Auckland Intl. Airport Spotting Guide

Auckland is by far the largest and busiest airport in New Zealand catering for over 18 million passengers a year (2016).  Located in Mangere on the edge of the Manukau Harbour more than half of the airport’s perimeter is only accessible by boat, making spotting at this airport rather difficult with only few good acessible locations. It is the main hub of Air New Zealand and Jetstar, who also base their NZ domestic operations from the airport. It has two separate terminals (the individual former Air New Zealand and Qantas domestic terminals having been linked together as one domestic terminal) and a single runway capable of 45 movements per hour. Construction of a second runway, for commuter operations, was begun in 2007 but has been placed on hold. This may however be picked up again as there are recent plans to built a new northerly runway of approx. 2,000m length. The domestic traffic is mainly dominated by Air New Zealand, which mostly sees A320 operation. Also you will see a great deal of Air New zealand Link, which visits the airport with the entire fleet. Jetstar also has a local operation with Airbus and Turboprop aircraft. Great Barrier Airlines and FlyMySky operate local services, mainly to Great Barrier Island, using Islanders and Cessna Caravans. Air Chathams still use CV-580s to the Chatham Islands and they also fly the Saab 340 and other aircraft on charter demand. The international traffic is by far the most interesting in the country and will also see a lot of Air New Zealand Widebodies, but also JetConnect (in Qantas colours), Virgin Australia, AirAsia X, LAN / LATAM Chile. China Southern, China Airlines, Fiji Airways The International traffic consists primarily of Air New Zealand, JetConnect (in Qantas Colours) and Virgin Australia. Other operators include Air Calin, Air Tahiti Nui, Air Vanuatu, Cathay Pacific, China Airlines, China Southern, Fiji Airways, Hawaiian Airlines, Korean Air, LAN / LATAM Chile, Malaysia Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways and AirAsia X. Emirates is another major presence at the airport as they operates multiple daily flights as trans-tasman add-ons to Australian routes two which are all operates by the A380. Traffic can be slow at times, however most international carries are spread out through the day, so you will also see heavy operations in the afternoon and evening. However Air New Zealand Heavies mostly come in early morning and around noon.

Written by Richard Stretton, Jan Seba and Yang Qize (last Update March 2017)

 
Rating Movements  
Airline Variety
Photo Locations
Weather
   
   
 
Airport Information Runways 05R/23L 05L/23R  
  3.635 m (11.926 ft) 3.108 m (10.197 ft)  
       
Terminals Domestic Terminal International Terminal  
  All domestic operations All Intnl Operations  
 
Spotting Information Ladder Not needed
Car Not necessary, but recommended unless you plan to use only the Terminal locations.
Restrooms Not at Puhinui Rd but at nearby McDonalds and in terminals
Drinks/Food Supermarket, restaurants & gas stations at the airport
Hotels Novotel by Intnl Terminal (with views of apron)
Season Best weather is in September-April but winter is mild by UK or German standards and the light conditions are best in Autumn & Spring, as the sun will not be as high.
 
Runway Usage  05R/23L Used for all arrivals and departures
05L/23R Main taxiway to close to 05R to be used on its own and only used when 05R is closed for repairs

Spot #1 – Puhinui Road – Arrivals and Lineup RWY 23L
WHERE A pair of official viewing areas with parking on either side of Puhinui Road after the end of the main runway. The two areas are at different levels due to the land profile. The area in the north provides a better angle but is only accessible coming from the airport due to a barrier in the middle of the road. There are no real benches or seats provided and most people simply sit in their cars to watch.
   
WHAT Great for spotting all traffic when wind is coming from the west/southwest and 23L is in use as landing aircraft come past at perfect height. With a suitable long-lens, traffic lining up can also be photographed when 23L is in use. However the heat haze during the day will be strong and this may only be possible in the early morning. If 05R is in use it can be frustrating as most landing traffic leaves the runway too far for photography and a lot of taking off traffic is too high by the time it passes the spot.
   
TIME The best time to use this spot is during the day from late morning until afternoon. In the morning however line-up on RWY 23L will have best light conditions.
   
MISCELLANEOUS There are no facilities here at all though closer to the airport (probably about 2km away) there is a McDonalds and beyond that the terminals. Also on the road towards the city there is a shopping centre including a Countdown supermarket.
   
FOCAL LENGTH Approx. 190mm for an A320 and 100mm for a B773. The Thai B772 on lineup was roughly 200mm.
   

Spot #2 – Air Chathams and General Ramp
WHERE Just drive along Laurence Stevens Drive and turn into the Hape Dr. Afterwards turn left towards the Air Chathams Ramp which you can take pictures from multiple locations along the fence. Do not forget to drive all the way east towards the marked location.
   
WHAT Views of Air Chathams Convairs plus some biz jets and other aircraft, which might be sitting on the ramp. If you are staying at Spot #1 through the day always have an eye on this location, as the ramp can be quite active and aircraft might be parked in different locations.
   
TIME Generally all day, but best in the afternoon.
   
MISCELLANEOUS There are no facilities here at all though closer to the airport (probably about 1.5km away) there is a McDonalds and beyond that the terminals. Also on the road towards the city there is a shopping centre including a Countdown supermarket.
   
FOCAL LENGTH Mainly below 50mm, however the Jetstream and F27 are further in the field at 150-200mm.
   

Spot #3 – DHL Freight Car Park – NZ Engineering
WHERE At the northern end of Laurence Stevens Drive in the car park of the DHL facility.
   
WHAT Views of Air New Zealand engineering facility where there are usually one or two heavies and small aircraft.
   
TIME Best in the morning. Photos through or over wire fence.
   
MISCELLANEOUS There are no facilities here at all though closer to the airport (probably about 1km away) there is a McDonalds and beyond that the terminals. Also on the road towards the city there is a shopping centre including a Countdown supermarket.
   
FOCAL LENGTH 50-100 mm
   
Spot #4 – Domestic Terminal – Airworks and Prop Ramp
WHERE Outside at the southern end of the domestic terminal. There is a wire fence between the public and the ramp.
   
WHAT Views of the gates used by Air New Zealand Link operators and the local Great Barrier Island airlines as well as Airworks ramp often populated by the postal service F-27s and 737s.
   
TIME Ok all day but best in the morning. Photos have to be taken through wire fencing.
   
MISCELLANEOUS Plenty of food and drink and facilities in the terminal.
   
FOCAL LENGTH 50-100 mm
   
Spot #5 – Domestic Terminal Parking Garage
WHERE Just outside the domestic terminal is the three storey parking garage, which offers good views from the top floor. You can use either the east or west side of the garage depending on your preference and runway operation.
   
WHAT The top floor is just high enough to offer unrestricted views of the airport runway. However most taxiway’s will be obstructed by vents and posts. The spot is in the middle of the runway so can be used for both directions. If 05 is in operation some aircraft might already be in the air when they come in sight.
   
TIME The best time to use this spot is during the day from late morning until afternoon. During the day you might experience heat haze at this location for aircraft still on the ground.
   
MISCELLANEOUS Plenty of food and drink and facilities in the terminal.
   
FOCAL LENGTH 240mm for an A320 and 130mm for an A380.
   

Spot #6 – Domestic Terminal – Airside
WHERE In the domestic terminal go through security (no boarding pass typically required) and turn left going up the escalators to the gates used by Air New Zealand domestic jet operations.N.B: There used to be an open air viewing terrace in the domestic terminal but this was replaced when Air New Zealand’s Koru Club was developed.
   
WHAT Views of the gates used by Air New Zealand and Jetstar A320s. Views of the main runway and taxiways alongside it.
   
TIME The best time to use this spot is during the day from late morning until afternoon.
   
MISCELLANEOUS Plenty of food and drink and facilities in the terminal. Glass is often covered in fingerprints and there can be reflection issues. Also the glass tint may be an issue, however this can usually be corrected in most editing software.
   
FOCAL LENGTH 50-150 mm
   
Spot #7 – International A380 Pier – Airside
WHERE Through security (only available if you are flying, as boarding pass will be required) inside the new A380 pier of the international terminal.
   
WHAT Views of the gates on the northern side of the international terminal used by the A380s.
   
TIME The best time to use this spot is during the day from late morning until afternoon. Reflections are an issue.
   
MISCELLANEOUS Plenty of food and drink and facilities in the terminal.
   
FOCAL LENGTH 50-150 mm
   
Spot #8 – Novotel Auckland Airport
WHERE If you are going to stay at the airport for one night or more, the Novotel offers some nice views.
   
WHAT While booking at this hotel, you can request for an apron-facing room and spot from your room with the view of the international terminal gates and some remote stands. In addition, the corridor of the hotel has a glassed in view of Runway 23L/05R, some taxiways, and a couple of remote stands. Good for spotting when you want some rest and comfort in-between the other locations.
   
TIME All day, though lighting gets better in the afternoon. Night shots possible.
   
MISCELLANEOUS Shooting from the room can be challenging as there are 2 glass layers. The location in the corridor also has somewhat thick glass, and heat haze is present during the day. Departure/arrival shots on the runway are technically possible, but photos may turn out soft or heat hazed.
   
FOCAL LENGTH 150-400 mm
   

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4 thoughts on “Auckland Intl. Airport Spotting Guide

  1. LamboAston

    4 Daily Emirates A380s, summer SQ A380s, Korean summer 744, 748, 77W, China Southern B787,

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