When I was booking flights to and from Phuket, I ended up booking Phuket – Beijing – Tokyo with almost 11 hours in Beijing with the hope of being able to do some spotting from the terminal. And, luckily, it worked out perfectly.
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Night Spotting: Cambodia Angkor Air and More
While my original intention was to go into a lounge and sleep for a couple of hours after my 4AM arrival from Phuket, it didn’t exactly work out that way. Instead, when I saw the night photo opportunities, I decided to walk around the terminal to get some photos.
First, I photographed a JAL 787 waiting for its morning flight to Tokyo.
Then, I went to photograph a Cambodia Angkor Air A320 which was delayed from 3:30AM to (reportedly) 5:00AM. Even though I am sure the passengers were dead-tired by the time the flight started boarding at 5:05AM, I was certainly glad that the flight didn’t leave before my arrival from Phuket.
Other than those two aircraft, I was able to photograph a couple more including the Emirates A380 and Air China 747-8 pictured below before it became too bright for night photos and too dark for daylight photos.
With the night shooting over, I decided to go to Air China’s business class lounge, which I will review later, in order to grab some breakfast before moving on to the daylight part of the spotting session.
Morning Spotting Session Near Gates E24 and E25
Once the sun came out high enough for daylight photos to be possible, I left the Air China Lounge and headed near gates E24 and E25 which were suggested by a friend as the best place to take photos airside at Beijing’s terminal 3 in the morning.
And, indeed, the location offered great views of some of the airport’s taxiways, as well as runway 18L/36R. There was also plenty of benches and even sofa chairs around to allow for a very comfortable spotting session.
In the early morning, the runway was mainly used for departures with some landings using the runway later in the day as well. Of course, Chinese carriers – especially Air China and Hainan Airlines – were prevalent.
Pretty much all aircraft types operated by Air China could be seen including the 747s. I was also able to photograph two of the airline’s 777-300ERs in special liveries.
Besides all of Air China’s passenger aircraft, I was also glad to photograph an Air China Cargo 757-200F.
As for Hainan Airlines, there were a number of A330s and 737-800s, as well as some 787s and a single 767-300ER. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to capture any of the airline’s Kung-Fu Panda logojets.
Other “local” airlines that I was able to photograph, albeit in much smaller numbers, included China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Xiamen Air, Shenzhen Airlines, Capital Airlines, Shandong Airlines, and Sichuan Airlines.
Afternoon Spotting Session Near Gates E14 and E15
After having a quick lunch at BGS Premier Lounge which is part of the Priority Pass network, I headed towards gates E14 and E15 which were suggested to me as ideal for afternoon spotting. Unlike the morning spot, from here, one can see action on runway 01/19 as well as its adjacent taxiways.
Without a doubt, the highlight of the whole afternoon (and of the whole day together with the Cambodia Angkor Air A320) was a Tibet Airlines A330 that arrived from Lhasa.
Other than that, there were many more “B-registered” aircraft to photograph including many more Air China aircraft. The difference compared to the morning was that there were no Hainan Airlines aircraft since the airline does not use runway 01/19.
Finally, foreign movements included Air Japan and El Al 767s, Philippine Airlines A320, as well as the last movement that I photographed that day, a Singapore Airlines A380.
After photographing the Singaporean A380, I briskly walked to my next flight’s departure gate. And, by the time I got there, the flight was already boarding. That is part of another story, though.