Mexico City Intl. Airport Spotting Guide

Mexico City International Airport “Aeropuerto Internacional Benito Juárez de la Ciudad de  México” (AICM) is Mexico’s biggest and largest airport. It serves Mexico City and is the main hub for Aeromexico and Interjet with also important operations for Volaris and Viva Aerobus. The airport handled over 34 million passengers in 2014 and is currently at top of its capacity. There are plans for a new airport to replace the current one just a few miles northeast of AICM.

By far the strongest airline in AICM is Aeromexico and subsidiary Aeromexico Connect. Other mexican carriers with important operations are Interjet, VivaAerobus, Volaris, Magnicharters and Aeromar. International traffic you will see are the typical US carriers: American, Delta, United, Alaska Airlines and recently Southwest. Some more international carriers serve AICM like Air Canada from Canada and TAM from Brazil, Latin carriers: Copa, LAN, TACA and Avianca also have important operations with multiple flights every day including Aviancas hot 787. Daily flights from European carriers: Lufthansa, AirFrance, Iberia, British Airways and KLM also serve the airport. Future plans for new airlines have Alitalia and Turkish as possible new carriers for 2016.

Mexico is also a good cargo airport, but unfortunately most interesting stuff arrives at night like Emirates SkyCargo, Qatar Cargo, Atlas (Panalpina), Martinair, Centurion, etc. There are though some interesting cargo movements during the day (and you might get lucky with night delays sometimes) like national cargo carriers Aerounion and MasAir. International Cargo carriers regularly seen on daylight include: Cargolux, Cathay Pacific Cargo, DHL, UPS, Air France Cargo, LAN Cargo, Lufthansa Cargo, among others.

Mexico City Int’l Airport is also home base for Mexico’s Airforce operations and although Santa Lucia Military base is just north of the city, you will see operations from the AirForce on a regular basis including its 737’s, 757 and Gulfstreams. As for private operations, they are practically limited in this airport as by law they were transferred to Toluca Airport (west of Mexico City) in 1994.

Due to the hot and humid airport conditions, along with the altitude, most heavy departures will happen at dark.

Written by Juan Carlos Guerra (local spotter)

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Airline Variety
Photo Locations
Weather
Airport Information Runways 05L/23R 05R/23L
3.963 m (13.002 ft) 3.985 m (13.074 ft)
Terminals Terminal 1  Terminal 2
Almost every airline will use this terminal except for those listed on terminal 2 Sky Team Terminal (Aeromexico / Aeromexico Connect, Delta), also used by Aeromar, Copa and LAN.
Spotting Information Ladder Not needed at all for any spot.
Car Strongly recommended for some remote spots. Not necessary, but it is faster to get around with one. There is public transport to the popular spots.
Restrooms Just at spot 2. Be careful, might be dirty.
Drinks/Food The signature spot “McDonalds Bridge” has a McDonalds of course. Some local “Micelaneas” will be helpful to grab a bag of chips and a soda.
Hotels Several hotels at the airport (three inside terminals) and in the neighbourhood.
Season Some of the best spots will be good only in the summer and unfortunately overall precipitation is heavily concentrated in these months, and it includes dense hail. Weatherwise, Mexico City area receives about 820 millimetres (32.3 in) of annual rainfall, which is concentrated from May through October with little or no precipitation the remainder of the year, but cloudy and smoky days are also frequent year round. If you get a sunny day and you know where to be, all year is fine for spotting. Although Mexico City has a subtropical highland climate a good jacket is always helpful especially in the winter months.
We suggest March and April as the better months for photography as they have higher possibilities for runways 23 usage which includes some of the best spotting locations.
+++SECURITY INFORMATION+++
Spotting around Mexico City Airport ain’t easy and authorities don’t like photographers in parking zones or airport buildings. There are though some amazing spots around the airport which we will detail in this guide. BE STRICTLY ADVISED THAT IT IS STRONGLY RECOMMENDED TO NEVER BE ALONE AROUND MEXICO CITY AIRPORT. Although there are few reports of robbery and crime around the airport, it is always preferable to be accompanied and not flashing a fancy camera on your neck. Always keep your eyes opened on the back of your head and if you see any suspicious activity, walk or drive away and come back a few minutes later. Mexican spotters are very kind and friendly and would almost always be happy to provide help and company for foreign fellow spotters. Be sure to plan your trip with time and contact a fellow spotter in advance with help of the known photo websites like airliners.net, planespotters.net or jetphotos.net
Runway Usage Runway configuration in Mexico City Airport is typically (around 70% or 80% of the time) with 05’s in use. Runways 23 are frequently used in the afternoons of December and early spring (February till late April / early May) and when big storms pound the airport during the summer months. Although Mexico City Int’l Airport has two runways, you will always be able to see all the action and almost always photograph everything not regarding the spot you are in. Of course the closer the better. We will detail on focal length later in each spot.
05L This is the main departure runway. Almost every airplane coming out of Terminal 1 will use this runway, except for heavies which will regularly use 05R. Some landings also take place in this runway, since it has no ILS, it requires good visual conditions.
23R The main departure runway when 23’s configuration is on. Around 90% of the traffic will use this runway for departure (except heavies and some heavy loaded local flights).
05R This is the main landing runway. Almost all the heavies will land here for sure (99% chance). It is also used for some traffic departing terminal 2 when the incoming traffic is going to Terminal 1 and they can switch to 05L for landings.
23L Main landing runway when south winds are present and runway 23’s are in use. Almost everything will land here.
General Notice A last minute landing runway change can happen at any time, the little separation between runways allows traffic to switch from one runway to another just a few miles while on short final.

Spot #1 – Camino Real
WHERE The Hotel Camino Real is good for spotting, though you have to be a registered guest to get a room. For spotting you should get a room on the top floors. The hotel is connected to Terminal 1 building by pedestrian bridge, just walk to the National Arrivals Hall, on the second floor and walk over on the bridge to the hotel.
WHAT Almost all movements on the airport. Traffic taxing for runways 05 out of terminal 1. All movements from T2 and all landings on runway 05s. Take offs out of 23’s could look awesome though there are many obstacles (antennas mainly) blocking a clean shot, also planes could be a bit too high already if rotating out of 23R. There is limited view to some parts of Terminal 1 and the cargo apron.
TIME Only good in the late afternoons. Winter will be back-lit almost all day long.
MISCELLANEOUS Be advised you are shooting through a glass and windows can not be opened.
FOCAL LENGTH  Above 300mm.
Spot #2 – Mc Donalds Pedestrian Bridge
WHERE There are no official spotting points in AICM, but this one could be considered the most iconic one. Located on “Blvd. Puerto Áereo / Circuito Interior”. Look for a McDonalds on the other side of the road, the pedestrian bridge that crosses over the main road offers an amazing view to the airport. No need for a ladder at all.
This spot is usually crowded with local people walking by who stop to watch planes for a second. You’ll need to be patient a minute or two before a place next to the fence opens. There you’ll have holes through the fence.
Very accessible spot: From Terminal 1, walk to the end of the national arrivals hall, exit the airport and walk for about 10 minutes (left once you exit the building) It will be the second pedestrian bridge.
By public transport, you should take “Metro” Line #5 (Yellow) and exit on “Terminal Aerea” which is just minutes away walking (to the south) from the spot.If you are driving, park your car in the McDonalds parking lot and on your way out grab a burger and the fee will be cheap. If not, just park there and pay about $20 or $30 pesos (2USD)
WHAT You can see every single movement from here. Great when runways 5’s are in use. All the traffic taxing out from terminal 1 will come right in front of you and sometimes queue right there. Traffic leaving T2 will also be visible, but you need a larger lens and heat haze could be a problem until later in the afternoon when it gets ok. Great for night shots.
TIME Winter: Backlight till around 3pm. Planes on the runway will then have tail light. It is OK for planes taxing out of T2 from around noon.
Average OK for taxi shots of planes out of T1 an hour before sunset or so.
Spring // Summer // Fall: Backlight till about 2pm then OK for taxiing airplanes out of both terminals Great after 5:00pm (daylight’s saving time on). Watch for heat haze for planes out of T2 till about 4:00pm or 5:00pm. Good for planes landing from about 4:00pm (better from late April to early Sept.)
MISCELLANEOUS Probably the safest spot of all, there is always people, but as in every other spot, it is better if you are not alone. Don’t keep your camera out, better to have it on a backpack or covered by a light jacket. Food and restrooms accessible at the McDonalds on the other side of the bridge.
FOCAL LENGTH An A320 taxing by can take as little as 55mm. And you can go as far as 400mm for an ERJ 145 lining up on 05R. A 737-800 approaching 05R will be ok with around 285mm.
Spot #3 – General Motors Pedestrian Bridge
WHERE From spot #2 keep walking south for about 10 minutes and you’ll find another pedestrian bridge. As the spot name says it, here is a GM’s car agency right there. Parking is on the street at pilot’s discretion. Hide all your goods or have them in the trunk before you walk away from your car.
WHAT Approaching traffic for 05R (summer only).
TIME Good in the summer from about 4:00 pm till dark.
Spring and fall can be fair from about 3:00 but light will be from the tail.
Otherwise backlight all winter and all mornings year round.
MISCELLANEOUS There is no shade nor food or facilities.
FOCAL LENGTH An A320 will be ok with 135mm (side shot). A 747 will be good with 80mm.
Spot #4 – Hangares Approaches (mornings)
WHERE If Spot #2 is the iconic spotting point in AICM, this is the runner up, since its the most common place for shooting in the mornings.
Located on “Eje 1 Norte / Fuerza Áerea Mexicana”. This spot is in the middle of a highway, you can stay on the sidewalk (any side you pick) and deal with trees, posts and cables. If you are fearless enough, stand on the Raised Median (traffic island) in the middle of the road.
By car, park on “Asistencia pública” street, hide your belongings in the trunk and lock-up well, walk for about 30 seconds or a minute to the spot.
By public transport, you should take “Metro” Line #5 (Yellow) and exit on “Hangares” walk out of the subway and you’ll be right on the spot.
WHAT Approaching traffic for 05R (main landing runway). Runways 05 will be used for landing 99.8% mornings. Approaching traffic for 05L will be probably too far away. You can still manage to shoot 1 or 2 pictures when the planes appear over the road, but the obstacles in the way will mostly wreck your shot.
TIME Good year round from sunrise till about 11:00 or so in the summer and till 3:00 pm or so in the winter (deal with some tail light as you approach noon).
MISCELLANEOUS There is no shade nor food or restrooms. If you are standing in the middle of the road, don’t panic if cars (specially trucks) honk the horn or yell at you, they are not aggressive, they are just trying to be fun. As always, never be alone and keep always alert.
FOCAL LENGTH  A 737-800 will be ok with 90mm. E170 if fine with 125mm. A 747 requires 60mm.
Spot #5 – Hangares Approaches (afternoon)
WHERE From spot #4, keep walking northwest for about half a kilometre until you are on the other side of the approach pattern. If you are by car, you can park on “Calle 28” and cross the avenue walking.
WHAT Approaching traffic for 05R (summer only).
TIME Just as spot #3, this spot will only be good in the summer from about 4:00 pm till dark.
Spring and fall can be fair from about 3:00 but light will be from the tail.
Otherwise backlight all winter and all mornings year round.
MISCELLANEOUS Many cables and trees will be on your way. No restrooms nor facilities.
FOCAL LENGTH They are just over your head! Bring a 50mm at least.
Spot #6 – Alameda Oriente
WHERE This one is a bit harder to get to, unless you know the area: From Avenida “Fuerza Áerea” (spotting point #4) keep driving southeast, you’ll pass Terminal 2 on the left hand side, keep driving until you see a gas station on the left, make a left in that traffic light (most traffic will U turn, but you should keep straight) and enter street “Alberto Santos Dumont”. Keep straight and follow the road until it comes dead end, there you should turn right on “Revolución”, keep going on (if you see the tower on the left a couple hundred of meters after you are on the correct path, keep your self on the track and pass the entrance to “Estafeta” and “Interjet” hangars, the road will make a sharp left turn, look for an exit on the right side (there will be a couple of guards opening a chain, there is no way back, after you cross that door/chain, make a left into “Prolongación Río Churubusco”. Follow the street till it merges with “Av. Bordo de Xochiaca” (merge left) wich becomes “Via Express Tapo” just ahead. You’ll see some mini hangars on the left, by the time you reach the last one, there is an entrance on the right to the “Alameda Oriente”, the parking fee should be around $5 or $10 pesos, enter there, park, find a cozy spot between the bushes next to the fence and shoot at will.Not accessible by public transport.
WHAT All departing traffic on 05R. 05L are possible too but due to the long distance just with minor quality.
TIME Good in the early mornings till around noon, year round. Amazing light in winter.
MISCELLANEOUS Once you have parked, it is much preferable if you stay inside the park, you can of course walk outside and shoot from the sidewalk, if you do so, please, please, keep alert at all times. Inside the park you should be OK. There is no place to buy food or drinks, neither W.C. facilities, there are a lot of bushes if you need to…
FOCAL LENGTH For departing traffic on 05R you might need around 200-220mm for a 787.
Spot #7 – Runway 23 Approaches
WHERE This is probably the most un-safe spot of them all. There are two ways to get here: one is coming from spot #6 and the other one is coming from spots 8 or 9.
From spot #6 keep driving east on “Via Express Tapo” until the road makes a 90º left turn, find a spot to park your car.
The other way to get here is (first you need to read spot 8). Once you are on “Av 602 / Vía Tapo” keep driving until you reach “Efren Carrillo” (there is a huge gas station there, right after where you should turn), make a right turn into “Vía Tapo Express” drive south a couple of meters and find a spot to park. If possible shoot from the inside of your car. Keep your eyes always opened and ready to rocket away if you see anything abnormal. Not accessible by public transport.
WHAT Approaching traffic to both 23’s runway’s. You can position yourself along the “Via Tapo Express” to find your preferred angle.
TIME Its mostly good year round, since you can lurk around depending on the light.
MISCELLANEOUS This used to be an amazing place to catch sunsets, but unfortunately they changed the old fence and now there is no way to put your camera through the new one, if you find a little hole you might be ok.
No restrooms nor food shops nearby.
FOCAL LENGTH Depends on how much you want to zoom in, but you can be ok with as little as 50mm or 70mm.
Spot #8 – La Cuchilla del Tesoro
WHERE If you’ve studied enough, and browsed through tons of pictures from AICM already, this is, probably, the spot you are waiting for.
Read carefully: All the spotting points from here are private houses, if you get here on your own for a first time, you’ll probably come out with your hands empty. Contact a local photographer first and be sure he has a spot where to bring you.
To get here from the terminals, by car, you should exit any terminal and hit “Blvd Puerto Áereo / Circuito Interior” heading north, after the side road and the middle lanes merge (just after a huge down-hill) you should keep your ass on the right, make a right turn on “Av. Oceania” (where a huge “metro” station is). Keep driving on Oceania for about a mile, always stay on the right lanes. When you see some baseball fields on the right, turn there and merge into “Av 602 / Vía Tap” stay on the side road (unless you are heading to spot #7, then you can enter the main road) drive for a couple of miles, you should then see “Mexicana’s” hangar and the road will turn slightly to the left, keep straight and keep on the side-road after a traffic light. Then you should make a right on any street from  “poniente 13 until Poniente 6” depending on the spot you are headed.
By public transport: Take the subway Green line “B” and exit on “Bosque de Aragón” Then walk south for about 2.0 km and you will be in the general area.
Trust me, you should better contact a local.
WHAT Every single operation is visible from here. If runways 23’s are on, then this is the place to be. If 05’s are on you’ll see every airplane landing and going to T1 right in your face. Planes going to T2 will exit to the other side of the runway, but they are still very ‘photogenic’. Departing traffic on 05R will be good, heavies (if any) will rotate right in front. Departing traffic on 05L will generally be a little bit high already.
TIME Good in the afternoons. If 23’s are on, this will be amazing from late Feb to late October. Nov-Jan will have head-light. If 05’s are on: Winter, you can be ok in the afternoons but only for traffic vacating to the left, everything else will be backlight. From March till October you’ll be ok after 4:30pm (daylights saving time on).
MISCELLANEOUS As stated before, it is better to be here with someone that knows its way around, but if you are willing to try on your own, there is a tiny spot with holes through the fence right on “Nte 1” and “Pte 9” (where the marker on the map is). Be aware that this is a parking lot for a private neighbourhood and although the gate is always open, the neighbours can kick you out if they want. The bad part of this parking lot its that its only suitable if 23’s are on, if 05’s are, everything will turn before the spot and you’ll be backlight.
FOCAL LENGTH A landing 737-700 on 23L requires 300mm.
For 23R it can take as little as 80mm (for a side shot).
Spot #9 – La casa de Juan Juan
WHERE Located in the general area as explained on Spot #8, in the street “Pte.13”, where it dead-ends. This is a private house opened to the general public. It only operates Saturday’s and Sundays from 10:00am till 10:00pm.
They have a local phone-number for whatsapp inquiries (+52 55 41 12 19 97 or +52 41 12 19 88) (if the number doesn’t work, try adding a 1 after the +52). They also have a Facebook page, search for “la casa de Juan Juan”.
WHAT Almost as good as spot #8 but the big ‘con’ is that the view is limited only to the western part of the airport, so you’ll miss any touchdown on 23’s.
TIME Good in the afternoons from March to October. Winter (Nov – Feb) will mostly be backlight.
MISCELLANEOUS This is a brand new spot I have not yet visited, they offer general food and beverage packages.
FOCAL LENGTH  300mm for traffic on 05R
Spot #10 – Sunset Shots (Suburbia Parking Lot)
WHERE Located on “Circuito Interior / Blvd. Pto. Aereo” south of the airport. Look for a big Walmart and Suburbia shopping centre. Park there on the roof top and find your preferred spot for approaching traffic. By public transport, take the subway “Metro” Line #1 (pink) and exit on “Blvd Pto. Aereo” its just within walking minutes of the Walmart shopping centre.
WHAT Airplanes approaching runways 05.
TIME Good in the deep winter months (Dec. Jan) in the late afternoons, mostly just half an hour before sunset.
MISCELLANEOUS Food and restrooms available in the stores.
FOCAL LENGTH 400mm for traffic on 05R as they intercept the sun path way behind during the approach.

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3 thoughts on “Mexico City Intl. Airport Spotting Guide

  1. ROGER CHAPMAN

    Excellent details . I would appreciate a contact name/names that I can discuss some assistance when I visit in April 2017 . Many thanks
    Roger

    1. Sandy

      Hi Roger, drop me an email to prestwickpioneer@gmail.com I have spotted at MEX before and will be back in two weeks. I’m not a reggie collector but I am a photographer. I’ve only used la Casa, Hangares and McBridge so far. We are doing Toluca and Santa Lucia this visit so time at MEX will be more limited than before.

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