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Shanghai Hongqiao Airport – Spotting Guide
- last modified on January 18, 2022
Shanghai Hongqiao Airport (SHA/ZSSS) is situated 10km west of the downtown of Shanghai which means a 30 minutes ride by train (Metrolines 2 and 10 are connecting the airport with the city) or a ~1 hour ride by bus. The airport was built in 1906 and opened in 1907 as a military airbase. Back in 1923 the first civil airliner flew to SHA and from this point on the airfield became a normal passengerairport.
But more and more people/tourists travelled to Shanghai, the city grew very fast (today 23 million citizens) and the airport got to small and couldn’t be expanded. That’s why the new airport Shanghai Pudong was opened back in 1999 almost 40km away from SHA. Almost all international routes without Asia were apportioned to Pudong and from that moment on Hongqiao just operated flights within Asia. Today more than 75% of the flights to/ex SHA are domestic flights within China, but it also handels a few international flights to destinations like Taipei, Tokyo and similar cities. The airport is a hub for the following airines, so you will see those quit often: China Eastern, Juneyao Airlines, Shanghai Airlines and Spring Airlines
About 40 million passengers travel through SHA every year, so the Airport is one of Chinas most busiest airports and that’s why it’s still an important airport for Shanghai and for China.
General tips for China
Some websites and app don’t work in China (like Whattsap or Facebook/Messanger ecc.) so you might need a list of useful apps:
- WeChat: every Chinese person has this app, it also has a good translation function that helps really a lot because the language is the main barrier. You can translate from Chinese writings and they can translate your English into Chinese characters. This is a must have.
- Didi: the Chinese “Uber”
- Baidu Maps: This is the “Google Maps” that works, instead of the Google one
We recommend to buy a prepaid card at the airport during transit as the chance to talk to an english speaking seller is much bigger there.
Written by Severin Hackenberger, Dennis Lau (spot 4) and Canvas Wong (spot 5). Last update January 2022.
How was your trip? Rate this airport!
| (6 votes, average: 4.17 out of 5)
|18R/36L||3300m x 60m (Concrete)|
|18L/36R||3400m x 45m (Tarmac)|
|Terminal 1 (east side)||This is the old terminal which is used by intl. airlines and some local carriers today. Businessjets are parked on its apron.|
|Terminal 2 (west side)||The new terminal is mailnly used by the airlines with a hub at SHA. Maybe there changed something, because they were still building on the terminal during my vist.|
|Ladder||Not necessary at the mentioned locations.|
|Car/Public Transport||Car is not really neccesary although the locations are far apart and switching runway will take a bit. But the public transport around Shanghai Hongqiao is good and fast.|
|Restrooms||Around the Airport are many stores, hotels and restaurants. Or you can use the restrooms inside the terminalbuildings.|
|Drinks/Food||Around the airport are manyw restaurants or you can get some snacks in the supermarkets.|
|Hotels||There are many motels/hotels around the airport, because the airport is inside the city.
You can take a look at Plane Spotting Hotels for some examples.
|Season||We recommend visiting the airport between October and August, because in September there might be wild huricans.|
|Other||Walking on the streets is VERY dangerous here, because most of the drivers are driving furious and wild! Rather take a taxi, which takes you a few minutes longer to the spot, than die on the way to your spot!|
|18R/36L||My experiences were, that this runway is mainly used for departures, if they are using 18-runways and if they are using 36-runways, it’s mainly used for arrivlas – sometimes it was used for departures, too (although the 36-runways were in use).|
|18L/36R||My experiences were, that this runway is mainly used for arrivals, if they are using 18-runways and if they are using 36-runways, it’s mainly used for departures.|
Due to national security concerns, the use of geographic information in China is restricted and the layers in google maps don´t fit. The satellite images are correct but the street layers are displaced!
Please click on the link at each location (WHERE) to get to the chinese website baidu where you find an exact map with satellite and street view images. If you use a smartphone please download the Baidu App.
|Spot #1 – Bridge – Morning Arrivals 18L|
|WHERE||If you want to visit this spot by using Public Transport, follow these instructions: Take metroline 2 and exit at “Songhong Road” (last station before airport, if you come from eastern direction). Exit the metrostation to “Tianshan W Road “and follow the road for about 1,5km into western direction. When you cross a little river you arrived at the spot (I used). You can choose now your favourite spot, this depends on the angle you like the most.|
|WHAT||Arrivals on runway 18L only.|
|TIME||From sunrise till around 1pm.|
|MISC.||If possible stay away from the street, because some drivers are driving very fast and dangerous there. A few shops/restaurants nearby, where you can find restrooms and eat something.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||70 – 300mm|
|Spot #2 – Riverbank – Evening Arrivals 18L|
|WHERE||If you want to visit this spot by using Public Transport, follow these instructions: Take metroline 2 and exit at “Songhong Road” (last station before airport, if you come from eastern direction). Exit the metrostation to “Tianshan W Road “and follow the road for about 2,5km into western direction. Then you should see a bridge on your right (if you come from Spot 1 – the 2nd bridge). Use this bridge to cross the river and on the other side of the river turn left and walk on the sidewalk next to the fence for about 500m, then you arrived at the spot (I used). You can choose now your favourite spot, this depends on the angle you like the most.|
|WHAT||Arrivals on runway 18L only.|
|TIME||From around 1pm till sunset.|
|MISC.||A few shops/restaurants nearby, where you can find restrooms and eat something.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||100 – 300mm|
|Spot #3 – Jinjiang Hotel – Evening Arrivals 36L|
|WHERE||There are a few ways to get to this spot, which is located by the roadside of Qixin Road next to a little river. I used this position for the example shots, but it depends on the angle and distance you like the most for your pictures where to stay exactly.
If you prefer to take the bus, you can take Route 71 to Shenkun Road Terminal from the city center – a BRT-like bus route. After you get off from the terminal, walk along Gaohong Road to the east and cross Qixin Road, you can easily find the location.
If you prefer to take the metro take Line 9 to Qibao Station. Take Bus Route 91/196/748, Hongqiao Hub No.4 (虹桥枢纽4路) or Nanjiang (南江线) heading north, and get off the bus at Qixin Road at Huqingping Highway (七莘路沪青平公路) Station, and walking along Qixin Road heading North. Taking a taxi from Qibao is also possible, as Qibao is a major town and has enough taxis.
|WHAT||Arrivlas on runway 36L and maybe aircraft lining up on the runway (on hot days you’ll have heathaze).|
|TIME||Runway has light from around 1pm till sunset. For line-ups it depends on the angle they are right then (when you take a picture).|
|MISC.||If possible stay away from the street, because some drivers are driving very fast and dangerous there. In the summer you will have worse heathaze on the airfield, so the line-up pictures won’t be good. Everything you need is nearby, like shop, restaurants or hotels.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||100 – 350mm|
|Spot #4 – Air China Boyue Hotel|
|WHERE||This spot is of course for hotel guests only. The Air China Boyue Hotel is located on top of Terminal 2 (domestic terminal) at Hongqiao Airport, which is accessible by all modes of transport including subway, high-speed rail, bus and taxi etc.
This hotel can be booked via Booking.com and similar websites. For the rooms with best views, please book an “Executive Double Room”, which are runway-facing rooms on the 10th to 12th floors. Lower room numbers on these floors have the best view – I suggest rooms 1202 thru 1209 (both odd and even numbers face the same direction). 1102 thru 1209 etc. would also have similar views. Make a remark on your booking to request these rooms. Rooms 1201/1101 etc. are suites and the windows face the wrong direction so not recommended. Spotting can also be done from the executive lounge on the 11th floor, and you can have free drinks and snacks during the day. Rooms below the 10th floor will have a blocked view, being obstructed by the terminal roof.
The rooms have large and clean windows which give a very nice view of pretty much the entire airport. This hotel is of a high standard, comparable to the major western hotel brands. Rooms are well maintained and clean, and the staff is helpful. TV channels in the room show flight arrival and departure information.
For those arriving at Hongqiao Terminal 1 (international flights), you can use the subway or free shuttle bus to reach terminal 2.
For those arriving at Pudong Airport, you can reach Hongqiao by bus, subway (at least 90 minutes but cheap at around RMB10) or taxi (duration depends on traffic conditions and expensive at over RMB200).
|WHAT||All movements can be seen from the room. For photography, shots can be taken of aircraft on the ramp directly in front of the hotel, the near taxiway and near runway (18R/36L). You must take shots through glass, but with some care, good photos are possible.
When runway 18R is used for departures on a clear day, nice shots can be taken of aircraft lifting off with Shanghai city as background.
Backlit in the morning, best time for photos is from around midday to sunset. Night shots are also possible of aircraft on the ramp.
|TIME||From around 1pm till sunset.|
|MISC.||Restaurants and convenience stores etc. are located in Terminal 2, which is connected directly to the hotel and just 2 minutes’ walk away.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||70mm – 400mm
70mm for A330/777 on the ramp, 300mm for A320 on taxiway, 400mm for 737 on runway 18R/36L
|Spot #5 – Wubao Rd – 36R arrivals|
|WHERE||There is a small meadow next to the crossing of Wubao Rd.(吴宝路) and Huqingping Hwy.(沪青平公路) where you can stay and take photos from the 36R approach. If you prefer to get there by public transport, take the Rt.71 bus from downtown and get off at “Wubao Road” station. Just cross the Huqingping Hwy. and take your camera out, find a suitable angle to spot landing aircrafts. Parking is available for a fee on the opposite side of the spot next to some stores.|
|WHAT||Landing aircraft of runway 36R only.|
|TIME||From around 1pm till sunset.|
|MISC.||Some restaurants are next to the spot. A public toilet is just 5m away.|
A333/789 = 100mm