Deserving of a holiday, Bucharest Life and family set off last week for the sun, knowing full well that the joys of a week’s lounging around doing bugger all (isn’t that just a normal week? – Ed) would be tempered by the horrors of using Bucharest’s Baneasa Airport.
We have banged on about Baneasa and its ghastliness before, as has just about anyone else who has ever used it. It is often described by locals as Autogara Baneasa (Baneasa Bus Station) as it resembles a (particularly unpleasant) provincial bus station, complete with charming drunks who appear to live there.
Built during the days when the sum total of Bucharest’s international air traffic consisted of a weekly flight to Moscow or East Berlin, Baneasa now sees tens of flights and several thousand passengers per day, yet has to make do with the same infrastructure that has served it for more than 50 years. It is therefore insanely – possibly even dangerously – crowded, especially during the morning rush from 6am to around 10am, after which things do appear to settle down a little.
Check-in for most flights is done at one desk (space forbids anymore). There are only two passport control booths, and just three very slow-moving security lanes. You can imagine how long the queues are at peak times.
There is nowhere to sit down, the rank toilets are always full of smokers, there are no facilities for families or mothers with babies, and everyone present is – after passing through two or three of the rings of hell – in an altogether nasty mood. You can’t blame them. By the time we got to our plane we were ready to snap. Tempers, as they say, had become frayed.
While Romanian membership of the Schengen Group of Nations (meant to happen next year) should help a little (the airport will probably have to be declared Schengen only, as we see no way of splitting Schengen from non-Schengen flights), the simple fact that passenger numbers continue to grow means that it is unlikely to become a more pleasant place anytime soon.
Of course – you may well argue – when we booked our tickets to and from Baneasa we knew full well what awaited us and should not be complaining.
Correct. Guilty as charged.
But many people do not know what Baneasa is like. For many visitors to Bucharest Baneasa airport is their first contact with the Romanian capital. And it is not a good one.
If two planes land within a few minutes of each other then you are buggered. Getting to your luggage becomes a survival of the fittest:
Indeed, Baneasa is the only airport we have ever seen people have to queue to get out of.
Really. It happened this morning. The tiny, narrow exit was simply overwhelmed with people, causing a blockage.
Baneasa airport should be closed, and flights moved to Otopeni Airport up the road, which is currently being enlarged despite operating under-capacity.
Would prices go up? Would airlines dissappear? Probably not.
While landing fees are certainly far higher at Otopeni than Baneasa, it is doubtful that any airlines will cancel flights because of the airport switch. Both EasyJet, which flies from Bucharest Otopeni to Milan and Madrid and Aer Lingus, which flies to Dublin have – to their eternal credit – famously refused to use the decrepit Baneasa. Both have proven that the low-cost model works perfectly well from Otopeni.
Let’s hope others take their lead.