Cap Haitien and Providenciales, Turks & Caicos beginning August 26, 2013.
“Haiti is moving forward, and Sunrise Airways right along with it,” said Philippe Bayard, the airline’s President. “All of us at Sunrise and Haitians everywhere can all take pride in the type of modern, professional airline we’re building from the ground up here in Port-au-Prince to enhance air travel options throughout the region.
Air travel has gone from strength to strength since the Wright brothers invented the first pilot controlled aircraft in 1903. After a steep increase in aircraft production during the World Wars, a move was made towards commercial air travel by the 1950s when the large body planes took to the sky. By 1976, Concorde’s luxury supersonic flight reduced crossing the Atlantic to just three hours.
Over the last three decades, the industry has been striving to create bigger, better, faster, sleeker, safer, greener and more efficient ways to travel. The industry took a leap forward in 2007 with the introduction of the A380, the world’s largest commercial aircraft that has the ability to carry more passengers than any other.
The progress of design and technology has also extended to airports around the world. If you fly with Emirates to Dubai you’ll arrive at the Emirates hub in Terminal 3, one of the largest buildings in the world in terms of floor space. The first class facilities include an on-site hotel, so you can relax between connections, as well as plenty of restaurants and shops to keep you entertained. Airport terminals like this now feel like small, self-contained towns, in fact some are bigger than small towns!
Unique airports around the world
Read our mini-guide to extreme airports around the world.
Busiest airport All big city airports feel busy, but London Heathrow is officially the world’s busiest airport in terms of international passengers travelling through its terminals. The airport reports that during 2012, an incredible 69.98 million passengers (65.3 million of which were international passengers) arrived and departed. The airport’s busiest day was 31 July 2011, when 233,561 passengers passed through the airport.
Guinness Book of World Records lists Harsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport as the busiest airport in terms of the number of aircraft taking off and landing. In 2011, 924,000 planes used the airport, and with a staggering 92 million passengers travelling through, it is the busiest airport in the world for both domestic and international travellers combined.
Largest airport King Fahd International Airport in Saudi Arabia is the largest airport in the world. It takes up 780 square kilometres, roughly the same size as New York or larger than the neighbouring country of Bahrain!
The impressive terminal has six stories, including an area that is reserved entirely for the Royal Family.
Highest airport Sitting at 4,334m above sea level, and hugged by the surrounding mountains, Bangda Airport in Tibet is a scenic (if nail biting) destination to land in. Thankfully the runway is longer to account for the longer stopping distance due to the atmospheric resistance caused by the altitude. However, construction is underway to build an even higher airport. Naggu, also in Tibet, is due to open in 2014 and will be at an altitude of 4,436m. With average temperatures remaining below zero throughout the year, this is a difficult part of the world to build and operate an airport.
Shortest runway The shortest runway in the world can be found on Saba, a tiny island in the Caribbean that is administered by the Netherlands. Juancho E. Yrausquin Airport is flanked on one side by high hills and the landing strip is just 396m long, with cliffs dropping off into the sea at each end. Only small planes and helicopters can land and take off from the airport, as most commercial liners are far too large for such a short space.
Scariest runway In the mountainous monarchy of Lesotho lies the scariest runway in the world. The take-off strip literally runs off a cliff due to the lack of flat space in the region to fit a full length runway. Often planes are forced to plunge off the 610m high cliff and take flight during the drop in order to get airborne.
Best airport Singapore’s Changi Airport has been announced as the World’s Best Airport 2013 at the World Airport Awards. The awards are voted for by customers and this year the survey had 12.1 million responses. It has been in the top three of the awards for the last 14 years and has won the award four times. It also won the Best Airport in Asia and Best Airport Leisure Amenities, proving Changi is a great place for a layover.
Unusual airport Barra Airport in Scotland may look like any other small island airport, but pilots have to check the tide chart as well as the weather and air traffic before setting off for the destination. This is because one of the three runways used for commercial aircraft is underwater a high tide!