Athens International Airport LGAV/ATH Photography

Planespotting at Athens

The Athens International Airport “Eleftherios Venizelos” (ATH/LGAV) is the largest airport in Greece, replacing the former Hellenikon airport, and commenced operations in March 2001. It serves as the hub for Aegean Airlines (A3/AEE) and Sky Express (GQ/SHE), offering connections throughout Greece and to numerous destinations across Europe, the USA, Canada, the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia (including China and Singapore).

The airport features a central terminal building and a satellite terminal primarily used by low-cost carriers. It also includes a helipad and two aprons for aircraft parking. Besides passenger airlines, it accommodates cargo airlines and private aircraft. Greek Police and Fire Department helicopters are also based at the airport.

Athens International Airport (AIA) has two runways for takeoffs and landings, namely 03L/21R and 03R/21L. Additionally, it has six taxiways: Alpha and Bravo serving runway 03L/21R, and Charlie and Delta serving runway 03R/21L, along with two connecting taxiways, Kilo and Hotel, and several others facilitating aircraft movements.

The runway lengths are:

– 03L/21R: 3800m
– 03R/21L: 4000m

The airport is certified to accommodate large aircraft such as the Airbus A380, Boeing 747, and the massive Antonov AN225, which has visited the airport several times. There are several spots around the airport where Planespotters can photograph aircraft. A map highlighting some of these spots will be created soon. According to an official response from the airport authorities to my inquiry, photographing aircraft outside the perimeter is not prohibited. It goes without saying that entering the airport premises is prohibited! Sometimes, security personnel from private companies may incorrectly inform photographers that photography is prohibited. Ignore them! Only the Greek Police have the authority to check you, so always carry your identification or passport with you.

At certain points, like behind the commercial park, a ladder would facilitate photos of taxiways Alpha and Bravo. Do not attempt this; in my query to the Greek Police, the answer was clear: don’t do it!!!

Regarding runway operations, the following apply:

  • Northern winds: 
    • Landings on 03L: from 07:00-15:00 and 18:00-22:00
    • Landings on 03R: from 22:00-07:30
  • Southern winds:
    • Landings on 21R: 24 hours a day
    • Takeoffs on 21L: 24 hours a day

Naturally, runway operations are subject to Air Traffic Control’s discretion. Sometimes, an aircraft may land on 03R instead of 03L, for example. Israeli airline ELAL always lands on 03R (unless it’s out of service) when there are northern winds and on 21L when there are southern winds. In Athens, there’s often a phenomenon of dust transfer from North Africa, which can make photography difficult due to poor image quality. Also, during summer mid-days, photos at many points suffer from Heat Haze.

To photograph at Athens International Airport “Eleftherios Venizelos,” the equipment requirements are as follows:

  • SLR/DSLR/Mirrorless camera
  • Lens 70-300mm or ideally 100-400mm

Points for planespotting at Athens International Airport “Eleftherios Venizelos”