Plane spotters, often known as aviation geeks or ‘AvGeeks’, have been around since World War II when the public were encouraged to observe enemy planes. Since then, this has become a popular hobby for many, with storms at Heathrow seeing thousands of people tune in to watch planes attempt to land and take off on the runway. New aircraft models and special airline liveries also gain global headlines that introduce many to the excitement of plane spotting.
But where are the best locations in the world for plane spotting enthusiasts? The team at Compare My Jet have analysed scheduled flights, runways, airlines, and Instagram hashtags to reveal the top 10 airports for plane spotting. We’ve also looked at the number of times airline hashtags have been used to reveal the world’s most Instagrammable airlines.
Heathrow revealed as the best airport in the world for plane spotting
To discover the best airports for plane spotting, we gave each main airport in an OECD country capital city a score out of 10. Our index scored each airport based on how many scheduled flights, the number of airlines that operate there, the amount of runways each airport has, and the number of times the airport hashtag has been used on Instagram.
Heathrow airport takes the top spot, with 582 flights scheduled per day and 97 different airlines operating from this airport, aviation enthusiasts won’t have to wait long to spot an aircraft. Myrtle Avenue, a field just a short distance from Heathrow’s Southern runway, is a popular location for aviation enthusiasts. You can easily find their photos on Instagram, with ‘#heathrow’ being used 696,551 times, the most out of all the airports we researched.
Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam comes next, with 89 airlines operating there and six runways. The Polderbaan runway even has a dedicated viewing spot with access to toilets and a food truck, making it the perfect location for both long-standing aviation fanatics and beginners to spend a few hours watching the wide array of planes go by.
In the third spot is Paris Charles de Gaulle International Airport in France, with four runways, and 63 different airlines operating there. This is the busiest of the airports we researched, seeing 593 aeroplanes fly in and out daily. This heavy air traffic gives plane spotters plenty of opportunities to spot their favourite aircraft. If you’re staying over, there are ample hotels in the airport that offer great views of the action too.
|Rank||Country||Main airport||Times hashtag is used||Scheduled flights per day||Airport runways||Airlines that operate from airport||Total score|
|1||United Kingdom||Heathrow Airport||696,551||582||2||97||7.76|
|3||France||Paris Charles de Gaulle International Airport||24,614||593||4||63||5.86|
|4||Spain||Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas Airport||22,623||515||4||71||5.71|
|5||Italy||Leonardo da Vinci–Fiumicino Airport||116||293||4||117||5.69|
|6||Republic of Korea||Incheon International Airport||222,839||364||4||48||5.32|
|7||Japan||Narita International Airport||51,369||264||2||95||4.41|
|8||Belgium||Brussels Airport Zaventem||775||224||3||74||4.13|
|10||Germany||Berlin Brandenburg Airport||4655||201||2||97||4.06|
Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas Airport in Spain is another great location. With the chance to spot an aircraft from any of the 71 airlines operating from here, four runways to check out, and 515 scheduled flights a day, Spain’s biggest airport is something to behold for plane spotters. The airport even opened a raised observation terrace in 2022 that’s great for aviation photography.
The Leonardo da Vinci–Fiumicino Airport in Rome also makes the top five. In this Italian airport, you have the chance to spot the biggest variety of aircraft, with 117 different airlines operating here. With a substantial number of accessible viewing spots, plane spotters are able to have their pick of any of the four runways to watch.
Incheon International Airport in Seoul, South Korea comes in sixth, with four runways and 364 daily flights. This airport also has 48 different airlines and many cargo planes operating here, so you’ll be able to see a wide range of aircraft here. With 222,839 Instagram posts with ‘#incheonairport’ tagged, the second highest amount of airport hashtags, this is a great place for aviation photographers to get the best shot.
Narita International Airport, Japan’s largest airport in Tokyo, is the seventh-best airport for plane spotting. This airport has 264 flights arriving and departing daily on two runways, and 95 different airlines in operation here. Plane spotters can watch the aircraft go by from one of the two different spotting platforms, both with telescopes on them so you can get an even closer look.
The eighth position goes to Brussels Zaventem Airport in Belgium, with three runways and 74 airlines running here. Brussels airport has opened two observation areas for aviation admirers that provide excellent views of the tarmac and give visitors the chance to spot any of the 224 daily scheduled flights.
Dublin Airport in Ireland comes in ninth, with three different runways, 286 scheduled daily flights, and 43 airlines operating here. This popular airport has 108,840 Instagram posts with ‘#dublinairport’ tagged and recently gained viral fame when plane spotters posted videos of a plane struggling to land there in high winds.
Getting the last spot in the top 10 is Berlin Brandenburg Airport in Germany, with 97 airlines operating from here. This modern airport features artwork throughout, including the famous Magic Carpet at the checking. For plane spotters, there’s an observation deck that provides excellent views of the two runways, where you can watch any of the 201 scheduled flights due to depart and arrive that day.
Qatar Airways revealed as most Instagrammable commercial airline
Using a seedlist of 175 commercial airlines, we researched how many times the airline hashtag has been used on Instagram to reveal the most Instagrammable airlines in the world.
The most Instagrammable airline is Qatar Airways. This popular long-haul airline has an impressive 1,602,378 Instagram posts. This airline also gained worldwide traction when a plane spotter at Heathrow posted a video of one of their aircraft struggling to land during Storm Eunice.
The second most Instagrammable airline is AirAsia, with 1,305,089 posts using ‘#airasia’. Often sporting colourful liveries, this airline knows how to put on a show for its fans. This is closely followed by Lufthansa, with 1,121,563 Instagram posts using their hashtag. Offering flights everywhere from Cancun to Singapore, this German airline can be spotted all across the globe.
|Rank||Airline||Base country||IG hashtag for airline||Number of times hashtag is used|
|5||American Airlines||United States||#americanairlines||934,660|
|8||British Airways||United Kingdom||#britishairways||827,392|
|19||Cathay Pacific||Hong Kong||#cathaypacific||435,900|
|20||Emirates||United Arab Emirates||#emiratesairline||435,217|
Coming in fourth is Garuda Indonesia airline, with 101,8361 Instagram posts using their hashtag. Named the world’s most punctual airline, plane spotters won’t have to wait around to snap a photo of these aircraft.
Two American airlines feature in the top 10, with American Airlines in fifth with 934,660 Instagram posts, and United in tenth with 766,135. Both offering domestic and international flights, these airlines can be spotted across southern and northern America and Europe.
Azerbaijan Hava Yollary is the least spotted airline on Instagram
If you want to get a sighting of a lesser Instagrammed plane, then a trip to Azerbaijan to see an Azerbaijan Hava Yollary aircraft will be great for you. With just 38 posts on Instagram of this sleek blue plane, this airline ranked 175th.
Norway is another great place to visit to get a glimpse of some lesser spotted planes, with two of its airlines featuring in the bottom 10 most Instagrammed airlines. Norwegian Air Sweden came 174th with 124 posts and Norwegian Air UK came 172 with 346 posts.
|Airline||Base country||IG hashtag for airline||Number of times hashtag is used|
|Azerbaijan Hava Yollary||Azerbaijan||#azerbaijanhavayollarÄ±||38|
|Norwegian Air Sweden||Norway||#norwegianairsweden||124|
|Norwegian Air UK||Norway||#norwegianairuk||346|
|Transavia Airlines||The Netherlands||#transaviaairlines||1,578|
The Angolan airline TAAG also features in the bottom 10, with 293 Instagram posts using ‘#taagairlines’. Based in Luanda, this state owned airline sports a stable antelope on its tail and bright orange and red stripes, making it stand out in the sky.
Australia also has two airlines in the bottom 10, with Regional Express and Tigerair Australia both having less than 2500 posts featured on Instagram.
If you’re an aviation enthusiast, or know someone else that is, why not experience an aircraft up close on your own private flight. Check out offers on private jet flights at our Rent or Charter a Private Jet page.