Lisbon Portela Airport Spotting Guide

Lisbon Portela airport is the busiest airport in Portugal and according to 2013 statistics it handled 16 million passengers, continuing it’s upturn passengers growth that has been on during recent years. Apart from flag carrier TAP (and it’s affiliate PGA), Lisbon is a base for charter airlines White and EuroAtlantic, plus the low cost giants easyJet and Ryanair. SATA also has a base here and its A310/A320 fleet can bee seen operating a few flights per day.
Cargo traffic operates on weekdays only and it usually consists on a B737 from TNT, Star Air B767, DHL B757 and an ATR from Swiftair. Also there is sometimes a bit of military traffic in LIS during the week, so we recommend to include as many weekdays as possible during your stay. These traffic usually lands early in the morning and departs in the evening between 19:00 and 20:00, so it’s best photographed during the Summer months. Lisbon (and Porto) are the only European destination for the TAAG B77W, which lands early morning as well. On some days there is also a B772 in the evening. TAP is the biggest European airline in terms of available seats to Brazil and its long-haul fleet can be best seen during early morning and also between approximately 3PM-4PM when there’re a couple of departures. Don’t expect to see all of the A330 in 1 or 2 days as there’s also 1 operating flights from Porto to Brasil, Venezuela and USA. If you plan to catch the remainig A340s you also need at least 3 days, as there is only one or two which you will get every day. Cape Verde flag carrier TACV also operates its B737 and B757 but their schedule varies throughout the week.

Lisbon, as well as all Portuguese Airports are very spotter friendly, even though there’re no official spotting locations. Please not that the google maps is very outdated and does not show buildings such as T2 and the Cargo Terminal. However, when you explore the map of the surroundings (on the south and southwest parts) of the airport you will notice that, even though the sattelite image is not updated, google has at least updated the roads. The map on microsofts Bing are more up to date.

Written by Rui Miguel (regular visitor) and Jan Seba. Thanks to Lennart Böttcher for the sample pics of spot 4.

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Weather
Airport Information    Runways 03/21  17/35
3.805 m (12.484 ft)  2.304 m (7.559 ft)
Asphalt  Asphalt
Terminals T1 T2
All the non low-cost airlines. Vueling uses T1. Ryanair, easyJet, Norwegian, Transavia, Transavia FR., Blue Air
Spotting Information Ladder Not necessary.
Car Very useful and recommended as walking to the spots will be quite far and sometimes dangerous as you have to cross/walk along major roads without walkways.
Restrooms On spots 1 and 2 only.
Drinks/Food Available on spots 1 and 2 at the petrol stations. For the remaing spots you should take all you need. Apart from the petrol stations shops, on spot 1 there’s a KFC and on spot 2 a McDonalds.
Hotels There’s an airport hotel just outside T1. Lisbon is very close to city and short subway ride will take you to downtown in no time. If you’re in budget, then you’ll be happy to find that Lisbon as some of the best Hostels in the World, some for just 10€ on a shared room.
Season You will have the most sunshine in sommer and the best months to visit are May to July when the days are longest.
Runway Usage  03/21
Usually all the arrivals and departures use runway 03. Runway 21 is used when there’s bad weather and Southern winds.
17/35 Runway 35 is, usually, only used by TAP and PGA arrivals and when there’re strong crosswings or when needed to expedite the arrivals. Runway 17 is never in use.

Spot #1 – Morning Arrival 03
WHERE This spot is on the north side of the motorway, that passes south of the airport and goes by the name of “2nd Circular”, next to the Emergency Gate 2. If you’re driving, after passing by the Repsol petrol station, be prepared to make a right turn into the sidewalk area next to the Gate (see photo bellow). Alternatively, you can also exit to the petrol station and park there for free.
If you are on foot, then you can walk from the terminal 1 (exit the building from the departures area) and walk down the street till the roundabout. Then take 1st to the right (Direction to Sintra) and walk on the side with care until you reach the spot. Notice that there’s a very small part where there’s no sidewalk and you have to walk on the road itself. It should take you 20 minutes. It’s also possible to take a metro to Campo Grande and then walk to this spot. It should take you no more then 20 minutes.
WHAT You can see all the Runway 03 arrivals and you can also read the registrations of taxiing traffic for departure. When taking photos you will get some road signs, trees and the Airport fence obstructing the view, but there’s still enough clear areas for photos. This problem doesn’t happen on spot 2, on the other side of the motorway.
TIME From sunrise until 10:30.
MISCELLANEOUS There are no shades or places to seat here. If you need a restroom or food, you can use the petrol station, which is just a few meters behind you.
FOCAL LENGTH 70mm = B777-300, 90mm = B737-800, 145mm = Fokker 100


Spot #2 – Morning Arrival 03
WHERE This spot is on the south side of the motorway and spot 1. If you’re driving, coming in from the west, after you pass the spot there’s a petro station on your right. Park here and walk to the spot. This is a big grass area with plenty of room for you to choose the best angle and to avoid trees and road signs (Notice that the needed focal length may vary and you can easily room around the area for more or less mm).
If you’re coming from the airport by foot, do the same route above, except that you will take the 2nd exit on the roundabout, so that when you’re walking to the spot, cars will be going opposite direction then you. It’s also possible to take a metro to Campo Grande and then walk to this spot. It should take you no more then 20 minutes.
WHAT You can see all the Runway 03 arrivals and you can also read the registrations of taxiing traffic for departure.
TIME From sunrise until 10:30.
MISCELLANEOUS Pretty much the same conditions of spot 1, except that you might get same shade from some huge billborards
FOCAL LENGTH 120mm = A320, 190mm = ERJ-145


Spot #3 – Afternoon Arrival/Departure 03
WHERE From spot 1, continue walking (or driving) westbound around the airport. Follow directions to “Cargo Terminal”, and always keep on the right side lane. The spot is before the Cargo terminal (it has a big and red “CTT” sign), and there’s plenty of room for everyone along the perimeter fence.
To park your car, you can do it for free on the cargo terminal, but just for 1 hour! So you can either take out the car every hour or pay for the rest of the day. But it won’t get too expensive and you won’t pay more than 5€ for an evening from around 15:30 until sunset.
From spot 2, if on foot keep walking westbound, exit the motorway and pass under the tunel (there’s a path and you won’t need to walk on the road itself). Go along the airport fence to the Cargo Terminal. If you’re driving, after leaving the petrol station keep right and exit the motorway. Take first to the left to the roundabout that leads to Departures of T1. And then follow directions to Sintra, which will put you back on the motorway, westbound. Follow directions to the Cargo Terminal. It’s also possible to take a metro to Campo Grande and then walk to this spot. It should take you no more then 15 minutes.
WHAT You can have a good overview of the airport. Traffic lining up on taxiway M5 for departure on runway 03 in front of you, as well as all 03 landings. Landings runway 35 can be seen at distance.
The Germanwings / Emirates / TACV photos were taken with a small step ladder during the Winter. During that time of the year approach photos will usually get some shade on the nose of the plane, so it’s best to photograph traffic lining up.
TIME From 13:00 until the end of the day.
MISCELLANEOUS There’re no shops, restrooms or any shade here. Do not park, as some locals do, on the roundabout or before it. There are police officers on this spot who will quickly ask you to remove the car.
FOCAL LENGTH 55mm = B777-300, 90mm = B767-300 116mm = A319, 131mm = B737-800,


Spot #4 – Afternoon Arrival/Departure 03
WHERE Same as Spot #3 but next to the roundabout.
WHAT This is an alternative to spot #3. You don´t need a ladder here and can easily shot over the fence as he is on a lower level (see overview photo above where the yellow sign of the roundabout is). The angle of the aircrafts is a little bit different here because at this point, the planes are more straight on the runway. Arrival pictures are possible too but you have some objects in the background (see sample pics).
If you don´t have a small focal length for bigger aircrafts you can cross the street where the bushes are and make your photo from there (see TAAG sample pic).
TIME From 13:00 until the end of the day.
MISCELLANEOUS There’re no shops, restrooms or any shade here. Do not park, as some locals do, on the roundabout or before it. There are police officers on this spot who will quickly ask you to remove the car.
FOCAL LENGTH 55mm = B777-300, 90mm = B767-300 116mm = A319, 131mm = B737-800,



Spot #5 – “Ruela” – Runway 03/21
WHERE From spot 1, when you exit the motorway to the cargo terminal, take the 2nd exit to your right and go up a large avenue. At the end of it turn right and then turn 1st left. At the end of the road turn right (you’ll be driving towards the airport) and continue on the road until you reach a small road calles Estrada do Manique on your right that goes down. Once you get till the end of that road, you will have an amazing overview of the whole airport.
WHAT You will see everything that is landing/arriving, no matter the runway.
TIME From 13:00 until the end of the day.
MISCELLANEOUS There’s some shade, but no places to buy food or restrooms.
FOCAL LENGTH 150mm = B737 / A320, 235mm = A310 on TWY, 250mm = B757
Spot #6 – Taxiway U5 – Runway 03/21
WHERE This location is almost similar to spot #5 just one block northwards at a end of a road that runs parallel. Drive till the end of the Estrada do Pisa Pimenta to reach this location.
WHAT Similar to spot #5 with all all landings on RWY 03/21. You are closer to the taxiway if they departing from the north and less bushes disturb your view.
TIME From 13:00 until the end of the day.
MISCELLANEOUS There’s some shade, but no places to buy food or restrooms.
FOCAL LENGTH 737 = 150mm, A330 = 120mm, ATR = 240mm


Spot #7 – Taxiway U5 – Runway 03/21
WHERE This spot is at the end of the road that leads to the AT1 (Aerodromo Transito Nr 1). The AT1 is a Portuguese AF Air base, with its own apron. This is where head of states and some VIP board their planes. Despite that you shouldn’t expect any problem on this spot, neither from the Air Force or Police that patrols the airport.
WHAT You will have a very close look to traffic vacating runway 03, or taxing for departure runway 21. It’s also a good spot for departures on both ways since you’re midfiled located.
TIME From sunrise until 10:30
MISCELLANEOUS There are some illegally made holes in the fence in order to fit the lens. However sometimes they are closed, sometimes they are open. Do not cut the fence or make new holes. Also note that there’s an emergency crash gate at this spot, so park your car only on designated areas. There’s some shade if you stay next to the Air Force wall, but no places to buy food or restrooms.
FOCAL LENGTH 34mm = ERJ-145 on TWY. 250mm = B737 on RWY

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2 thoughts on “Lisbon Portela Airport Spotting Guide

  1. Pingback: 9 Airports in Portugal (+4 new) – Blog | SpotterLead.net

  2. M.Margarida Pereira-Müller

    Bom dia!
    Dois aviões A 321 da Lufthansa com pintura retro vêm a Lisboa no dia 21 de outubro:
    * LH1166, vindo de Frankfurt, chegará a Lisboa às 11h15
    * LH1167 sairá de Lisboa às 12h05
    * LH1790, vindo de Munique, chegará a Lisboa às 13h20
    * LH1791 sairá de Lisboa às 14h10.
    É uma ótima oportunidade para ver e fotografar o avião retro da Lufthansa.

    Cumprimentos
    M.Margarida Pereira-Müller

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