Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Spotting Guide

Time for a new guide? Our member Jan made a trip through Asia and put some spotting guides for you in his luggage. His first stop was at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport with 51.3 Mio passengers in 2013. The enormous variety from asian airlines makes this airport very special and he is surrounded with some very nice spotting location too.

Since the opening in 2006 Bangkoks new International Airport, named Suvarnabhumi, has become one of the main international gateways for Southeast Asia. Though there was a 3% decline in traffic in 2013 (mainly also due to capacity reductions from main carrier Thai Airways) the airport still handled the impressive amount of over 51 million passengers. Of the two Bangkok International airports, the other one being Don Mueang Airport, Suvarnabhumi handles all of the international long-haul flights and serves most of the flag carriers, while the low-cost carriers con be found in Don Mueang.

The majority of traffic is obviously generated by Thai Airways, but Bangkok Airways has also expanded their hub operations and offers lots of scheduled flights. During the morning and evening hours, where the light is good you will see lots of interesting traffic from the region from carriers like Cambodia Angkor Air, Cebu Pacific, Jetstar, Garuda, Lao Central Airlines, Tigerair, etc. There are also always the big Chinese and Japanese carries which frequently fly in. Other interesting traffic is certainly created by the Russian charter flights for example by UTair, Nordwind, Ikar or Transaero. Furthermore there are also always a few notable cargo flights during the day, for example by EVA Air, China Airlines, ANA Cargo or Nippon Cargo. Unfortunately there is also a lot of traffic that takes place during the night and during noon, so you will not get all of the carries flying to and from Bangkok.

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 from Russia, which are often not found on other sites..

You should be warned about two major disadvantages about spotting in Bangkok, but the traffic definitely makes up for these shortcomings. As Bangkok lies in a tropical dry and wet climate zone you will very rarely see clear blue skies here. It is very common that the sun is only comes out 30 minutes or even an hour after sunrise and it also disappears way before sunset in the haze. Furthermore all the spotting locations at this airport are very far from the action, so you will need a good lens for shooting here.

Written by Jan Seba & Rui Miguel / Last visited January 2015

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Airline Variety
Photo Locations
Weather
Airport Information    Runways 01R/19L 01L/19R
4.260 m (13.976 ft) 3.810 m (12.500 ft)
Spotting Information Ladder Not required
Car Not required, always use a taxi, but make sure the driver uses the taximeter. Most short drives around the airport are less than 2 Euros. It is advisable to prepare some maps at home to show to the taxi driver. Make sure the maps have the written name (in Thai!) of the location (or streets) where you want to go. Do not expect taxi drivers to speak English. Though some of them know one or two words it will never be enough so that you can explain where you want to go.
Restrooms It is best to use the restrooms in the hotel as there are none at the locations.
Drinks/Food Take drinks and snacks with you, there are a few small local food restaurants along Lat Krabang road.
Hotels There are a few hotels next to the airport, but The Phoenix Hotel is recommended because it offers the best approach location for one of the runways.
Season It is best to visit during the winter as the sun is too high during the summer. It is especially recommended to visit during February and March as these are the months with the highest probability of southern winds for which there are the most locations available.
Runway Usage  01R/19L Normally this is the preferred takeoff runway for 19 OPS, but it can happen that they also use it preferably for landings and the other runway for takeoffs. If it is mainly used for takeoffs it also happens regularly that there are still some landings (mostly Thai and Bangkok Airways) here. For 01 OPS this is the preferred landing runway.
01L/19R The preferred landing runway for 19 OPS and also the preferred cargo runway in general. The cargo center is located on this side of the airport so ATC tries to let most of the cargo planes land and depart here no matter which RWY is currently preferred for landing or takeoff. Even if mainly used for takeoffs there will also be a few passenger landings here (often some rare airlines). For 01 OPS this the preferred takeoff runway.

 Spot #1 – Phoenix Hotel Rooftop – 19R Arrivals Morning
WHERE The Phoenix Hotel is located just north of Suvarnabhumi airport and is also a recommended place to stay if the main purpose your visit is plane spotting. You can book the hotel online on their website with a special planespotting package. The rooftop access is included.
WHAT You will get the arrivals for RWY 19R here, which are still very high at this point. But as you are pretty far away and also elevated the angle is still good.
TIME Best light conditions in the winter are from 7 AM to 11 AM
MISCELLANEOUS This is like the dream spotting location. You are close to your hotel room and you also have Wifi available on the rooftop. There are also some benches and a pavilion for sun protection.
FOCAL LENGTH Over 250mm for an A320/B737, a B747 is over 150mm.

Spot #2 – 19L Arrivals Morning
WHERE This spot is located somewhere along Suvarnabhumi 3 Road (show this to your taxi driver and let him drop you off at a point of your choosing). You can basically stand wherever you like here but there are two places which are recommended. First there is the marked place, which is located in the bushes to give a better angle for shooting. Some small hills provide elevation to shoot over the bushes. This location was tested for two days without any problems, but on the third day airport security showed up and advised to use an alternative location. They suggested a small building a bit north of the location (also on the east side of the road). The advantage is that it provides sun protection and seating, yet the angle is a bit worse.
WHAT This is the best location for 19L arrivals in the morning. The angle can be slightly better compared to Spot #1 and you are also a bit closer.
TIME Best light conditions in the winter are from 7 AM to 11 AM
MISCELLANEOUS There is nothing nearby, so take what you need with you.

See comments below, apparently the airport security has again taken badly to spotters along the main road.

FOCAL LENGTH 230mm for an A320/B737 and 120mm for a B777

 Spot #3 – King Kaew Walkway – 19R Arrivals Evening
WHERE This evening location is located in a small fishing village along King Kaeo Road. This is also the road name you want to show your taxi driver. Once you are there, just direct him to drive you to the end of the King Kaew 64 Alley. From the end of the alley just walk towards the water and then on the walkway further to the south until you reach a location where the trees are pretty low so that they are not in your image. Do not worry about the dogs roaming around here, normally they don’t bother with you, as long as you walk straight past them. You are in a very poor neighbourhood, but that should not worry you, the inhabitants are very friendly and have already seen lots of plane spotters.
WHAT Optimal location for 19R arrivals in the evening. The aircraft are quite low here and you have a very good angle for your shots.
TIME Best light conditions in the winter are from 3 PM to 5:30 PM
MISCELLANEOUS Beware of passing scooters and bikes. Though they tend to wait to pass you carefully, you should always look out for them.
FOCAL LENGTH 210mm for an A320/B737 and 110mm for a B747

Spot #4 – Footbridge – 19L Arrivals Evening
WHERE This location is located on a footbridge over the Rom Klao Road, right next to the Thai Airways HQ and opposite their Catering division. Show the name of the road to the taxi driver and let him drop you off at the bus station which is right under the footbridge. Just walk up the steps and you can shoot from anywhere you like and the bridge.
WHAT From the footbridge you can shoot the arrivals for RWY 19L in the evening. You will see the aircraft pretty late, so always keep and eye open. Listening wont help here, as the traffic from the street below is too loud to hear the airplanes.
TIME Best light conditions in the winter are from 3 PM to 5:30 PM
MISCELLANEOUS There is sun protection and you can sit on the stairs, but other than you should bring what you need with you.

See comments below, apparently the airport security has started to take notice of spotters at this location who have been sent away.

FOCAL LENGTH 280mm for an A320/B737 and 160mm for a B777

 Spot #5 – Terminal – 01L Departures Morning
WHERE Its easy to find as its located next to the entrance to the terminal at the departure level. Just leave the terminal next to the U/W check in counters and cross the road to the stop where the taxis drop off their customers.
WHAT Its not the best spot as you need a very high focal length. But if you have some time left before your departure you can get some nice pictures of aircrafts using RWY 01L for their departure. You see the planes very late flying over the C concourse. But you won’t have the construction within your frame as the aircrafts are already high enough.
TIME Best light conditions in the winter are from morning until afternoon
MISCELLANEOUS The area is sun covered and all other needed facilities are within the terminal behind you. I had no problems with the security guys during my visit.
FOCAL LENGTH 300mm for a 747, 400mm+ for a 737-800
 Spot #6 – Morning – Approach Runway 01R
WHERE This spot is located outside the airport perimeter fence (just next to it). I was told that because I was outside the fence no problems were to be expect from the local police. To get there the best way is to print a map and point it out to a taxi driver. If necessary learn your way, by using the google maps, on how to get there, as you can advise best the driver on when to make a left or right turn.
WHAT On this spot you can see aircrafts approaching runway 01R. At distance you can see traffic landing on 01L and with a about 400mm you can read registrations.
TIME It’s best in the morning until 10:30
MISCELLANEOUS Absolutely no shade, so take special care with sun and high temperatures.
FOCAL LENGTH 100mm = B747-400, 170mm = A319, 275mm = ATR-72

 Spot #7 – Afternoon – Approach Runway 01R
WHERE This spot is on the west side of the highway that leads to the airport, when arriving from the south. From spot 6 it’s a quick walk, passing bellow that highway, and then walking south until you find a place that suits you. Notice that the highway, on the portion just outside the airport fence, is elevated from the ground. It’s just a small part of it, but that means that you have to walk a bit south in order to have clear views of planes on final 01R. For a more detailed view check the google street map which has views from the street itself.
Please note: A recent visit and satellite images give the impression, that due to the rebuilding of the highway ramp this location might be limited in it’s use. To approach this issue just walk south a bit further than the marked spot on the map. Another option might be to shoot from the eastern side of the ramp.
WHAT Here you can see all landing on runway 01R, but you can’t see what’s landing on your back on runway 01L.
TIME It’s best in the afternoon from 13:00 til sunset.
MISCELLANEOUS Along the road there is ( at least in 2008 when I visited this spot) a small house selling snacks and drinks. Also notice that large trucks may park along the road, and therefore blocking the view. The trees along the sidewalk will offer a much needed shade.
FOCAL LENGTH 120mm = B747, 220mm = A320


Spot #8 – Lat Krabang Riverbank – 01L Arrivals Morning
WHERE Getting to this location is easiest if you start next Spot #7. The Bangkok Airways HQ building is right at the northern end of the small side road of the big highway. To get here, you should grab a cab and show him a map with the location. Do not worry, if coming from the north, first you have to travel approximately 2-3km south of this location before a U-turn from the highway to this sideroad can be made. From the Bangkok Airways HQ you can either walk along the fence (grass might be wet) or take the boardwalk along the small river.
WHAT This is the best location for 01L arrivals in the morning. Sadly the touchdown point is quite far away into the airport area, meaning that aircraft are very high here. The marked point on the map yields the result seen in the example images. You can also get closer to reduce the distance or go further away. Expect heat haze later in the morning for smaller aircraft.
TIME Best light conditions in the winter are from 7 AM to 11 AM
MISCELLANEOUS There is nothing here.
FOCAL LENGTH 150mm for a B747 and around 280mm for an A320.


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36 thoughts on “Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Spotting Guide

  1. Sandy

    I have just returned from a week in Bangkok, I stayed at the Phoenix Hotel. I don’t collect registrations, I just take photos. The whole week they were taking off over the hotel so photography was useless from there. I’m not a huge fan of “sky shots” but there isn’t really an option at BKK for anything else – Chiang Mai and Koh Samui are better options. Ironically when we left they changed runways and we departed towards the sea! All of my photography at BKK was thus south of the airport, in the vicinity of 6,7 and 8. On one morning a gate in the fence was open next to Thela Khlong Trong school (it ended up being open all day) and the locals were coming and going through it so we used it to get a higher vantage point. Then “security” arrived en masse. However we were quickly able to calm the situation. I showed them lots of photos from China, the USA and elsewhere. They asked us not to go through the gate again and then asked if I could send photos to them, which I will. I mentioned the idea of a spotting viewing area and I was told to “speak to our commercial department”. So something to think about for the future. There are plenty of little shops in this area so refreshments are easy to come by and there is the Terminal Cafe located near the Bangkok Airways HQ for hot local food and also some street vendors. Everyone was really friendly out in the villages. My taxi driver actually gave me directions to the spot I took photos from! I got a motor scooter back to the Phoenix that night but for 11THB u can get a tuc tuc bus from King Kaew Alley 15 to the 7/11 outside the Phoenix.
    The roof toilets of the Phoenix is not kept clean, they have put in hand wash but no toilet paper. Apart from that the Phoenix is fine and the food is very good. There is a cafe across the road and street food outside the 7/11. You should also visit Wat Lat Krabang.

  2. James

    Just a little FYI The Phoenix has spend some money on the deck with adding a new sitting area & overhead roof. Happy days!

  3. Andrea Tabanelli

    I go to Thailand every year (my wife is Thai) and I must advise against Suvarnabhumi 3 Road. Now the police are unfriendly. I recommend the Miracle Suvarnabumi Hotel. It has a terrace with swimming pool on the roof and photographing landings 01L and 19R take-offs during the afternoon.
    Congratulations for your site.

  4. James

    I spent an afternoon at Soi King kaew 64. Today. A problem I encountered was confusion between the new “King power” duty free and “King kaew” with my taxi driver. The duty free shop is about 15km from where you need to be and close to 01R not 19R where you need to be! According to the locals since last week it’s gone back to the old ways of 19L for departures and 19R for arrivals although I saw a hand full of arrivals on 19L, but nothing of note. I recommend contacting via Facebook the “Thailand Aviation Photography Group” (search it) and usually they can give you some real inside knowledge and even meet up with you. It’s certainly easier with a local.

    1. Jan Post author

      Hello James,

      thanks for the insight. I can confirm that I also had problems with King Kaew and the taxi driver navigation. He informed me that the pronounciation of the road is really difficult for foreigners and Thais usually interpret this differently when we say it. Just another reason to have the name printed out in Thai language.
      Meeting up with locals is always a good idea, thanks for sharing the Name of the Local Spotter Group!

      Cheers
      Jan

    2. Paolo and Rino ceriani

      We spent all day in airport And IT has been a very interesting day except for THE terrible weather…….grey sky and a lot of HAZE……..
      We stay in Miracle hotel suvarnabhumi and by taxi we have been lucky to reach THE morning position for 19R landings; all THE morning we have seen only two landings on 19L
      by taxi in THE first Hours of THE afternoon we moved to THE position N.3, one taxi driver denied our request because….too much close but THE second one,in a few minutes and for only 35BATH, transferred us to THE spotting position
      Nice afternoon with more sun
      Tomorrow in Don Muang

  5. Tony haynes

    I found for 01L arrivals in the morning the Thana City Golf Course carpark is an ideal location as there is ample shade and much less hassle from the airport security. The only problems ive encounted in BKK is trying to get the taxi drivers to take u places. Getting a thai local in the hotel to write down where you want to go is an absolute must as most drivers wouldnt know where to go otherwise due to the language barriers. Another option is trying to hire a taxi for the day or hiring a car. When they are on the 01 end for arrivals the spotting can be not fun for firstly your in the searing sun, secondly no food or drink or toilets a nd getting a taxi can be hard work. I prefer to spot at Suvanabhumi now when the wind irection favours the 19 runways. So much easier to spot then.

    1. Jan Post author

      Hey Tony,

      you are absolutely correct with your assesments, thats why these are also included in the guide.
      It is vital to have the street names written down in Thai. While the drivers can’t really read maps, it’s fine to have a map with you with the street names in Thai.

  6. EMMANUEL NARGIL

    Hi

    Until 16/04/2016, BKK trial used of parallel departure operation (NOTAM 0020/16) in theory RWY 19L and 01L are used mainly for departure. Under consideration from ATC RWY 19R could be use for departure.
    But in fact in south configuration RWY 19R is mainly used for departure and 19L for arrival.
    In North configuration 01R is mainly used for departure and 01L for arrival.

    If you go to spotting in BKK soon be aware and look RWY configuration before reach a spotting point.

    For exemple in the morning, it is not possible during this period to spot in roof of Phoenix hotel. But late in afternoon it is possible to shoot some heavy liners take off from 01R but with 300-400 mm lenses.

    In afternoon for 01L landing operation I suggested you to stay at the end of KIN KAEW soi 22/1. In this place you can found a shelter for sun protection (Google Earth 13°39’25.11″N / 100°43’21.62″E). I try this place the 26/02/2016

    1. Jan Post author

      Hi Emmanuel,

      thanks for all the updates! Seems like BKK is becoming increasingly difficult to spot at…
      It is definitely a good idea to monitor RWY configuration (NOTAM, FLightradar etc.) before planning a spotting trip.

      Cheers
      Jan

  7. Jens Edelmann

    We went to BKK for three plus two days of spotting in February 2016. The traffic at BKK was great, but we had big trouble with airport security in some places. This especially refers to the pedestrian footbridge Pos. # 4 (morning arrivals on RWY 19 L) and every spotting action along Suvarnabhumi 3 Road for the departures on RWY 01R as well. It is also not very advisable to step onto the dike at Pos. # 7 (Klong Throng area/ Arrivals RWY 01L) – signposting here is in Thai only – but if Airport Security catches you when taking pictures from the dike. Either they will ask you by speakers not to do so, or pick you from the position pretty soon. If you stay on the grass in front of the perimeter fence you are safe. There are no security inspections or so. Another position which is mainly good for departures on RWY 19R and not mentioned in the original report about BKK, is located near the backyard of “Miracle Suvarnabhumi Hotel” From “Miracle Hotel” just walk about 10 minutes into eastward direction. When reaching the Klong you can chose a spot and enjoy the landscape, which is quite scenic. The view isn`t too much obstructed by trees or poles. Though you`re in a local settlement now, don`t worry about the people, who are friendly. Be careful during your spotting, because the concrete stilt way at the Klong is frequently used by local motorcyclists. Airport Security is not present in this area. The semicircular road south of Miracle Hotel, which crosses the Klong and the Blue Road on a defunct bridge is blocked in the middle with concrete barriers and barbed wire and cannot be used for spotting activities any longer. In contrast to BKK, and oddly enough, we never had such problems at DMK, neither inside nor outside the airport.

    1. Jan Post author

      Hi Jens,
      thanks for your comment and valuable input.
      Interesting that you encountered problems at location #4 (should be evening for 19L). So far this is unheard of and I stayed there for multiple visits without any problems – this must be very new then. Will be noted in the Guide!

      Problems along Suvarnabhumi 3 Road (Location 2) are not too uncommon. It probably depends on the officers you encounter during your visit. But as you mentioned it might happen that you will be send away.

      Best regards
      Jan

      1. EMMANUEL NARGIL

        Hi,
        currently security was reinforced around BKK due to two factors :
        the attack of 25 August in Bangkok, the second the monitoring of Thailand by international aviation organisation : Thailand has received red flag from OACI and downgrade by FAA

        In Suvarnabhumi 3rd road not stay along the fence or visible from security

    2. Jens Edelmann

      Yes, of course, Pos. # 4 is the afternoon / evening side. May be the increased attention is because Thai Airways head quarters is pretty close or because they don`t have understood yet, that spotters cause no harm.
      At Suvarnabhumi 3 Road, where parking beside the road is strictly forbidden, we were loaded into the police car and escorted to the next bus station, where we were allowed to run. Fortunately the photo equipment has not been studied. That`s funny so far, that locals who stopped beside the road with their cars for watching the planes were not asked to go. We sat in the grass (cameras in the bags) and were hooked by the officer. Maybe that was simply bad luck. Either way it`s a pitty, because the positions along Suvarnabhumi 3 Road are really good.

      1. Jan Post author

        Very true. It is a shame to hear reports like these from a great airport like BKK, limiting the spotting locations.

  8. Frank Gallagher

    Good Afternoon
    A very good friend of mine will be making his last flight as Captain on the B777 departing VTBS Suvarnabhumi on Dec. 10 2015. He will be operating KLM 876 scheduled departure time is 12:20 local time. I am looking for a photographer who would be able/willing to capture his last take off professionally on film. any suggestions or colleges out there that can help?
    Thanks
    Frank Gallagher

  9. Koos

    Guys, thank for your great feedback with regards to November BKK visit, very helpfull.
    Will try ou all the advise.

    1. JulianJulian

      Thanks for your comment. Please let us know if there are any changes to the photo positions!

      Regards
      Spotterguide-Team

  10. Yben

    I had been to spot3. It was impossible to go across the river. Too far away if they don’t use the nearest runway. So I got nothing .

    1. Jan Post author

      There no need to go across the river, the spot is ideal for the western Runway (it is actually the best spot between all of them in terms of distance and angle). If they don’t use the western runway, you should go to different spots. Always check first which runways are in use. 😉

    1. MarlinMarlin

      Hi Mark!

      Thanks for your addition, Mark! Looks like a great hotel view! Can you remember whether it was the view onto 19L or 19R?

      To add this location, we would love to have more than one photograph from this spot, if possible.
      We also need to ask you some questions for example if you as a guest can open the window fully.
      Do you have more pictures from this photo location, Mark?
      If you are interested to add infos for Bangkok Airport, do not hesitate to tell them!

      Cheers and have a great day!
      Marlin

    1. Jan Post author

      Hello Koos,

      November is definitely possible in terms of sunshine, as the weather in general is quite similar to the recommended time of visit. There is however one major difference: The wind will most likely come from the North(-east), meaning they will land on either 01R or 01L. For 01R the locations are quite good, but if they land on 01L (which sometimes happens) it is quite problematic, especially in the evening. Also the location are more difficult to access. So you will have some disadvantages and if you have the choice, I would definitely recommend to visit February/March, but still, even in November you can definitely get some great shots!

      Regards
      Jan

    2. Peter Psenica

      Hi Koos,
      I fully agree with Jan´s comments, however, don´t be afraid from visiting Bangkok in November. I have been there last December, which means the same wind direction and from my perspective, you have a better chance for a really blue skies when you come in November/December, that means if you have good weather, there is a better chance to have really blue skies instead of something grey which is typical in February/March. For RWY 01R, as said by Jan, the spotting locations are good, in the morning you gave to walk for about ten minutes from the main road (taxi) along the fence to settle under a single big tree, in the afternoon you can shoot directly from the main road next to some refreshment stands (be aware of eating something from them, I had some problems afterwards…). For RWY 01L the main problem is that the threshold is quite far, so the aircraft are higher and in worse angle, but still doable, especially in the morning, from a location near one local school (accessible by taxi into a luxurious house settlement where a special gate is arranged, but with taxi they will allow you inside without any problems) – for this position you have no shade, but in the morning it is not deadly important. I never tried afternoon position on 01L (there is one on a road bridge, but the angle cannot be very good), as there were only a few landings on that runway. Only one afternoon I was disappointed by landings on RWY 01L for some time, but in BKK you always miss something, you have to simply live with that. Generally, RWY 01L is used for all landings between 06:30 and 09:30 local and then only for a small percentage of landings, while 01R is used for most of them.
      At DMK, you almost certainly get landings on RWYs 21 only, even with a tail wind.
      So, from the direction point of view, it might be better to visit Bangkok at the end of winter, but from the point of blue skies, November can be also good.
      Best regards,
      Peter

    1. Jan Post author

      Hi Ron,

      sorry we can’t give you any details on your questions as I have neither tried the Novotel nor the viewing deck from the terminal.

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