Trying to be objective about Baneasa Airport

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.

35 thoughts on “Trying to be objective about Baneasa Airport

  1. I guess we’re stuck with it.

    Currently there’s no money, neither for improving the existing structure or for building a new one. And there probably won’t be any money in the next 10 years either for such a project.

    Maybe we should wait until Bucharest forms a megapolis together with Ploiesti and build another airport in Ploiesti…

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  2. I grieve whenever I return to Otopeni and it is normal, dull, like anywhere, no longer people smoking everywhere and disorganisation and friendly chaos. I wonder if I have a frivolous or profound nature.

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  3. Update from me, an American living in Bucharest:

    I am having a terrible day today. I have been to the embassy and two police stations: the corrupt mayor of my Sector 1 has a contract with a towing company and tows cars from proper parking places simply to make extra cash. Our car was towed from in front of our apartment and we must pay $320 to get it back. There are no signs anywhere saying we couldn’t park and no painted lines on the street. Nothing. So, there is no way for us now to know where to park safely. The policeman laughed at me when I asked where on Stirbei Voda I can park safely. He said there is no safe parking place in Bucharest. This is crazy. I cannot be forced to pay $320 every other week to a mayor just so he can drive a new 100,000 euro car. Bucharest deserves the terrible reputation it has. These politicians are primitive backward peasants who are stealing from their own people and there are no structures in place to fight them. Please spread the word far and wide about the Sector 1 mayor Andrei Chiliman.

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    1. Are you absolutely sure you were parked legally? Or were you parked in a place where everyone always parks (and has done since the dawn of time) but which is not in fact a legal parking place? Look behind trees for hidden no parking signs…

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    2. It happened to my father too, one month ago, and he had to pay 320$ too :-??

      Really, for us there is nothing we can do because if we file charges for abbuse or robbery the police will laugh at us.

      But you have the U.S. embassy behind you, what’s their opinion? Will they support you to file charges for abbuse or robbery?

      At least did you manage to get back your car today? Because tomorrow there’s another 100$ to be added to the 320$ …

      I think I warned people on the Bucharest Life blog about this practice a few weeks ago; it happens in all sectors of Bucharest, not only in Sectorul 1.

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  4. Haven’t easyjet and aerlingus stopped flights to the UK because they couldn’t survive at Otopeni?

    On any aerlingus flight I’ve been on it’s been half empty, most people for some reason preferring WizzAir, even though the prices are roughly equal most of the time.

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  5. Not one sign on our stretch of Stirbei Voda. Just checked again. Romanians have advised that I park only on side streets and not on any major road in Bucharest. As I walked around all I saw today were cars parked in intersections, in the middle of the street and in cross walks. I feel helpless. I am a law abiding person, wanting to do what is right and to follow the law but my car was taken where there is no sign. Then, wherever I look cars are parked right next to no parking signs but are not being taken away. So, how to know where to park? It is a crazy situation that makes me feel that I have no control and makes me scared. Will I have to pay a few hundred 200 euro fees every month? In the US you would only get a ticket if it was clearly marked no parking. Bucharest is such an insular place that it only functions for locals. If you are a Westerner and did not grow up in the chaos and corruption of Bucharest you don’t know the mentality and how to act and what to do. The culture here is so undecipherable to me still and I have been in Bucharest since 2008.

    Bucharest deserves its reputation. All I can do as an American journalist is to spread the truth about Bucharest to the world and I will continue to make every effort to do so.

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    1. Actually there are other rules that forbid parking in several places even if signs are not present. Maybe you parked the car less then 25m away from a bus station…

      http://instructorauto.bynet.ro/regulament-cod-rutier-5-3-9.php

      But still this is only in theory because in practice it’s impossible to follow.

      No, we’re all quite helpless against the towing companies, Romanians and foreigners alike; all we can hope for is that they don’t get to our cars until we leave.

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    2. but don’t they have a report about the reason your car was towed? I mean, they have to write somewhere why they decided to take your car. In Prague they also take a picture proving your car’s position… but anyway I’m sure that even in Bucharest there is some “dossier” attached to each car towed.

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      1. No, there was no picture of our car, but I shot hi definition video when we went to pick up the car of the guards and the parking lot. I asked for help wanting to know how we can know where to park since there are no signs and they just smiled and shook their heads and said they cannot help us. Any Western tourist would find the behavior of Romanians and the general mentality of automatically giving into “authority” very strange. Romania was controlled fro 24 years by a peasant who grew up in a casa de lemn. Sorry, but this is all laughable. I cannot take Romanians seriously. This place is a farce.

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      2. You hold the key for a long, prosperous and happy life in Romania (“I cannot take Romanians seriously. This place is a farce.”) and still you sound so unhappy and nervous :)…

        Still, I think you should have been presented with the paper that states the exact position of your car and the reason it was judged to be in an zone where parking is not permitted. As Parmalat said the absence of a sign doesn’t guarantees that you can park there.

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  6. Update! We got our 1993 Skoda back but they first wanted 1240 lei from us and I yelled at them and said NO! we are not Romanian. No! We will not pay, we don’t have the money to get back to Poland. So we only paid 868 lei.

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    1. You were lucky, they usually add 100$ per day.

      The towing companies rely on the fact that you need your car and until you can place them on trial you’ll still have to pay exactly what they asked you to.

      And even if they lose the trial after a few months they’ll just release your car for free.

      This is what a totalitarian state looks like.

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      1. They did add $100 a day–372 RON–but I yelled at the woman in english and shouted NO I WILL NOT PAY WE ARE TOURISTS, THERE WAS NO SIGN SAYING “NO PARKING”. WE JUST WANT OUR CAR BACK SO WE CAN GET THE HECK OUT OF THIS AWFUL COUNTRY.

        And she then let us pay only 868 lei!!!

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  7. I love this! Listen to this NPR report! Classic Stuff! Poor yourself an espresso and sit back and revel in the perversity of Romania!

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=120290631

    $320 is American pricing–for people making $50,000+ a year not for a country where the average wage is like 400 euros/month euros at best.

    Andrei Chiliman should be ashamed of himself. In the US I have never gotten a parking ticket, EVER! in 15 years of driving. Parking spaces are clearly marked everywhere with time limits and pay posts. It is simple NOT to get fined in the US.

    In Bucharest it seems the mayors of the sectors are taking advantage of poor infrastructure to exploit their own citizens. If Bucharest officials allowed banks to begin making loans in the 2000s and for everyone to buy so many cars, they should have also provided adequate infrastructure along the way. Now, they are applying EU laws haphazardly without proper car parks and signage. This is criminal.

    I know that none of these corrupt government officials could care less about a Romanian citizen let alone an American who has chosen to live in Romania. Why am I here, some may ask? To exploit Romania myself!!!

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    1. That’s exactly what they do. And nobody cares, nobody will intervene.

      The communists who were in power before 1989 and the PSD who came after that, at least they had souls, they wanted to do something for the people.

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    2. @David Ellicson,

      Nobody invited you to visit Romania! So, don’t do it again! Remain stupid and arogant and visit only USA!!!! We do not want you here!!!!

      By the way – next time, may be you will be raped! By the barbarian Romanians who impose fines for incorrect parking! It is a poorer country than USA, but Romania is most safest than your country. And yes, it is a lovely place – it has nice people and places!

      Go back to your “lovely America”, with drugs and guns! Be happy or, ah, this cannot happen, as you don’t know what happiness is!

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  8. A few more things I wanted to add: firstly, I am very happy I am from America after my experience that last two days here. I have never felt so violated as I have here in Bucharest when a corrupt mayor with a contract with a towing company stole my car from a street with no signs. The car we 35 meters from an intersection on one side and more than 50 from the other. $260 for this is crazy. In the US you never would have to pay the next day or face $100 for each successive day. This would be crazy in America let alone here in Romania an impoverished country, the second poorest in Europe. Someone with power needs to speak up and make a stand.

    America has its problems, but it doesn’t normally screw over the average person. Fines are reasonable and easily appealed in court.

    The situation in Bucharest on many fronts rightfully gives Romania a very very bad name. Romania deserves the way it is presented abroad. This country has extremely serious issues that must be addressed.

    I feel completely robbed today. Romanians are a very strange people, perversely screwed up in the head. These politicians need help. They need to be faced with the reality of what they are doing.

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    1. You got a parking ticket and “you have never felt so violated”? You watch too many emotional TV dramas, perhaps you should look elsewhere for a more appropriate cliche. And the odd rant is one thing, but you — I’m sorry to say — come across as slightly unhinged.

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      1. He’s right, that’s how us locals feel too.

        Only that we’re used to being in deep shit, while he’s an American and he has higher expectations.

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      2. Romania is a very poor country. The parking ticket was much higher than what it would be in the US where people on average make 10-20 times what people make here per month.

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      3. As an American that has been to Bucuresti 3 times….I loved it. Also as an American I know all to well how much Americans like to bitch, bitch,bitch. I t seems is a case of a people that have too much and are never happy…….the one important quality I noticed of the Romanian people…they seem to be happier than most Americans. This is my observation just from everyday contact and 4 months total there.

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    2. And what is the “ABROAD” doing for this country?

      I sent at least 10 messages to the NATO Hq in Europe to intevene at least once in the matter concerning the military pensions. They don’t give a shit, they didn’t answer not once. Last time I called them traitors and to get the hell away from this country because they don’t give a shit.

      The U.S. ambassador in Romania was present in the Parliament when the law for Basescu’s National Integrity Agency had to be passed. For what reason needed the U.S. ambassador to be present when a law that would Basescu to exercise political pressure (the ANI is an instrument of political pressure and only that) had to be passed???

      For what reason was not the U.S. ambassador present at Dorohoi when the floods came and thousands of people remained without shelter?! Nobody gives a shit about the people of this country, but these days it has become even more clear that everyone has abbandoned us.

      You’re on your own my friend, we’re on our own too in this country.

      Ceausescu died without having a house of his own. He was the greatest leader in the history of Romania. The conjuration between the West and Romanian corrupt politicians that came after him took the country to it’s knees.

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      1. Ceausescu was great when he was raping Romania of all that she was able to produce in order to pay the foreign debt? He was great when he was murdering dissidents? Hmmmm…if this is great I vote for Hitler as man of the year!

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    3. What exactly was the reason they gave you for towing the car? They must have some reason, we heard your point of view would be interesting to hear theirs also.

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  9. I agree that Baneasa resembles more a bus station then an airport. From what I read in the past one – two years it seems to me that “the powers that be” want to close the airport (the area the airport is would be a very appreciated residential area if the airport would go away), and that is why no investments are made in it (an usual way to close something working in Romania is to slowly bankrupt the place).

    On the other side, I think there are a number of other airports in Europe in which the arrival of multiple planes in a short interval at the same terminal causes a bit of chaos. I wouldn’t over dramatize the Baneasa situation. Take it as a “pressurization chamber” that allows you to enter all worked up and ready to go (nuts) in Bucharest’s atmosphere :).

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  10. To Mr. David Ellicson who said:

    “The situation in Bucharest on many fronts rightfully gives Romania a very very bad name. Romania deserves the way it is presented abroad. This country has extremely serious issues that must be addressed.

    I feel completely robbed today. Romanians are a very strange people, perversely screwed up in the head. These politicians need help. They need to be faced with the reality of what they are doing.”

    Nothing is more ennerving that reading generalised opinions about a whole country based on unpleasant experiences in one place. I would like to remind Mr. Ellicson that Bucarest does not equal Romania and just because he ended up living in a shit hole it does not justify him to extend his frustrations to 23 million people, entire cities and generally better places to live than Bucarest. What he says in these quotes clearly denotes that he lacks the ability to reason objectively, which is a mortal sin for a journalist. I find it utterly arogant and defying the way he expects that, just because he is American, he is above everyone else in Romania, when it wac clearly explained to him that the towing business is unfortunately done like that. To Mr. Ellicson’s sheer disgust, I presume, I do believe that once in Romania everybody should be screwed just the same, American or not.

    Clearly, Mr. Ellicson needs to get out of Bucarest and do more travelling in Romania in order to acquire more experience, and maybe restrain from the temtation of generalising. Other then that, good luck with your apocaliptic threat: do go out there and fight with all your being in order to tell the world the “truth ” about Romania and the Romanians, God help you!
    Meanwhile, the barbarians over here should also feel free to spread the word about the arogance, stupidity and narrow-mindness of the American people. Isn’t that right, Mr. Ellicson?
    Amen!

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  11. Thanks a million Mr. Ellicson. You certainly did brighten up my day.

    Quotes:

    ‘America has its problems, but it doesn’t normally screw over the average person.’

    ‘Romanians are a very strange people, perversely screwed up in the head. These politicians need help. They need to be faced with the reality of what they are doing.’

    Go and throw your stones in your own glass house back home in Buttcrack, Kentucky or whatever you call home.

    Romania has its faults and it can be annoying at times. But nevertheless, one of the best things with Bucharest as a foreigner is that there is never a dull moment here. Also, it keeps a lot of arseholes from coming back.

    Good riddance. Good luck with that health reform.

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