Heathrow – Spotting at Novotel

London’s Heathrow Airport, the busiest in the UK, and before Covid-19, one of the busiest in the world. Back when I started this blog in early 2019, an AvGeek trip to Heathrow was one of the first trips I did specifically for the blog (read about that here), and on 23rd September 2020, 18 months later, I returned to the airport to try out a new AvGeek spot.

The viewing deck at Novotel London Heathrow Airport T1, T2 & T3

In late August, the Novotel London Heathrow Airport T1, T2 & T3, opened up their panoramic 4th floor Heathrow Suite as a spotting area, with views out across the airport from its position midway along the northern runway 09L/27R. There is an entry cost for the viewing deck, with various options depending how long you want to stay ranging from £3 for 1 hour, £10 for 4 hours up to £20 for a full day (0400-2200). The full day rate is reduced to £15 if you book five days in advance and there are also monthly packages (£50) and overnight packages (from £70) which include a room, breakfast and a day pass to the viewing deck.

The Novotel is located along Bath Road, which runs parallel to the north side of the airport and contains many of the T123 hotels. Buses run along the road from both the Heathrow Central Bus station and the Terminal 5 bus station. Buses also connect to Hatton Cross, Hounslow West, Uxbridge and West Ruislip tube stations along with Hayes & Harlington and West Drayton National Rail stations.

You can see over most of the airfield from the viewing deck

In terms of facilities, the viewing deck being located in a hotel is advantageous. In the viewing area itself there is seating and tables along with both standard power and USB sockets. There is also an accessible unisex toilet facility within the viewing area near the lifts, which make the viewing area accessible to all. The hotel has its own restaurant on the ground floor, which supposedly provides a 30% discount for visitors to the viewing deck.

Due to its location on the northside of the airport, the viewing deck is best for viewing aircraft movements on the northern runway 09L/27R, however due to being on the top floor, movements on the southern runway are also visible. During my visit takeoffs were taking place on 27R and so aircraft were just starting their take-off roll in front of my spot on the deck.

Vistara and Gulf Air 787s parked on the remote stands

Whilst Heathrow is still much quieter than before lockdown, it is showing signs of recovery, with many of the pre-Covid airlines having returned, although generally with smaller aircraft and/or less flights per day. One silver lining is that the reduced demand has led to new airlines serving the airport, either on an ad-hoc basis or permanently. During my visit, a Vistara Airlines Boeing 787 was parked up on one of the remote stands closest to the northern runway.

One downside to the viewing area is that it is to the northside of Bath Road and whilst it is taller than the buildings to the southside, they do still obstruct some of the view, especially of the middle part of the runway. I also found that I was having to use more zoom than I would like whilst using my phone, and so although it is possible to get okay photos (see below), I would recommend using a camera with a decent zoom for photos at this location.

A Gulf Air 787 departing to Bahrain

Its great that a new viewing deck has opened up at Heathrow and although the location has a couple of downsides, overall, it does provide great views out over airport. I think pricing wise it is definitely more worthwhile for longer visits; however, this shouldn’t be a problem as its open from 0400-2200 so you can be at the airport and see EVERY take-off and landing on any given day. I’d definitely visit again and those who put the effort into making it happen should be commended!

Viewing location                   4* Charge (£10 for 4 hours)           3* Facilities                         3* Variety of Traffic                 4* LHR (Novotel) Overall Score     3.5*

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