Brussels Airport (IATA: BRU, ICAO: EBBR) is Belgium’s largest airport and centrally located in the economic heart of Europe. With the city of Brussels being the European capital and a home to many international companies and institutions, Brussels Airport is connected to the world by more than 70 airlines. In 2016 the airport received nearly 22 million passengers. Next to its passenger operations, Brussels Airport is also an important cargo airport, with several cargo operators having their hub in Brussels or operating multiple flights per week to the Belgian capital.

Passengers airlines having a base or operating a hub in Brussels includes national airline Brussels Airlines, Thomas Cook Airlines Belgium, Jetairfly, Ryanair and Vueling. Brussels is also a cargo hub for DHL and Finnair Cargo.

The following passenger airlines are operating at Brussels Airport (Last update summer 2017):

  • Adria Airways (CRJ2/9 | A32S)
  • Aegean Airlines (A32S)
  • Aer Lingus (A32S)
  • Aeroflot (A32S | B738)
  • Air Algerie (B737 | B738)
  • Air Arabia (A32S)
  • Air Baltic (B737CL | Dash 8)
  • Air Canada (A330 | B788)
  • Air Europa (ERJ)
  • Air France (operated by HOP!) (ERJ)
  • Air Malta (A32S)
  • Air Moldova (ERJ)
  • Air Serbia (A32S)
  • Air Transat (A310)
  • Alitalia (A32S | ERJ)
  • All Nippon Airways (B788)
  • Austrian Airlines (A32S | ERJ)
  • Blue Air (B737CL | B737NG)
  • bmi Regional (ERJ)
  • British Airways (A32S)
  • Brussels Airlines (A32S, A330, Avro RJ, SSJ-100, Dash 8, ERJ)
  • Bulgaria Air (ERJ)
  • CityJet (operating for Brussels Airlines with the SSJ-100)
  • Cobalt Air (A32S)
  • Corendon (B737NG)
  • CSA Czech Airlines (A32S)
  • Croatia Airlines (Dash 8)
  • Delta Air Lines (B767)
  • easyJet (A32S)
  • Egyptair (A32S)
  • El Al Israel Airlines (B737NG)
  • Emirates (B773)
  • Ethiopian Airlines (B788 | B772)
  • Etihad Airways (A330)
  • Eurowings (A32S)
  • Finnair (A32S | ERJ)
  • FlyBe (operating for Brussels Airlines with the Dash 8 Q400)
  • Freebird (A32S)
  • Hainan Airlines (A330 | B788)
  • Iberia (A32S)
  • Icelandair (B757, B767)
  • KLM Cityhopper (Fokker, ERJ)
  • LOT Polish Airlines (B737CL, B737NG, ERJ)
  • Lufthansa (A32S, ERJ, CRJ)
  • Middle East Airlines (A32S)
  • Pegasus (B737NG)
  • Qatar Airways (B788 | A350)
  • Royal Air Maroc (B737NG)
  • Ryanair (B738)
  • Scandinavian Airlines (B737NG | A32S)
  • SunExpress (B737NG)
  • SWISS (A32S | Avro RJ | CS100 | ERJ)
  • Tailwind (B737CL)
  • TAP Portugal (A32S)
  • Tarom (B737NG)
  • THAI Airways (B773 | A350)
  • Thomas Cook Airlines Belgium (A32S)
  • TUI fly (B737NG | B767 | B787 | ERJ)
  • Tunisair (A32S | B737NG)
  • Turkish Airlines (A32S | B737NG)
  • Ukraine International (B737CL | B737NG | ERJ)
  • United Airlines (B767 | B777)
  • Vueling (A32S)
  • WOW Air (A32S)

Brussels Airport is also a major cargo airport, with the following airlines operating regularly out of Brussels:

  • Asiana
  • Air Cargo Global
  • DHL
  • Emirates Skycargo
  • Ethiopian Airlines
  • Kalitta Air
  • Royal Air Maroc Cargo
  • Qatar Airways Cargo
  • Saudia Cargo
  • Swiftair Cargo
  • Singapore Airlines Cargo


General guidelines for spotting at Brussels Airport

Brussels Airport is a reasonable good airport for spotting and photographing aircraft. The airport doesn’t have any official spotting spots (but they will be constructing 2 dedicated spots with platforms in the near future), however there are several places where one can get close to the action.

At Brussels Airport a ladder is not a necessity, although if you want to take photos from different angles and never want any fence on your photos, bringing one with you is an advantage.

Using a VHF receiver is illegal and forbidden in Belgium without a licence, but many spotters use one. The most used frequencies will be the following:

Brussels Arrival: 118.250
Brussels Tower (25L): 118.600
Brussels Tower (25R): 120.775
Brussels Tower (01/07 ops): 118.600
Brussels Delivery: 121.950 (remember that the use of datalink is more and more common)

The main configuration used at Brussels Airport is landing 25L/25R and takeoff 25R. Most of the traffic will be using 25L as the main landing runway, but cargo aircraft or passenger airlines parking at the north side of the A-concourse will often use runway 25R for arrivals.

With moderate easterly winds the airport will use a runway 01/07 configuration. This means all traffic will be arriving on runway 01 and all traffic will depart from runway 07R, with the occasional aircraft departing from 07L.
Sometimes the airport also uses 07R for landing (VOR approach only) and 07L for departures, but this is not as frequent as the 01/07 configuration.

Runway 25L arrivals, spot A

In normal runway configuration (80% of the time), as standard for Brussels Airport due to the dominating westerly winds, aircraft will use 25L as main landing runway and 25R for takeoff. However, in morning rush hour, European flights of among others Brussels Airlines often use 25R for landing as well as it gives a shorter taxi time to the north side of the A-concourse. All cargo airlines use 25R for landing as the cargo apron is north of the runway.

Spot A is located near the approach path of the runway and offers the possibility for making approach shots of aircraft landing on runway 25L. The height of the aircraft is not too high and in fact perfect for those wishing to photograph aircraft from the side or from the front.

In summer the sun rises in the axis of 25L, making light conditions not good for the early arrivals as you will have the light coming from the back of the aircraft, darkening both side and nose.

Sun position gets better later in the morning and starts to get good at around 10:00. Around noon, the sun should be at an angle of about 90 degrees with the aircraft, making it perfect for side approach shots. In the afternoon and evening, light only gets better and better for those wanting to make head-on approach shots, as the sunlight shines into the aircraft engines.

At around 18:00 the sun crosses the axis of 25L and it is better to photograph from the other side of the runway. Just walk north and cross the approach path.

Example shots:

How to get there?

By car: Parking is available next to the road and only permitted in the zone with the trees. Parking space can be limited. Never park your car on the side of the main road as this is forbidden.

By train: Drive to the station of Kortenberg. There you have to exit the station to the north and always continue straight ahead, even on the roundabout. The walk will take no more than 10 minutes. Kortenberg is connected directly by train from all 3 Brussels stations and the city of Leuven with at least 1 train every hour, also during weekends.

Runway 25L arrivals, spot B

This spot is good for aircraft photography during a summer evening. Light for this spot gets good as from 18:00, which is a good timing for the evening rush. A large zoom is recommended, around 300-400mm. You can photograph the aircraft on final approach for 25L with some background if you desire.

Example shots:

How to get there?

By car: Drive to the street ‘Processieweg’ in Steenokkerzeel, which is in a residence area. Free parking is available. Park your car next to the wall and walk in the small pedestrian stroke next to some fields with horses.

By train: Not within reasonable walking distance of a train station.

Runway 25L arrivals, 07R departures, spot C

At this spot you can photograph aircraft touching down on runway 25L. The spot is located just a few meters down the runway from the touch-down-zone. There are two artificial hills created from the nearby refugee centers which offers a higher view on the runway, permitting you to photograph aircraft without having to use a ladder. However, without ladder you still might have some fence in the bottom of your photo, depending on where you stand and which view you like to have.

Light conditions are the same as for spot A. This means that in the morning the sun rises in the axis of 25L, so aircraft will not be perfectly lit and will have dark areas near  the nose and side. Sun position however will gradually improve during the morning hours. At around noon the sun is in a 90 degree position with the runway. In afternoon and evening the sun positions starts to get perfect for photographing aircraft more from the front, with the sunlight in the engines.

Example shots:

Runway 07R take-off

With easterly winds this runway is used exclusively as a departing runway for all traffic, except cargo (they will most of the time use 07L for takeoff). This spot is therefore a perfect place to photograph departing aircraft in the morning.

Depending on the wind speed, aircraft will rotate slightly ahead of the spot. Smaller aircraft tend to rotate quite late down the runway as they will use an intersection takeoff, meaning they start their takeoff roll not at the beginning of runway 07L.

Light is perfect as from sunrise and will be excellent throughout the morning. As from noon, the sun is at a 90 degree position with the runway, making it more difficult to photograph the departures from the front.

Example shots:

This spot is very popular among spotters and Brussels Airport decided to construct an official spotting place here with several platforms. Construction might start at the end of 2017.

How to get there?

By car: Drive to the ‘Tervuursesteenweg’ in Steenokkerzeel. You will pass a refugee center (127 bis) on your left/right hand side (depending on which direction you are coming from). Turn off onto the access road to this center. At the end of this road you will see 2 hills on the left and right side where you can stand.

Officially this parking spot is for visitors to the centers only. Parking your car is therefore at your own risk but experience learns us that most of the time parking your car over there won’t pose any problem. When the official spotting platforms will be in use in 2017/2018, Brussels Airport will construct a dedicated parking area for this spot.

Another option is to park your car near the local Nossegem football club. When on the Mechelsesteenweg driving north (heading airport), turn left into the ‘Namenstraat’. Further down this road there is a possibility to park your car next to the road.

By train: If you are by train, you will have to go to the station of Nossegem. There you’ll have to exit the station to the north and continue straight ahead until you reach the regufee center on your right. Walking time is around 10 minutes.

Runway 25L arrivals, 07R and 19 departures, spot D

This spot has been closed and will not reopen any time soon.

Runway 01 arrivals and departures, spot E

This spot is often referred to as the best spotting location at Brussels Airport. With the eastern runway configuration in effect, all traffic will land on runway 01, including cargo and military aircraft. From this spot it’s also possible to photograph line-ups on runway 01, although this is quite rare and is almost never done. From here you’ll also have a view on departing aircraft from runway 07R, but due to the distance and heat haze photographing is difficult.

For this spot you need to have a 50-70mm lens if you want to photograph large aircraft from the side. A suitable lens for all aircraft would be somewhere between 50 and 200mm. A ladder is not required for this spot if you don’t mind having a small part of the fence in your photo, although a lot of planespotters bring their ladder with them.

Sunlight is perfect from sunrise till around 11:00. At around 13:00 the sun will cross the axis of runway 01 and it’s better to move to the other side of the runway.

Please mind that to reach this spot, you have to walk over the field of a farmer so please walk as close to the airport fence as possible as to not damage the field. When it has rained there is a lot of mud and you will get dirty when you reach this spot, but the view is worth the effort.

Example shots:

How to get there?

By car: There are parking places available on the west side of the approach path of runway 01. Continue down the road by foot and walk under the approach path of 01. Then you will have to go off the road and walk along the airport fence until you reach a green area on the right side of the runway 01 (near the big forest on the right).

By train: Take a train to the station of Nossegem. Leave the platform to the west. From there, you have stairs leading you to the bridge of the railway. Go north and take immediately the grassy pedestrian road on your left. If you follow this road it will bring you to the approach path of runway 01 in about 15 minutes.

Runway 01 arrivals and departures, spot F

Located on the other side of runway 01, this spot is good for evening approach shots on runway 01. At 13:00 the light is at its worst, improving in the afternoon and getting great in the evening. All lenses can be used here, ranging between 70 and 400mm.

Example shots:

How to get there?

By car: There are parking places available on the west side of the approach path of runway 01. Continue down the road by foot and walk under the approach path of 01. There is a large grassfield on the left hand side. Several locations are possible at this spot.

By train: Take a train to the station of Nossegem. Leave the platform to the west. From there, you have stairs leading you to the bridge of the railway. Go north and take immediately the grassy pedestrian road on your left. If you follow this road it will bring you to the approach path of runway 01 in about 15 minutes.

 

Runway 01 and 25L arrivals, 07R departures, spot G

This spot is located on the top level of car parking P3 on the south side of the airport. It used to offer a panoramic view on runway 01 (in front of you) and 25L/07R (to the right), but due to newly constructed buildings the view is now limited.

From this spot there are a range of possibilities to photograph depending on your lenses. Anyway, we advise at least 200mm and more will be an advantage.

You can photograph aircraft vacating runway 25L, but the best moment for this spot is when 01 and 07R are in use. You can photograph aircraft landing on runway 01, just in front of you. Also all aircraft taxiing to runway 07R for departure will pass in front or below you. During afternoons and evenings this spot is quite popular among planespotters.

Light is getting acceptable as from 15-16:00, improving during the evening.

Example shots:

How to get there?

By car: bear in mind that parking your car here is expensive. Once at the airport, follow the signs that lead to parking ‘P3’. Then take the elevator to level 6, which is the top of the parking.

By train: Brussels Airport has a large train station with direct trains connecting to main cities like Brussels, Antwerp, Mechelen, Leuven, Ghent and Bruges. From the airport station go to the departure level, exit the building and walk to the left along the Sheraton hotel. The P3 parking is next to the Sheraton. Take the elevator to level 6.

Runway 25R departures, spot H

This car parking is of the same height as car parking P3 and is on the other side of the Sheraton Hotel. From here you’ll have a view on runway 25R, making it the perfect location to photograph departing traffic. However, due to the distance from the runway we advise at least 200-300mm for heavies and 400mm for smaller aircraft. Heat haze will therefore be a factor during spring and summer.

As from 0930-1200 it is rush hour at Brussels Airport for departing aircraft. Most of the long haul flights leave during this time span and will rotate in front of you.

There are some obstacles that you have to take into account (light poles and wires) but it’s perfectly possible to photograph without any of these on your photos. Just find yourself a suitable spot. Light is good from morning till early evening.

Example shots:

How to get there?

By car: bear in mind that parking your car here is expensive. Once at the airport, follow the signs that lead to parking ‘P1’. Then take the elevator to level 6, which is the top of the parking.

By train: Brussels Airport has a large train station with direct trains connecting to main cities like Brussels, Antwerp, Leuven, Ghent and Bruges. From the airport station go to the departure level, exit the building and walk right. The P1 parking is next to the Sheraton. Take the elevator to level 6.

Runway 07L departures and arrivals, 25R departures, spot I

This spot offers a view upon the line-up of runway 07L departures, although this is a very rare occasion. 07L for landing or departures is rare, although nowadays this can happen a few times a year but only for a limited period.

The spot is located across the big Brussels Airlines crew parking. You can enter it for free but you cannot park your car as the parking is only for crew/staff. You can neither park a bit further on the road. You will have to park at the airport or in the nearby village and take the free bus to this spot and get off at the third stop (Brussels Airlines headquarters) when leaving from the main airport building.

The spot is located some distance behind a bus stop at a fire gate entrance to the taxiway and runway. You can either take pictures over the fence with a stair (high enough, about 1m50 at least.) or trough the bars of the fence which are about 15cm spaced from each other. You will have a great opportunity to take pictures of departing aircraft on the ground on the taxiway. Good chance to take close-up’s. A 200mm-lens will be enough for the smaller aircraft, larger aircraft will only require about 150mm zoom or less.

Aircraft approaching to runway 07L will have to perform a VOR/DME approach or a visual approach if the weather permits and in accordance to tower permission. As runway 07L is not fitted with an ILS landing system in that direction, aircraft will have to approach partly on instruments (VOR/DME) till a certain point and then have to take over manual control and will only establish on the runway axis quite late, resulting in nice bank maneuvers as approaching airplanes have to avoid the city center of Brussels and especially the Royal Palace at Laken.

Approach shots are possible starting from sunrise till about 18:00 before you will get too much backlit on sunny days.

Runway 25R arrivals, spot K

Most of the time only cargo or military aircraft use 25R for landing, besides a few regular airlines like Brussels Airlines, EasyJet and Ryanair who might use this runway as well during morning rush hours.

Landings on 25R are more common during weekends, although according to current procedures (spring 2015) 25L should still be used as main landing runway in weekends.

This spot is located in the town of Steenokkerzeel near the ATC tower of Brussels airport and behind the stone sound wall. The spot is at the small cemetery of Steenokkerzeel. There is a small road to the cemetery starting from the old road through the town center.

There are some parking spots in front of the cemetery where the spot is located. You can stand on the small grass field at the parking spot. It is prohibited to make a lot of noise or to enter the cemetery with your camera or whenever you don’t need to be there. Please keep in mind this is still a cemetery and show the necessary respect

Sunlight conditions are the same as for 25L.

How to get there?

By car: Parking is available at the cemetery. The street itself is not ‘Coenenstraat’ but when you enter that street, follow the signs to the cemetery, which is the first street to the right. You cannot reach this spot by train, nor directly by bus. There is a bus line running through the village coming from the airport, but you’ll have to use Google maps to find your directions.