Helsinki Airport Spotting Guide

The airport at Vantaa was opened in 1952 for the Helsinki Olympics. It replaced the older facility at Malmi, which today is used as the city’s general aviation airport. It is a busy hub for Finnair and handles flights from around the world. In addition to this, a healthy cargo operation takes place at the airport. A number of expansion projects are underway to help the airport cope with future growth.

The weather can often put a dampener on spending time at Helsinki, but long hours of sunlight in the summer months also prove advantageous. When the weather is against you, the café in the International Terminal provides a warm location with excellent views.

Whilst most of Europe’s airlines visit Helsinki, its proximity to former Soviet and Baltic States means there’s always something of interest passing through. Runway 22L is the most commonly used for movements due to the prevalent winds and noise abatement procedures, however runways can regularly be switched or used in parallel.

 

Airport Layout

Helsinki Airport has three runways, and is spread over a large area.

In the central area is the passenger terminals – Terminal 1 and Terminal 2.

Cargo facilities exist to the south east of the terminals, and on the opposite side of runway 15/33.

Maintenance areas for Finnair can be found to the south west of the terminals.

 

What You’ll See

By Anna Zvereva from Tallinn, Estonia (Finnair, OH-LWE, Airbus A350-941) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Helsinki is a hub for Finnair and its regional partners Nordic Regional Airlines and BRA. You’ll see the full fleets of these airlines here, including Finnair’s latest Airbus A350s and its medium-haul fleet.

The airport is also a hub for Norwegian, Jet Time, TUI fly Nordic and Thomas Cook Scandinavia.

Other interesting airlines visiting Helsinki include:

  • Aeroflot
  • airBaltic
  • Belavia
  • Japan Airlines
  • Nextjet
  • Qatar Airways
  •  Ukraine International

Cargo flights are operated by

  • AirBridgeCargo
  • ASL Airlines
  • FedEx Express
  • Qatar Airways Cargo
  • Turkish Airlines Cargo
  • UPS Airlines

 

Click on the map to navigate around. Click on the markers for more information.

 

Helsinki Airport Spotting Locations

By Anna Zvereva from Tallinn, Estonia (Japan Airlines, JA833J, Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

  1. Scenic Terrace
    Situated on top of a building next to Terminal 2, this official spot was opened in April 2013 to replace the old viewing area. It is open from 7am to 10pm daily and has elevated views over the gates and two main runways. There is an indoor part with snack machines.
  2. International Terminal Café Now Closed
    Located between halls 2 and 3 on the 3rd floor of the International Terminal (another café on the 2nd floor also has some views). The café has large windows fronting the aprons and the taxiways and runways. Most of the traffic will pass here at some point. Photography is possible, however the glass is usually dirty.
  3. Runway 04L/22R
    Exit the terminal area along Lentoasemantie and turn right at the traffic lights. Around 3km later, turn and drive along Katriinantie, then look for a layby on your right which has a barrier blocking most of it. You can park here, and there is a hill alongside with paths worn out by spotters who come here for good views of runway 04L/22R.
  4. Runway 33
    At the southern end of the airport there is a layby alongside a crash gate and the fence next to the runway 33 threshold. It has good views over this runway and across to Terminal 1. It is also very close to the DHL cargo apron. A hill behind the layby can be clambered up for photographic opportunities.

 

[Read our Guide to 10 Scandinavian Airport Spotting Highlights]

 

Preserved Aircraft at Helsinki

There are no stored or fire trainer aircraft at Helsinki Airport, but the nearby Finnish Aviation Museum is worth a visit for some historic preserved aircraft:

Finnish Aviation Museum
Helsinki-Vantaa Airport, Tietotie 3, 01539 VANTAA | +358 98 70 08 70 | www.suomenilumuseo.fi
This popular museum houses over 70 historic aircraft linked in some way to Finnish aviation history. Included are a Convair 440, DC-2 and a DC-3. It is open daily from 11am to 6pm. Adults E6, Children/Concessions E3

 

Helsinki Airport Spotting Hotels

Hilton Helsinki Airport
Lentäjänkuja 1, 01530 Vantaa | +358 9 73220 | www.hilton.com
The hotel is located directly behind the airport’s main terminal complex and is a couple of floors higher than the terminal buildings. There are only outward facing rooms on two sides of the hotel, facing northeast and southwest (the rest face an inner courtyard). For spotting purposes, you will need rooms facing southwest; rooms facing northeast have views blocked by an adjacent building. The top two floors are best, with rooms on the southwest side overlooking final approach to runways 04L/R and many of the terminal stands.

 

If you have any tips on spotting at Helsinki, leave a comment below!

 

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7 Responses

  1. dean russell says:

    When i was there last August bank holiday (2016), arriving saturday lunch time, the sat pm was good as all the finnair long haul came back, the Sunday morning it was totally dead ,just a hand full of local flights,possibly the best one was the aeroflots sukhoi 100, this must be the only european airport that did not have a Emirates flight on the saturday and Sunday ( or all week), with the viewing terrace where it is , I wouldn`t look for any where else. for photo`s traveling light, I took a 70-300mm lense, possibly could have used a 400mm but the air was clean so when the photo`s were blown up they still looked sharp.

  2. Phil Caisley says:

    I have recently returned from Helsinki after four days of spotting and enjoyed it immensely. It should be noted that the restaurant permitting views over the aprons does not now exist. After a thorough search, I asked a security guard, who told me of its demise, and now the only place to view is the viewing terrace, which l found a little disappointing.

  3. Matt Falcus says:

    Thanks for the update Phil. Disappointing to hear!

  4. Jukka Hemilä says:

    Good summary of spotting locations at Helsinki-Vantaa. Here are some remarks. DHL operates cargo daily, not in weekends. Unfortunately Scenic terrace is closed on winter, more details: https://www.finavia.fi/en/helsinki-airport/services/free-time/scenic-terrace/ .
    EFHK operator Finavia has also some guide for spotters: https://www.finavia.fi/en/helsinki-airport/services/free-time/plane-spotting-and-filming/
    Aviation museum webpage is: http://ilmailumuseo.fi/en/

  5. Matt Falcus says:

    Thanks Jukka!

  6. Robbie Shaw says:

    Was there a couple of weeks ago (9 June 2017). There are several good spots outside, but on the day I was there runway 22R was in use – no good from outside. The terrace is not bad, though a bit distant, and the summer months, due to distance, aircraft shots could suffer badly from heat haze. I was mostly using 80-400mm lens. But at least there is a viewing area, and it is free. LHR and LGW please note !

  7. Matt Falcus says:

    Thanks Robbie!

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