Aeropuerto Internacional José Martí near Havana is the main international gateway to Cuba. With Varadero, it handles about 80 percent of Cuba's international passengers. Other interesting services include freight handling as well as domestic air traffic, making it one of the premier destinations for aviation enthusiasts visiting the island. Beware, plane spotting is neither understood nor appreciated in Cuba.
José Martí's layout is rather complicated with no less than four passenger terminals, each serving a different purpose. The terminals are scattered along the north side and east side of the airport, which has a single 06/24 runway.
The airport is situated about 15kms southwest of downtown Havana on Avenida Van Troi y Final. There's no regular bus service between Havana and the airport. A metered taxi ride will take about half an hour will cost around $20. Most tour operators arrange minibus transfers. There's a bus service available for transfer between the various terminals. Rental cars are available at the airport.
Around the Airport
1Terminal 3 International flights
As most travelers arrive at terminal 3 this will be the starting point of our guide. Terminal 3 handles most of the regular international flights and offers the best facilities. It is situated halfway down the north side of the runway. Limited views can be obtained from the terminal building itself, hindered by omnipresent security guards. From both sides of the parking lot, aircraft parked on the apron can easily be read off.
2Terminal 2 Miami charters
Located on the north side, just in front of the 24 threshold, terminal 2 handles mainly schedule charter flights from Miami; no regularly scheduled flights from the USA are allowed due to the embargo. As with terminal 3, the parking lot provides views of aircraft parked near this terminal as well as the cargo terminal, which is situated between terminal 2 and 3.
3North side runway 24
Continuing clockwise around the airport, just after leaving terminal 2 there's a small parking lot to the left of the road. Although obstructed by some trees, this spot allows a distant peek at the aircraft parked near terminal 5 as well as aircraft on finals for runway 24. Backlight does not allow decent photographs to be taken from here.
4South side runway 24
Turning right to round the 24 threshold, continue till your road merges with another one into one road and find yourself a spot in the build-up area to the left side. From here you will be able to view aircraft landing on runway 24 with appropriate light conditions for photography.
5Terminal 5 Aerocaribbean
Terminal 5 is situated in the south east corner of the airfield, just south of the 24 threshold. This terminal is the main hub for Aerocaribbean, providing both domestic and regional flights. Aerotaxi, a domestic charter company, is also present. Views from outside are very scarce, but taking a flight from here will leave no aircraft escape your binoculars. Just past the terminal you might be able to watch aircraft parked at the cargo terminal across the runway.
6South side runway 06
For the more adventurous enthusiast this spot can prove very rewarding. Coming from terminal 5, head straight south and take the first road on your right after entering the next village. Continue towards the fence, park your car on one side of the road out of sight from the airfield and continue by feet. This spot provides excellent views of aircraft landing on runway 06, with favourable light conditions for most of the day.
7South west side runway 06
A suitable alternative for spot 6 and probably less risky is spot 7. From spot 6, head back to the intersection, turn right, continue just across the railway line and park your car near the trees. Although a bit distant, good pictures of aircraft landing on runway 06 can be made as well. Light is best in the morning.
8Terminal 1 Domestic flights
The final spot is located west of our starting point, terminal 3. Terminal 1 handles mostly domestic flights. Just before reaching the terminal, decent views can be obtained of the many aircraft parked with the maintenance center between terminals 1 and 3. Aircraft parked near terminal 1 can hardly be seen; again, taking a flight from here is probably your best option.
Overview of Havana's air park, near spot 1. Patrick van Stiphout.
Order of Battle Cuba
|Cuba - Air Force|
|Baracoa - Gustavo Rizo (Oriente)   subscribers only|
|Havana - José Martí Intl|
|Havana - Playa Baracoa   subscribers only|
|Holguin - Frank Pais Intl   subscribers only|
|San Antonio de los Baños   subscribers only|
|Santa Clara - Abel Santamaria   subscribers only|
|Santiago de Cuba - Antonio Maceo Intl   subscribers only|
|Varadero - Juan Gualberto Gómez Intl   subscribers only|