Kuala Lumpur Airport Spotting Guide

Our members Patrick and Jan visited Kuala Lumpur in Januar and February 2015 (Konstanty in October 2015) and wrote a guide about the largest Airport in Malaysia. In 2014 the Airport handled 48.930.408 millionen passengers. KUL is a Hub for AirAsia, AirAsia X, Malaysian Airlines, Malindo Air and Maskargo. The majority of traffic is obviously generated by AirAsia and Malaysian Airlines.
During the daylight there are a couple of Asian airlines like AirAsia Indonesia, AirAsia Zest, Thai AirAisa, Lion Air, Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways, Cebu Pacific, JAL, Jetstar Asia, Vietnam Airlines etc. Especially the Chinese airlines operate during the nighttime. The African/Middle East carriers like Saudi Arabian Airlines, Emirates, Ethiad, Qatar, Royal Jordanian, Egypt Air, Ethiopian Airlines are regular guests during the daytime. From Europe, Air France, KLM, Swiss, Lufthansa and Turkish Airlines are regular guests during the daytime as well. Highlights visiting KUL are rare carrier like Iran Air, Iran Aseman, Mahan Air, Iraqi Airways or Nas Air.

You can look up the official airport website for the upcoming arrivals and also ETAs for the flights. The schedule there also includes the charter flights and some freighters. Otherwise check Flightradar24 or flightstats. As there are two runways in use for arrivals (see Runway Usage) we also recommend using flightradar24 on your mobile (local SIM cards with internet are cheap and easy to buy) while spotting. This way you can actually see when specials are coming in and still switch the runway in time for the arrival. The road around the airport has no traffic lights and very little traffic, making it possible to switch in 3-5 minutes.

Written by Patrick Weis, Jan Seba, Julian Rodriguez and Konstanty Dobrzyński. Last visited October 2015.

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Airline Variety
Photo Locations
Weather
Airport Information Runways 14R/32L  14L/32R  15/33
4.019 m (13.186 ft)  4.000 m (13.123 ft)  4.000 m (13.123 ft)
 Concrete  Concrete  Concrete
 Terminals  KLIA 1  KLIA 2
All the major international carriers Lowcost carriers including AirAsia (from all countries), Malindo Air, Lion Air, CEBU Pacific and Tigerair
Spotting Information Ladder No spotting directly at the fence allowed, a ladder is not necessary.
Car Absolutely necessary to get arround the airport, also very important to have a place to go to during a spontaneous rainshower or thunderstorm. We strongly advice not to go spotting without a car in KUL.
Restrooms Only at the observation deck and in the terminal.
Drinks/Food In the terminal and as shown on the map. Several nearby villages also have local restaurants.
Hotels There are many hotels around the airport in the nearby villages.
Season The weather in KUL is always unpredictable and you will very likely have rainy days and lots of clouds during your stay. There is no real ideal time to visit, just a few months to avoid because of heavy rain. The best time to visit is from January to August.
Runway Usage General Info As the airport generally experiences very calm or no winds at all, the RWY direction in use in most cases is 32/33. There are only very few occassions in which this is different.
14R/32L The landing runway for all airlines using KLIA 1. Is also used for some departures, mainly heavies and cargo aircraft. AirAsia also occasionally lands on this RWY.
14L/32R Departure runway for KLIA 1. Though sometimes also a few AirAsia aircraft use this RWY for departure.
15/33 Primary runway for KLIA 2 and thus all AirAsia and AirAsia X flights. It is used both for arrivals and departures equally.

Spot #1 – 33 Arrivals Afternoon
WHERE This spot is located as marked on the map on the dirt road next to the road arround the runway. Another option is to stand directly next to the road behind the crash barrier. In this case you are a bit closer to the aircraft but also closer down the approach path. You can park you car on the eastern side of the road infront of an unused boom gate.
WHAT Here you can take all arrivals onto RWY 33 in the afternoon.
TIME The best time in winter is from 14:00 till sunset. In Summer you have to start later, probably around 16:00.
MISC. Bring with you what you need, no toilets, no food, no drinks.
FOCAL LENGTH 70mm for the A330s (usually no larger aircraft land here) and 115mm for an A320.


Spot #2 – 33 Arrivals and Departures Morning
WHERE This spot is located on an road to an airport crashgate at the new runway 15/33. Park your car at the side of the road. Just climb up the rocks if there’s something special lining up. Stay away from the rocks if there is nothing special as the security might come and send you away! For the landing shots it is possible to take the shots next to the road south of the rocks.
WHAT From the marked point on the map you can take arrival and lineup shots (though with a fence in the picture). The example images of the AirAsia A330s below show the difference between a shot taken from the hill and from the street.
TIME The best time in winter is from sunrise till 11:00. In summer you can spot longer, probably until 12:00 before the sun altitude is too high.
MISC. Bring with you what you need, no toilets, no food, no drinks.There have been reports of spotters being sent away or even taken to the police station. At this time we highly discourage the use of this location.
FOCAL LENGTH 160mm for an A320 on lineup. 220mm for a landing A320 and 130mm for an A330.


Spot #3 – 32L Arrivals Afternoon
WHERE Along the airport perimeter road there is a dirt road running behind the crash barrier, which is accessible a bit north of the marked spot. Enter the dirt road here and drive to the south again until you reach the location. The marked spot is the best location for RWY 32L arrivals where you won’t have the fence in the picture and still have a great angle for the aircrafts. But obviously you can choose your location at will and also get closer to the approach path.
WHAT Best location for RWY 32L arrivals. Shooting lineup is not possible here due to the high fence.
TIME The best time in winter is from 14:00 till sunset. In Summer you have to start later, probably around 16:00.
MISC. Bring with you what you need, no toilets, no food, no drinks.
FOCAL LENGTH 75mm for an A380 and and 140mm for a B738.


Spot #4 – 32L Arrivals Morning
WHERE There is a sand/gravel area next to the airport perimeter road which you can both use for parking and spotting. Choose your location so that you can shoot the arrivals between the lamp posts.
WHAT This spot is good for all aircrafts arriving Runway 32L in the morning hours and for lineup shots until 9:30 as later there is too much heathaze. For lineup shots you will have the fence in your pictures, as can be seen in the example shots.
TIME The best time in winter is from sunrise till 11:00. In summer you can spot longer, probably until 12:00 before the sun altitude is too high.
MISC. Bring with you what you need, no toilets, no food, no drinks.
FOCAL LENGTH Depending on your location it’s around 100mm for a B747 and 180mm for an A320, but you can also get closer.


Spot #5 – Observation Deck – Apron Movements
WHERE This spot is located landside on the top floor (Departure level) of Terminal 1 (KLIA 1). There are sings in the Terminal showing you the way to the “Observation Deck”, which is at the end of a long hallway.
WHAT From this spot you can take pictures of aircrafts parking at the terminal and for aircrafts taxiing on the taxiway to runway 32R or 32L. But there is a lot of heathaze and you have to spot though glass. Also this location is facing south and thus the sun for the winter time of the year, making it somewhat unusable for longer photography sessions.
TIME In winter you are backlit almost during the whole day (expect for shots on the eastern or western aprons, which are either good in the morning or evening). Taxiway shots become acceptable from 16:00 (but are never really pretty). In summer this spot becomes more usable, as the light is now on the correct side, but sadly the sun is too high around noon. The light will get great from around 16:00 as well.
MISC. Everything you need is in the terminal, there are toilets just around the corner.
FOCAL LENGTH Varies strongly. Pictures on the taxiway opposite the observation deck are at 130mm for a B738.

 

Spot #6 – Observation Decks KLIA2
WHERE This spot is located landside nearby the entrance to KLIA2 terminal area at the departures level 3.
WHAT From this spot (or spots, as there is the possibility to spot on both sides of the entrance) you will easily get a view on planes taxiing to/from their stands and those standing at the stands.
TIME More or less the entire day. It partially depends on the season. You might have to adjust your position in order to get most of the photos with the sun.
MISC. Everything you might need (lavatories, shops, cafe’s etc.) is nearby. This is a generally available area to which you can get even when not flying.
FOCAL LENGTH 50+ [Big Points at 165mm, nose close-up at 300mm, QPR plane at 155mm, spot overview at 18mm]

Spot #7 – Bridge inside the terminal.
WHERE This spot is located inside the terminal and is accessible after passing the passport control. This is a bridge linking piers of the terminal. Very easy to find.
WHAT You can easily spot from here waiting for your flight. All the movements at the taxiways are clearly visible.
TIME All day, you just have to adjust to the location of the sun.
MISC. As this is inside the terminal all you might need (lavatories, shops etc.) is somewhere nearby. At some areas you will need to stand behind a row of chairs in order to be close to the window. Dirty windows may be bothersome.
FOCAL LENGTH  50+ [A320 taxiing at 170mm, 3xA320 at 86mm, The Apprentice at 95mm]
Spot #8 – Mound – 14R/32L movements
WHERE This is a mound that gives you an elevated view of the 14R/32L runway, depending on the angle you might find some palm trees in the way but the view is mostly unobstructed. You should drive on road 27 that goes around the airport and exit it towards security control post 6. Leave the control post to your right and keep going on the road that goes in parallel to the airport fence, turn left on the first street, then right and you’ll reach the spot which is a gravel mound.
WHAT Arrivals on 32L and departures on 14R.
TIME Best in the afternoon until sunset, depending on the time of year it’s good from around 1PM until sunset. Heat haze can be a problem at times.
MISC. It’s a mound of asphalt gravel and there’re no trees at all that can provide some shadow or shelter here so can get really hot during summer. No shops or facilities around here so bring what you need.
FOCAL LENGTH 300mm for an A320, 150mm for a B77W (Full Frame!)


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19 thoughts on “Kuala Lumpur Airport Spotting Guide

  1. Cornel

    Note that when I was last there (April 2017) the Lion Air group (includes Malindo and Batik, soon to be merged) had moved to KLIA I. Very little to see now in the open bridge area of KLIA 2. In particular, the J gates were empty most of the time. Unless it is very clear, the new third runway is too far away for decent pics, you can see all the movements though. I think for photography by now you are better off in the viewing area of KLIA I. Watch out for bad reflections. Early morning is best, busy and no problems with the sun. Unlike popular belief, there are plenty of direct buses from KL Sentral to KLIA 1 vv (10-12 RM). Between KLIA 1 and 2 you can take the train (2 RM, but check times as they are infrequent).

  2. Ger Buskermolen

    Are the KLIA2 Observation decks free of charge accessible for plane spotting and photography or do you have to pass passport control to get to these decks? Visit planned in February 2017. Rgds, Ger

  3. David Jesús

    Hello ! I’ve recently visited the runway 32… I wanted to capture some big whales but the day I went there was only A330 and B737… any idea if they changed their routine on runways ? or it was just the day I visited? Which runway is currently receiving the big flights… does anyone know?

  4. BARCA

    I would like to photo 747SP.
    I plan to rental car and drive to Spot #4 from kul airport.
    Is driving safe in Kuala Lumpur?

  5. Dirk

    Hi Guys,
    I spend one day here at KUL.First of all, I had no contact with security or police even not at pos.2. I had a rental car, was visilble but no problem at all. Also stopping at the perimeter road was no problem, nowbody interested what I have done.
    This was a very relaxing spotting trip…

    1. Jan

      Thanks Dirk. This is in line with other reports which have received our Team lately. It appears the situation after the drone incident has quieted down and Spotters are again tolerated around the airport.
      Best regards
      Jan

    2. Roman

      Hi Dirk,

      I’m also planning to spot in KLIA, where did you rented a car to go around KLIA?

      Thanks in advance!

  6. Peter

    hi, Kevin, i am interested to do plane spotting… can u provide the gps coordinate of spotting location and normally what time u guys are there. i would like to join the group. thanks…

  7. Kevin

    Hey guys, we visited KUL in July and got 14 OPS. It very tricky but with a rental car no problem. For example at the northern end of “Air Asia RWY” there is small gate into the palm oil plantages. There is a small place to park you car + you’re hidden of the police (we saw no police) because you’re 2m lower then the perimeter rd. Just keep the dirt-road clear when the workers pass with their loaded trucks, most of them waved us everytime. You should leave about 5-5:30pm because than they close the gate.
    -For RWY 14R morning drive to the Concorde Inn Hotel, just in front of the entrance to the hotel area is a small drivingpath into the palmoil plantages (you need SUV). Drive it along until you see the aircraft passing. Be in mind that this is also private area and there is absolutly nothing, just palms. We had no problems with police or other workers which passed with their truck to collect the fruits of palms. Light ok till 11am.
    JFI: Seems like the “non Air Asia rwy” is very quiet sometimes, we had up to 30mins no aircraft coming on our RWY.

    Kevin

    1. Jan

      Hi Kevin,

      thanks for you additional information on RWY 14 operations, maybe it will help someone. 🙂

      Best regards
      Jan

  8. Paul Holmes

    For Air Asia fans KLIA 2 has an outside viewing deck where about 70% of their movements and all of Malindo movements can be photographed. KFC and Starbucks are near by. The deck is located just before the Air Asia self service check-in machines are located . If the KLIA movements are landing from the North, that’s a huge bonus. I will post a link to my photos when I have had time to upload.

    1. MarlinMarlin

      Hi Paul!

      Great hint you gave us! We would love if you helped us!
      If you are interested you can send us some photographs if you have a few and we will add them to the guide, if you don’t mind! 🙂

      Cheers
      Marlin

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