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Licenciado Benito Juarez International Airport

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Continent: North America Country: Mexico

Mexico City
Licenciado Benito Juarez International
Location Mexico City, Mexico
Airport type Commercial
Overview map [ ]
Tower 118.1, 118.7
Ground 121.85, 121
Clearance 122.1
Approach 121.2
ATIS 127.65
Plane Spotting Hotels guide

MEX/MMMX is Mexico's largest and busiest airport and home base to Aeromexico, Interjet, and Aeromar, as well as the cargo airlines AeroUnion and MasAir. It also serves the Mexican national air force and federal police force. There are two runways, RWY 05L/23R and 05R/23L, with the most frequent configuration is in the 05 direction. Mexico City sits in a large valley at an altitude over 2200 meters (7200 feet). (The surrounding tall volcanos would make a spectacular backdrop if they weren't most of the time invisible behind the famous air pollution. There are a few percent of days of the year when these volcanoes are visible, most of these days being during late Fall and early Winter)

No official spotting locations exist at MEX. Security is generally friendly, but being able to hold simple conversations in Spanish goes a long way.

Spotting Locations

Highway Overpass

Although surrounded by chain-link fence and often swarming with touts, the best public spot for watching traffic is the pedestrian footbridge across the highway on the far west end of the field. It is at the end of RWY 05L and has good views down both runways as well as the Terminal 1 ramp.

From Terminal 1 arrivals/departures level, follow the signs all the way westward (left, if arriving) toward the Metro station, continuing out the doors past the taxi stand. At the Metro station itself, veer left until you're at the road and continue south fifty meters or so. You will see a long winding ramp up to a pedestrian crossing of the road. The top is covered in fence, but the end of the ramp has no fence and still has a good view.

WARNING Mexico City has become much safer over the last few years, but the neighborhoods around the airport are still notorious. Do not take anything unnecessary with you to this location and be conscious of crowds letting out of the Metro station, if for no other reason than to be accommodating to the local commuters. The bridge is very narrow and crowded on weekends, with few spotters during weekdays. Be prepared to continuously fend off chicle salesman and other touts, and bored locals looking for friendly conversation. (There's a 24h left luggage/locker service in Terminal 1 (ground-side) for the rest of your stuff.) Also beware that this location is completely exposed. At MEX's low latitude, the sun gets very intense year round, and the high altitude means a dramatically higher UV dose. Wear a hat and long sleeves and a strong sunscreen. Thunderstorms develop (and dissipate) rapidly in the afternoon during the summer, and it's probably best to avoid the freeway ramp when the lightening starts.

Terminal 1

Air-side at Terminal 1, quite good, if partial, views of the runways can be had at the west end, beyond puerta 20. (East of that, the international arrivals vestibule blocks any view.) These gates are often empty and no one seems to mind if you stand at the windows and take photos.

Hotel Camino Real

Camino Real is located across a footbridge from Terminal 1, and are very accommodating to requests for rooms with runway views. In particular, ask for a room as high and westward in the south tower as you can get. Room 6127 is known to be good. Beware that the windows are probably always dirty and do not open, so this is probably best for numbers-takers (and Mode-S/ADS-B receivers), but reasonable photos can still be had with enough effort.

Parking Garage

The parking garage in front of Hotel Camino Real offers similar views, but look inconspicuous when the security patrols come around. They wear bright yellow vests, so you'll see them coming. As usual, be friendly and they'll likely go away.

Locations to Avoid

Unless you're with a local, don't try to navigate the neighborhood around the airfield.

Regular Traffic

By far, most of the traffic at MEX is Aeromexico, Aeromexico Connect, and Interjet. Aeromar, VivaAerobus, Copa, Taca/Lacsa (incl Taca Peru), and Volaris are also frequent. British Airways, Air France, Lufthansa, and KLM have daily 747-400 service, LAN twice-daily 767 service, and Iberia twice-daily A340 service, all arriving between 1700 and 2000. Air Canada, United/Continental, and American Airlines fly several flights a day.

Also watch out for Mexican air force ("fuerza aerea") C-130's, 727's, and 737's, Mexican Navy ("marina") C-295's, and the distinctive all-black CN-235's operated by the Policía Federal.

Facilities and Transportation

The airport is about MX$120 by taxi from the central district. You can get to/from the airport via the Metro but it's at least two transfers and several questionable stations away from anywhere you're likely to be staying or want to go.

Another way is to ride Metrobús (Mexico City's Bus Rapid Transit System) Line 4 headed to the Airport, it's a easily-recognizable red bus that says "Centro Histórico - Downtown" on its side. It stops just two blocks from the Zócalo (Main Square) to the north, and also in the northeast corner of the "Alameda Central" Park, just behind Bellas Artes (Fine Arts) Palace. It costs MX$30 and it's really safe. Just be careful, in the points listed above, there pass two different services of Metrobús, one takes you up to San Lázaro (Bus & Metro Station) for MX$6 and the other one is the service to Airport's Terminals (It reaches T1 first, and then it go on T2). You will recognize this last one because it's almost empty and it has the number $30.00 (it's fare) on the lower left corner of its windshield.

Note that you cannot ride the Aerotrain between terminals unless you're carrying a boarding pass for a relevant airline (you must also go through a basic security check).

In addition to Hotel Camino Real, there is also a Hilton within Terminal 1 and an NH hotel in Terminal 2. Not clear if they offer rooms with views of the airfield.