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Plane Spotting Locations at Heathrow: A4 Thistle Hotel (09L)

Posted in Aviation | Heathrow Plane Spotting on Wednesday 7 February 2018

This is another post of a series about plane spotting locations at Heathrow. To see them all, take a look at the Plane Spotting Locations at Heathrow: Overview post. This post covers a popular hotel giving good views of landings on runway 09L and take offs from 27R.


This is a Thistle hotel with a car park, accessed off the Bath Road A4 which runs East-West just to the north of the airport boundary. The hotel is at the top left hand (North West) corner of the airport and gives good close-up views of aircraft approaching runway 09L (used when the airport is on Easterlies operation). You are in an elevated position on the first floor and so have a great view of the aircraft coming in from the right over Windsor. You can also see them landing in front of you and slowing down. However you cannot see them turn off the runway because trees and buildings get in the way. This spot is also good for take offs from 27R, this is the same runway when they are taking off towards Windsor on Westerlies operation. You see them climbing high going from left to right. You can also see movements around Terminal 5, the terminal used by British Airways.

You face south with the sun roughly in front of you, so photography is sometimes tricky because of the light.

Park in the hotel car park. Enter the hotel at the main entrance (reception area). Go straight on to the right of the coffee bar and up the stairs to the Runway bar which is signposted. There is a bar/restaurant which has an outside terrace. The hotel tolerates #AvGeek plane spotters, but only those who buy a coffee in the coffee bar you passed in reception (we got told off once). There are chairs and tables on the terrace and outdoor heaters with timer switches but no shelter. To the left on the same level is an inside bar area.

Best for views of

Landings on 09L (the northern runway used for landings when planes approach over Windsor on Easterlies operation).

Take offs from 27R (the northern runway used for take offs when planes take off over Windsor on Westerlies operation).

Ground movements around Terminal 5 (British Airways planes).

Location map




The hotel has its own car park. You can park there as a visitor. When you enter the car park you take a ticket from the machine at the barrier. At the end of your visit present your ticket to the reception desk and they will charge you for the time you have been there (or not, depending on how long you have been there, how much you smile at them and how nice they are feeling!) It will cost around £2 for 2 hours parking.

Getting there without driving

TfL buses 423 and 350 pass close to the hotel. Check out bus route details here.

When to visit

Visit when planes are landing on runway 09L, that is when Heathrow is on Easterlies operation (when aircraft are approaching the airport over Windsor from West to East). Also when on Westerlies and planes are taking off from 27R.

You can check for this in real time at the Twitter feed @HeathrowNoise - look for "landing on the northern runway (09L)" and "taking off from the northern runway (27R)".


This is a hotel so the facilities are excellent. Toilets, a coffee bar, a restaurant, bar and open first floor terrace with runway views are all available. Check out the hotel website for full details.


Around £2 for parking and £3.50 for a coffee.

Photos and videos taken at the spot


A BA 747 landing - you can see Terminal 5 on the right, also see what I mean about sun glare at this location


A popular spotting location - a BA A380 and on the left the control tower with a commanding view of the airport


A BA A380 takes off using runway 27R, heading West towards Windsor


8/10 - good facilities and great views of aircraft lining up to land, landing and ground movements around terminal 5, however the south facing view (giving relatively poor lighting for photos) lets it down a little.

To see more Heathrow plane spotting locations, take a look at the Plane Spotting Locations at Heathrow: Overview post.

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