Aviation in Asia is on a massive scale. There are so many hub airports and airlines, from low-cost operators to full service carriers. Because of the scale, these airlines often have large fleets and are growing fast.
Then you’ve got countries like China and India which are building airport at an impressive rate, opening up new communities to domestic and international travel.
For a chance to add hundreds or thousands of new aircraft to your logbooks, or photograph many unusual airlines and liveries, aviation enthusiasts should consider taking a trip to Asia for some spotting.
But where do you go? It all depends on what you want to see, but there are other things to consider. Spotting at airports in Asia can prove difficult without the right information (that’s why we produced this guide), and not all provide facilities or welcome spotters.
Here are 9 of the best spotting airports in Asia.
Haneda is one of the best airports to spot at in Japan, and is now the fourth-busiest airport in the world. It provides observation decks on all terminals, including the newer International Terminal, giving you plenty of space to observe the vast number of aircraft passing through the airport.
It is a hub for ANA and Japan Airlines. Regular operators from all over the world fly in, and its is also a busy domestic airport.
Spotting: All three terminals have observation decks, each with different views.
Phuket is one of Thailand’s busiest airports thanks to the island’s thriving holiday resorts. Traffic comes from Europe, the Middle East, Australia and the Far East, as well as from across Thailand. It sees a mix of scheduled, low-cost and charters, with many wide body aircraft visiting. The busiest season is between November and March.
Spotting: If runway 09 is in use, Nai Yang Beach is the perfect place to spot and photograph airliners passing low overhead shortly before landing. St. Maarten eat your heart out!
Beijing Capital is currently the principal airport for the city, and has been steadily expanded and modernised, but is soon to be overshadowed by the new Daxing Airport (Capital will remain open, however).
Capital, 20 miles north of the city, is a large hub where domestic and international flights meet, and it is currently the busiest in Asia, and second-busiest airport in the world. It has three parallel runways, and the very large international Terminal 3 to the east.
Spotting: The viewing mound at West Lake Park is a dedicated area situated under the final approach to runway 36R. It is elevated, with views over the western side of the airfield, Terminal 3, and the nearby executive apron. Photography is good when aircraft approach from the south.
The original airport for Osaka, Itami is now relegated to domestic operations, with international services flown out of Kansai International to the south of the city.
Itami is surrounded on all sides by the city, and it is one of the busiest in Japan for aircraft movements. A perfect place to catch up on the domestic airline fleets, here you will primarily see the country’s two main operators – Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways (and their feeder carriers) operating throughout the country with various aircraft types from commuter turboprops to widebodies.
Spotting: Either the observation deck on top of the terminal, or the Sky Park situated on the opposite side of the runway, which has great views.
Singapore’s Changi Airport is one of the world’s largest aviation hubs, and a major transit point for travellers heading between Europe and Asia. It is home to Singapore Airlines and its cargo division, plus its Scoot and Silk Way low-cost offshoots. The airport is never quiet and offers a really interesting mix for the enthusiast, with many smaller regional Asian carriers coming and going regularly among the big international traffic.
Spotting: There are ‘Viewing Malls’ inside terminals 1, 2 and 3 where you can watch and photograph airliners on the runways and at the gates. Each has its own pro’s and con’s, and you’ll probably have to move between them to make the most of your visit.
Kuala Lumpur International
This airport is the home base of Malaysia Airlines, AirAsia and AirAsia X and on the route network of many cargo airlines, as well as carriers from around the world.
It is split into two sections – KLIA1, which is the original complex, and KLIA2, which opened for low-cost operators in May 2014. Both main terminal buildings have official viewing facilities. KLIA1 has a satellite building, which doesn’t have any spotting areas, although it is possible to view from certain gates. You can travel between the two areas using a train, which costs less than £1/$1.
Spotting: The Viewing Galleries inside both KLIA1 and KLIA2 are perfect for keeping an eye on aircraft coming and going from the terminals. Photography is possible but not perfect, and you’ll always miss something from each gallery. But overall the best places to spot.
Hong Kong Chek Lap Kok
Hong Kong is always busy and a pleasure to spot at, with an official spotting location and good spotting hotels. Traffic is dominated by Cathay Pacific and Asian carriers, operating mainly wide-body airliners.
The airport is the world’s busiest for cargo, with freighters taking up a good portion of movements. There are sizeable maintenance areas to the west, and cargo apron located on the southern side of the airport. A centre for business jet is also on the southern side.
Spotting: Spotters use the SkyDeck on top of the terminal, which as views of movements on the runways and nearby gates where nothing will be missed. There are other good spots at the eastern end of the airport. You’ll need a car or to take a bus to get there.
Suvarnabhumi is Bangkok’s main international airport.
It is a sleek, modern facility with two runways, and is home to Thai Airways and any other airlines from the country. It is one of Asia’s busiest airports, and the diversity of airlines both local and from around the world makes it a real draw for enthusiasts – especially with good spotting locations and hotels to use.
Spotting: Inside the terminal is an Observation Area set aside for watching aircraft, which is signposted. The views are good over the western side of the airport, and photography is possible with a long lens.
Jakarta Soekarno Hatta International
Jakarta’s main airport is the busiest in the country and has three terminals, with the two main ones having viewing galleries. It is the home base of Garuda Indonesia, Batik Air, Indonesia AirAsia and Lion Air.
There are a couple of good spotting hotels here, including the FM7 and one inside Terminal 2. You can travel freely between the three terminals using the monorail.
Spotting: Visit one of the ‘Waving Galleries’ in the terminals for views of part of the airport. The spotting hotels are also great.
It’s packed full of information on where to spot at hundreds of airports across Asia, with maps, descriptions, details of airlines, spotting hotels, museums and more.
Find out more or order a copy today here: https://destinworld.com/product/airport-spotting-guides-asia-the-far-east/