I have been on several airports in my whole life. Of course, I am not flying that often to be in 90% of airports in Europe, but my experience is high enough to give you some information on which airports are cool and which are not. Of course – this is just my opinion, but still – maybe you can share the same experience?
I won’t write about all the airports that I have been in, as in total it was around 20 airports both in Poland and abroad. Nevertless I would like to share my opinions on several airport – both good and bad.
My favourite airport
Since my first flight from this airport I really cannot say any bad word on it. It’s of course… Tallinn Lennart Meri Airport!
I was super impressed with the airport itself. It is very small, I would even say – tiny for any capital city in any country. When you enter, it does not give you any feeling that it is any different than the other airports (except the exterior), you have check-in desks, some shops, toilets (which ask you to check your zipper when you leave btw ;) ) etc. BUT! After you enter passenger zone, the magic starts!
Do you expect such view on your local or main country airport? Well, not really! First of all, I need to point out that this picture is taken from travelweekly.com website which I obviously recommend :) And second: yes, that is the general feeling when you enter the passenger zone – colourful, with many different uses (art gallery on the airport? Why not), but that is not all.
Tallinn airport ofers things like: free wifi everywhere, free tablets provided by Telia, playground for the children, books free of charge, quite a lot of shops, cafes, restaurants, smoking areas, some gates have armchairs and sofas, there are a lot of wooden floors etc. Yes, you got me right, it does not feel like an airport! Does this gate look like in an airport? Well, I don’t think so!
The other advantages of flying from TLL:
- It’s like 15 minutes from the center by bus, of course it can take more when there are some rush hours, but not that much more.
- The number of flights does not give the feeling that you are on the overcrowded airport.
- People everywhere are really friendly! That includes security check employees that speak some English.
The biggest disadvantage is the fact that it does not serve many destination, as it is rather small. Still – for me this airport gets nothing else but 5/5.
Decent airport, though some things might be improved…
Warsaw Fryderyk Chopin Airport
I am not exactly objective as it’s a main Polish airport, but I departed from this airport for most of my travels by plane. Warsaw Airport is located around 9 kilometres from the center which is not much taking into consideration that Warsaw is really a big city. Since 2012 there is an option to get to the airport by train (with SKM – Szybka Kolej Miejska or KM – Koleje Mazowieckie) and before that – you could come with a bus or with a car / taxi. The train is very efficient and it takes around 25 minutes to get from the airport to the center at any time of the day.
Chopin Airport is sometimes referred to Okęcie Airport – not sure why, but there are two names used. Keep that in mind when travelling there :)
The airport itself is clean, the dominating colour is orange, the seats are silver-metallic. It looks like that all the way on the airport. Have a look (Picture from warszawa.wikia.com, made by user under a nickname Boston9). This part is a Schengen zone gates. Non Schengen ones are in the opposite direction.
So, Chopin looks like a fine airport, but why does it need some improvement? Here we go:
- The staff is not nice at all, with just a few exceptions – I understand that security officers might not be the most emotional people on the planet, but I came across a rude behaviour from check-in desk agents, support people on-site (even sadder – I was addressed in a very rude way and… in English. I explained we can speak Polish to me – did not help), some people in the stores. The last group is definitely the nicest of all as it is mostly young people.
- I know this is an airport, but prices are like… WOW. I went to the kiosk to buy something to eat – the sandwich was for 4 euros, so I resigned. Bigger, better and tastier sandwich on the plane costs 3 euro. Small coffee is like 5-6 euro somewhere. Some of the items are overprices by over 200% comparing to the regular shops, even those from Warsaw that are more expensive as it’s a capital city.
- I have noticed that some shops are using 1 EUR = 3 PLN rate, just like the in-flight service. Ouch…
On the contrary:
- They have recently opened a new part of a terminal that was being renovated. It looks nice and increases the space. Now you can also go directly from the train to the renovated part of the terminal without walking outside the train station area. Very useful if it rains!
- The signs are clear and informative, you cannot really get lost on this airport.
- If you arrive to Chopin Airport and your goal is the other city (e.g. my home town of Suwałki) – there is a bus terminal directly on the airport. Of course it is a small terminal, but there are many intercity buses going from there during the day.
- There are barely no delays on the airport. Everything seems to be very well organized.
Would give it 3,5/5
Now the worst airport…
Well, I was a bit unsure which one should I put, but I think my no. 1 in the category of worst airports is… Charleroi, Belgium.
I flew to Charleroi with Ryanair from Warsaw-Modlin airport (more about it in a second). I know Charleroi is for cheap airlines, but I was shocked how it is all done there. There were literally hundreds of people going through security check. It took almost 30 minutes of queue. Luckily I had already checked-in, so I did not risk being late. After those 30 minutes I went to the passenger area and what I see? Dozens of people again, barely no space to move, very uncomfortable and narrow walking paths and almost a claustrophobic feeling.
The nice part of it was piano where people could play. As much as I hated this airport, I need to point out that the idea is awesome, especially if someone knows how to play. Picture comes from this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LDnLA0n6ngc (one more time, watch it, it’s awesome!)
The good thing about Charleroi Airport is the fact that there is a bottom floor as well. You are going down to it by some stairs (I did not see the elevator) and when you get there, it seems to be very empty. Why? There are 2 possible reasons:
- Not many people found it as the signs are not good at all (I found the stairs completely accidentally).
- There are no restaurants or shops downstairs. If you want to eat – there are some vending machines at decent prices. I remember however it was not possible to use card in them and they repeatedly rejected all my coins of 1 euro… oh well…
I definitely know that if the airport serves almost 7 million passengers per year, it should be bigger. Otherwise, it causes a lot of stress and traffic. I had enough of this airport after 10 minutes.
It gets 1,5/5 for the piano.
Some other honorable mentions :)
- Sofia, Bulgaria – it’s a nice airport yet one of the most boring ones I have ever been to. Staff is nice, it’s enough to get there 1 hour and 15 minutes (already tested) before the flight unless your airlines tend to close the check-in early. You can get to the airport with a subway (for around a year now). Before, the best option was a taxi. 3,5/5 is the score.
- Varna, Bulgaria – tiny, yet very nice and cozy. Not much to do there, however I felt all right in the airport. It was in summer and it was not overcrowded at all. There is also a very nice coffee shop and a viewing tarrace (the top picture is from there). 3/5
- Warsaw-Modlin, Nowy Dwór Mazowiecki, Poland – as you can see the name is Warsaw-Modlin, but it’s about 50 km from Warsaw. This airport is the worst nightmare if you need to wait for your flight or after your flight. I waited there for 4 hours before the flight and 4 hours after I landed as my bus home was after midnight. There is nothing happening in Modlin, only Ryanair is flying and the airport looks like a giant bread box from outside. There is one grocery store on the airport (more overpriced than stores in Chopin airport) + several restaurants. The biggest issue is the fact the airport is in the middle of nowhere, and if you have like 3 hours for your flight – going to Warsaw is not really an option. Good and comfy for flying, horrible for waiting. 2/5
- Wrocław, Poland – why it gets my honorable mention? Well, if your flight is in the morning and you slept for only 2 hours, you wish you could sleep a bit more. It was the case with me and my colleague in Wrocław few years ago. Our flight was at 6 in the morning, so we needed to reach the airport at 4. We got to sleep at 1.00 the same night. At 4.30 we have already been to the gates and… there were some special chaise longues next to them. We just went asleep on them. Great idea Wrocław, great idea! 3/5 just because there is not much to do :)
And what are your favourite and least favourite airport?