Please note that the information on this website regarding photographers' rights and UK law must not be regarded as authoritative. It is written in general terms with a view to increasing general everyday understanding. However it is neither intended to provide authoritative advice nor to be used as guidance in specific cases. Anyone seeking authoritative advice regarding such matters, or anyone involved in a particular legal case, must seek the advice of a suitably qualified solicitor.
Since the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, photography at airports has generally become a more sensitive issue - along with all other security-related matters. Tighter rules and new restrictions have been introduced to prevent further incidents and protect the safety of the travelling public. It is all too easy to point out apparent contradictions or seemingly ineffective or unnecessary checks but, when combined, their effect has been to make the lives of potential terrorists more difficult. It is important to remember, when standing in yet another airport queue, that the whole security structure is designed to prevent the occurrence of future incidents. When compared with the consequences of terrorist attacks, the freedom to take photographs at airports seems somewhat insignificant.
In the case of London's Heathrow Airport, BAA states:
"Filming at busy international airports provides logistical and security challenges which means that whilst we will be accommodating it is sometimes simply not possible to facilitate non-essential filming and photography requests.
All filming and photography within the airport requires a permit. Generally, a request must be made at least two working days before the required date and security will remove anyone filming and taking photographs without this permission."
Photography of arriving and departing planes is possible from various locations around Heathrow, but photographers are sometimes challenged by police for understandable reasons. A list of such convenient locations may be found by searching the web.
Comparable situations exist at London's Gatwick Airport, at Stansted and other major airports. The best approach is to consult the relevant website and seek permission where appropriate.