Dubai International Airport – One of the world’s largest and fastest growing airport never comes to a rest. A mega hub which already now connects the entire globe with the UAE’s largest city! It is the busiest airport in the Middle East Area. The variety of airlines and their origin is very interesting in DXB and you get a lot of very unique stuff there, especially from the Iranian carriers or Syria. But, officially it is forbidden to take pictures of aircraft! So please read our guides carefully, mainly our security instructions to avoid any trouble with the police.
More than 89 Mio passengers travelled through DXB in 2018 and the active growth of its home carrier Emirates will let these numbers raise even more. As the airport is surrounded by the city of Dubai, the expansion is limited and with the opening of the Dubai World Central, more and more airlines move over to this new airport, situated almost 50 kilometres off from Dubai.
Dubai International Airport handles the most traffic during the night hours and the numbers of movements are much higher than during the day. But there are still enough very interesting carriers that you can photograph with the help of the sunlight and with only two active runways. Mostly of the time they have to used one runway for arrivals and one for departures, runway 30L for arrivals and runway 30R for departures. Emirates and Flydubai are the top dogs having their rush hour between 11 am and 1 pm during the day. During this time, Dubai Airport is at its capacity, sometimes causing moderate until heavy delays and long waiting queues inside the terminal buildings as well as on the tarmac. With only one runway in use, the airport sometimes struggles when there is a minor delay in it enormously tight schedule. The rest of the day is a very mixed of passenger airlines like Aeroflot Russian Airlines, African Express, Azul, Ariana Afghan, Air India, Air India Express, Azerbaijan Airlines, Egyptair, Ethiopian Airlines, Finnair, Flynas, Gulf Air, Indigo, Iran Air, Iraqi Airways, Kish Air, Kuwait Airways, Mahan Air, Oman Air, Pakistan International, Philippine Airlines, Qatar Airways, Qeshm Air, Royal Jordanian, Saudia Arabian, Saheen Air, SpiceJet, Syrian Air (A340!), Transavia, Turkmenistan, Ukraine International…
Cargo operations have been gradually cut very recently and many operators already moved to the new DWC airport. For example, Emirates skycargo isn’t operating any more to DXB and only Fedex or UPS use DXB. UPS also tends to use SHJ instead of DXB.
Written by Jan Seba, Jeremy Denton, Julian Mittnacht, Daniel Beliso and Patrick Büchler. Last Update: September 2022 (Spot 3 updated & spot 6, 7,10 added)
How was your trip? Rate this airport!
| (27 votes, average: 4.22 out of 5)
|12L/30R||4.000 m (13.123 ft)|
|12R/30L||4.447 m (14.590 ft)|
|Terminal 1 (west)||All other carriers.|
|Terminal 3 (west)||Emirates only.|
|Terminal 2 (east)||Persian carriers mainly including Emirates’ low cost airline flyDubai and Iranian, Iraqi and Indian carries except Mahan Air, Iran Air, Air India, SpiceJet, Jet Airways and several others. Check www.dubaiairports.ae for further information.|
|Ladder||Not needed and not allowed.|
|Car/Public Transport||Highly recommend for not being spotted by the police.|
|Restrooms||There are plenty restaurants (also fast food) and shopping malls nearby the spotting locations.|
|Drinks/Food||There are aplenty restaurants (also fast food) and shopping malls nearby the the spots.|
|Hotels||This guide also provides spots which are located on a hotel roof or in hotel rooms. The Nojoum Appartements (Spot 7) seems to be closed as of JUN21 and the Permier Inn Hotel (Spot 8) are to be recommended. If you don’t want to get caught by the police and just looking for a relaxing place for spotting, take one of these and read the information you will find below. There are also aplenty of other hotels next to the airport belonging to the most diverse categories of stars. These may not offer a view onto the airport’s movements.
Sharjah is only 20 km away from the airport and hotels are much cheaper there. But keep in mind the traffic volume between both cities is ridiculously high and it can take you at least 1 hour to connect both cities during the rush hours.
|Season||We suggest October until April because it is too hot in the summer and the sun’s position is too high. Heat haze in December is almost not existing.|
|Security||Spotting in the UAE is neither supported nor understood nor tolerated. Especially taking pictures evincing airport buildings or facilities will may cause problems and punishments (which can range from a check by police to imprisonment in worst case) by the police or airport authorities. We will not be liable for any inconviniences with local authorities. Spotting at Dubai international airport DXB is at your own risk. Keep a low profile wherever you are as some spotters were even caught like 10km away form the airport in the approach path, so the police controls huge boundaries all around the airfield.
Information: Our team hasn’t yet experienced (except one occurrence: Team members were taken to the police station after being caught on a parking deck) any problems at Dubai which is attributable to extremely cautious behaviour and obeying of security tips. Please always adjust your behaviour when travelling into the Middle East states including the UAE to aviod inconveniences with the police. General tip for spotting in the Middle East area: If you have a car stow your camera underneath the seat or in the glovebox of the car. Have a map with you to fake a glitch or for an alleged planning of a route.
+++ SPOTTING IS AT YOUR OWN RISK IN THE UAE +++
|General Info||Please note that sometimes during the week, one runway may close during off-peak times which usually begin between 14:00 until sunset. You can get further information about the runway usage in NOTAMs for Dubai Airport.|
|12L/30R||When winds blow from the desert, 12L is in use for arrivals only. Runway 30R is mainly used for departures. During mid-day, it can occur that some departures take place on 30L due to shorter taxiing-times and relief for residents as well as for some minor runway works.|
|12R/30L||When the wind blows from the desert to the city, 12R is used for the departures only. 95 percent of the traffic during the winter arrives on RWY30L with some very few arrivals on 30R (mainly airlines located at Terminal 2).|
|WHERE||This is the most famous spot in Dubai and its pretty easy to find. If you are on the E311, just follow the street signs to Mirdif and later on to the Mirdif City Centre, which is a very huge shopping mall next to the spot. North of the mall there is the Dubai Tennis Academy. Pass the academy and follow the signs of the “Sport Society” then park on the other side towards the approach path.
When coming from the terminals, take D 89 to Al Khawaneej (east of the airport) and follow the street for about 2.5km. A large motorway intersection will appear shortly before you’ve passed underneath the runway 30L – always follow signs D 89 to Al Khawaneej and Al Awir! Exit shortly after this large junction in direction Mirdif and Mirdif City Center (keep right). Take this street for about 1.9km. Shortly before the huge Sport Society appears on your left, snap off to the left onto the sandy area and park your car along the wall.
|WHAT||Perfect place for the 30L arrivals during the day. 30R arrivals can be very tricky as you need a very long lens (500mm at least for an 738) and the heat haze could be a problem.|
|TIME||Best light conditions in the winter are between 11 am and 6 pm.|
|MISC.||We all used to go to the Mirdif City Center however once the Sport Society will open, restaurant and snacks will also be available therefore shorter distance.
Otherwise, as always go to the Mirdif City Centre to find all the amenities you need. You can also travel here by public transport: Take MRed-Tube at Dubai International Terminal 3 to Al Rashidiya Metro Station and exit the train at its final stop (Al Rashidiya). Walk to the bus platform and take bus number F10 towards Al Warqa’a J for 4 stop (18min journey). Dismount the bus at Mirdiff City Centre. From here you can easily walk back a few yards to the spotting location. All stations being mentioned in this description are marked on the map. Costs for this journey 5.00AED for each trip.
|SECURITY||Park your car along the wall as shown on the picture below and stay in your car for the whole visit. Never park your car next to the road that leads to the Mirdif Mall as the police pass this way as well as next to the entrance to the Tennis Academy. The members will call the police too! Usually you will be surrounded by cars.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||B738 = 300mm / B748/B773 = 150mm|
|WHERE||As the name suggests, this spot is located in the visitor parking garage of the Emirates headquarter. If you are on the airport road, make a right/left turn into the Marrakech Street. After a couple of meters, make a right turn into the 35th street and pass the building until you will find a small sign that leads into the visitors parking garage. Drive all the way up to floor 10 or 11 which can takes up to 5 minutes. These are the best floors as you don´t have the airports light poles within your pictures.|
|WHAT||From this spot you can see the taxiway which is between the Concourses B & A. Traffic is limited here as only a couple of airlines use this taxiway to reach their gates. More action takes place on the runway. Aircraft leaving runway 30L or heading to runway 30R for their departure are within your sight as well. But usually there is too much heat distortion to get a reasonable picture, so we can´t recommend this place for any runway movements.|
|TIME||The time for aircraft using the taxiway is okay from 09am until 06 pm.|
|MISC.||Bring with you what you need before coming at this spot.|
|SECURITY||The garage is monitored, so please be very very careful in what you are doing. If you park the car next to a concrete pier you shouldn´t be within the sight of the security cameras. Never walk along the road with your camera as you will get catched sooner or later and the security guys will kick you off the ground. Parking is free for 2hrs and is Aed 10 for any hour over 2 hours.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||50mm for heavies on the taxiway, up to 400mm for aircraft on the runway|
|WHERE||It is a little bit tricky to find this place. The easiest way is to locate the Mercedes Benz dealer called “Gargash Automobile”. Its the biggest company next to the spot and is located on the 19b Street which should be accessible from the E11 state road. The 19a street is located behind the main entrance of Gargash Automobile and is within a small industrial area. So if you reached the 12b street, make a turn into the 21a street, drive a couple of meters take a left turn and then a right. The spot is pretty visible based on the overview picture as it’s the only area where it is not that much surrounded by buildings. Just park your at the most convenient place.|
|WHAT||This is the perfect spot for 12L arrivals. You see the traffic very late, so always listen to the sound of the engines if you don´t wanna miss a plane.|
|TIME||Best light conditions in the winter are between 11 am and 6 pm.|
|MISC.||Take the stuff you need with you.|
|SECURITY||You should be pretty safe at this location as its not on a main road. But always have a look around for the police and stay in your car.
Usually you shouldn’t have a problem with the local workers. Just be polite, greet them and everything will be fine.
|FOCAL LENGTH||A320 = 150mm / B738 = 135mm / B773 = 86mm|
|WHERE||This is a good spot for take-off where is located in Counterpoint Metro Station on the latest floor. You need to be on the Airport Road direction (Mirdif & Sharjah), go strait follow the indication about Centrepoint Metro Station (the metro station is Gold with black glasses) will be on your right. The Station is just next to the Dubai Air Wings VIP aircraft building. You have also the possibilities to come with the metro.|
|WHAT||From this spot you can take picture of only take-off from RWY12R. It’s a good spot to catch every heavies aircraft and smaller like 738. Forget to have good shots of F50/F100/319. From the latest floor you will see the roof of the Dubai Air Wings VIP Aircraft so due to this, you will see the planes only in the latest moment so be ready but you can hear them.|
|TIME||You can spot from around 10:00 to 18:00.|
|MISC.||Bring with you what you need before coming at this spot.|
|SECURITY||Be really careful about security cameras. At every angles there is one. I never seen any security guys, but check around, put the camera on a bag and read a book. There is a place close next to 2 cameras who is fine. Located on the left corner of the parking.|
|WHERE||You can find a Food Court inside Terminal 1 which enables spotting onto the taxiway along T1 and T3. When you enter Terminal 1 take the moving stairs or the stairs up to level 1 where you can buy food. We recommend that you buy something (e.g. at Subway or Bombay chicken) as a disguise. Take a seat in the dining area next to these shops preferably next to a plant which you can find approx. every 5 meters. You can choose a suitable seat for you along the long window front.|
|WHAT||Taxiing aircraft coming from runway 30 after landing and proceeding to the southern pier of T1 (Usually MEA, Azerbaijan Airlines, almost all Indian carriers, Saudia, Kuwait, Pakistan International Airlines, Transavia and so on…), aircraft from T1s southern pier, aiming to depart from any 30 runway, and Emirates aircraft parking at the very western parking stands of T3.|
|TIME||From noon until sundown.|
|MISC.||Food and restrooms available as mentioned above. This position is equipped with CCTV cameras which mainly function as a dummy and precaution.You can also go there by public tranportation – Station to disembark: Airport Terminal 1 Metro Station 1/2|
|SECURITY||You should be pretty safe at this location as the police does not check out this area regularly but you should better behave despite, and always look out for security staff! When a policeman or a security guy appears leave your camera in your bag and do not photograph.|
|WHERE||This is also a tricky spot as it is located in an industrial area with many roads and buildings. Better to refer on the map. Once you have located the place you can enter either from the 20th or the 12c street (entrances are located west side). Those entrance are open you can enter the car park without any issue and find a good place in that parking.|
|WHAT||Morning arrivals rwy12L . You’ll see them coming from the top of the blue building on the right side of the tree.|
|TIME||From sunrise until sundown.|
|MISC.||Nothing here, bring with you what you need. Pretty safe spot considering the amount of cars/trucks surrounding the area.|
|SECURITY||I felt really safe at this location. Most of the cars are whether broken or here for long terms. There’s still some come and go but overhaul it’s a great location.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||B738 = 130mm / A332 = 90mm / B773 = 78mm|
|WHERE||This location is pretty easy to locate. Just find the huge Deira Private School and then drive on 28a street. The spot is located under a tree in front of people house. Keep a low profile and always keep your camera hidden. The spot faces directly the airport so be careful.|
|WHAT||Only departures rwy12R. EK are very heavy and foreign airlines looks to be already a bit high.|
|TIME||From noon until sundown.|
|MISC.||Nothing at that place, take what you need and keep a low profile as you are in a residential area. Do not get out of the car.|
|SECURITY||It’s stressful as you are very close from the airport fences and we have highlighted in red a camera. This camera moves (we believe it’s an intelligent camera which detect the cars driving inside the airport as it always moved once a car was driving in front). This camera is only focus on the inside airport road. We still saw a lot of police cars driving along the airport road. However if you stay in the car and keep a low profile, you shouldn’t have any issues.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||A338 = 210mm / B788 = 190mm / A380 = 160mm|
|WHERE||The roof top of the Premier Inn Hotel Dubai International Hotel which is situated at 26 52b St offers a good view onto the departing aircraft of RWY30L. When you enter the hotel, take the lift to the top floor. When having arrived at the top floor take the stairs up to the pool deck.|
|WHAT||Departing airplanes from 30L only.|
|TIME||From noon until sundown or all day long on cloudy days.|
|MISC.||The roof top offers sunshades and chairs for a comfortable spotting. There is a McDonalds nearby the hotel (11 Marakech St – 4min drive)|
|SECURITY||This might be one of Dubai’s safest spots as there is no police which checks out this place. The hotel staff also completely tolerates spotting from the roof top. Please behave and keep a low profile so that it remains tolerated!We can recommend this hotel, clean cheap hotel rooms, some of them offer a view onto Dubai Terminal 3 (Nightshot)|
|FOCAL LENGTH||70-400mm – Boeing 777-300: 250mm, Boeing 77F: 290mm|
|WHERE||This location can be reached by only two ways:
First one, drive from the airport direction Al Awir / Al Khawaneej until you reached the sign Muhaisnah and Mirdif City Centre, the exit will be on the right side. Drive few meters until you reached the joint road. After that, take left on the sands, dirt area. Park your car in this area and stay inside to take picture. Open your windows and check before making pictures. You are fully exposed, nothing hides you.
Second way is to drive on the “Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Rd” speed limit maximum is 140KM direction Sharjah. Exit at Deira, Al Khawaneej. Then follow the sign Al Awir / Al Khawaneej and finally take right to Mirdif City Centre. In fact stay always on the right lane. Finally once you reached the joint road take on the left on the sands, dirt area. Park your car in this area and stay inside to take picture. Open your windows and check before making pictures. You are fully exposed, nothing hides you.
|WHAT||Morning Arrivals runway 30L.|
|TIME||During summer, from sunrise to 1030LT (Maximum) / During winter time from sunrise until 0830LT (Maximum) wouldn’t recommend to go during winter time as you don’t have much time with a good light.|
|MISC.||Nothing nearby, only the Miridif City Centre.|
|SECURITY||This is a high risk spot as you do not have any covers. No tries, no walls you are on sands area. Be careful and think twice. Personal experience, I have stayed 3 hours never seen any police cars or been questioned.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||A320 = 240mm / 788 = 140mm|
|WHERE||The spot is the Al Khabaisi Park. If you’re driving on airport road, follow D89 eastbound until you reach intersection with D74. Take right turn to join D74 then another right at the next intersection with 22A street onto the small street and park where you can. Parking fee is 4 AED for 1 hour. Then cross the street to the park. We recommend to stay by the monument for the best spot.|
|TIME||Winter from 10am to sundown. Summer months will be very heat hazed.|
|MISC.||There are some shops in the area so you can buy food and drinks, but no amenities at the park itself. Light poles may get in the way of your images but they are not a big issue.|
|SECURITY||The park is very quiet with only a few gardeners at some times who will let you be, however we would still be very careful as you are on foot and very exposed. Police cars occasionally pass by on the street that loops next to the monument. Keep your camera in your bag until you have to take a picture. Abide by the park rules as well to avoid any issues.|
|FOCAL LENGTH||Aircraft will be quite far. 300mm at least for large widebodies (777, A380, 747, etc…). I would suggest 400mm+ for this location to catch narrowbodies and smaller widebodies.|