Friday, March 25, 2011

Best and Worst Airports in Europe

sleeping in airports

Pros and cons of travel

As all travelers, nomads and vagabonds will tell you, a life of travel is all they could ask for. It offers new discoveries on a regular basis, friends and acquaintances in places some people have not heard of and the convenience of being your own boss (if you are your own boss, that is). To me, nothing can compare to the thrill of travel, but like with everything else, there are setbacks in travel as well.

For instance, as the title of this post suggests, it is rather unlikely that you will come across somebody who loves hanging out in airports and the airport experience in general. It is always time–consuming even if you arrive right before the check-in ends (which I do not recommend anyway) or, furthermore, have checked in online and arrive only for the security check and the boarding. (Maybe it’s not so bad if you hang out in the best airport lounges of this world, but since I have not joined the elite club just yet, I’m talking about us regular people here.) There will always be a person who will create a queue by either losing his passport or a boarding pass or having twice as many liquids or some other issue, the queue will be getting anxious, tensions will rise, etc.

If you come too early, you might want to work a bit on your laptop. But there’s almost always the socket problem or it will be too hot or too cold or too crowded or too much stuff online and you think, “Down with work! I’d rather just surf!” (or is it just me?) Not to mention airports always insist on having uncomfortable chairs…

The food is expensive, too many boutiques and tax-free shops somehow have double to triple prices on regular products. The list goes on and on.

Here are three airports that I think offer their customer the worst airport experiences:

Worst airports in Europe

sleeping in airports

Domodedovo – Moscow, Russia

Well… where to begin! It’s both hot AND cold, the prices are ridiculously high, for example coffee will cost you about 6EUR and for this kind of money you’d expect it to be the best coffee in the world and yet it will taste like heated tap water mixed with instant coffee. Mmm… yummy!

Bergamo-Orio al Serio – Bergamo, Italy

I think chaos is not the last word that comes to mind when one thinks of Italy, but chaos wasn’t even the worst thing about this airport. The Service Charter of this airport states that it “operates 24 hours per day”, yet for some reason the airport was almost completely closed starting 10:30pm to about 03:40am with only a very small area available for about a hundred passengers (or more) who had no choice but to stay overnight at the airport. All that was available to the passengers, customers of the airport, was about 20 seats at the very entrance and the floor around it with total length of about 30-40 meters where people were forced to sit and lie on the floor instead of conveniently sitting down in chairs.

All of that was happening when it was about -5-10C outside, so each time the sliding doors were opening, people received a gush of freezing air into their faces, backs and so on.

I actually felt compelled to write the management and ask them what this whole closed airport thing was about. Here’s what I got in reply:

“We like to inform you that Bergamo-Orio al Serio is a “point to point” station not comparable to Intercontinental Hubs such New York, Moscow and Vienna are. Because of no operations are scheduled and no passengers long stays are planned between 23.00 and 04.00, we take advantage of night hours to perform effective cleaning services so just limited areas are available to our customers.”

Station might be the right name for it. It felt like it was a bus station for sure. As I said above, their Charter says it operates 24/7… yet in reality things are a bit different. Complete disappointment.

airport queue
Vnukovo – Moscow, Russia

Do not expect anybody to speak a word of English. Expect queues at the entrance (due to the recently introduced anti-terror measures *after* an explosion in Domodedovo) , queues at check in, mayhem at the security check after the check-in, queues at bathrooms, confusing signs and overall disrespectful attitude.

Best airports in Europe

Porto – Porto, Portugal

This newly renovated airport is spacious enough to accommodate many passengers, the staff is friendly and actually helpful, the building is extremely easy to navigate. Security check is efficient: I’d previously taken 4 flights with an oversized toothpaste tube in my carry-on and no one noticed. Porto staff made me take it out and while I was not happy at that moment, they were the only staff who actually did their job well. Also, the airport can be reached with an overground subway with nice views outside the window.

Schönefeld – Berlin, Germany

A big international hub and yet it is somehow efficient. Located right outside the city, it can be easily reached with several means of transport and it will not cost you more than 3EUR and is free with a monthly ticket (compare to 11EUR for Malpensa, for example). It is used by low-costs and regular airlines alike, the prices are moderate and the stores somehow unobtrusive… Best airport I’ve flown to and from so far (who knows maybe just as well the best airport in the world?) and it makes the actual physical travel part almost pleasant.

Photos by 1 - BriceFR, 2 - Travelin' Librarian, 3 - tomypelluz


Jessica said...

I quite like Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam. I've spent many many hours there, and there is loads to occupy time and comfy recliners to fall asleep in if necessary.

True story said...

Comfy recliners?! Mmm.. that sounds more like a dream!

Loeffle said...

Vienna = intercontinental hub? ;)

Anyway great read as always from your side. I can't judge on Moskva airports, but it sounds a bit like the good old "Soviet times". Anyway bad service is not confined to Russia or the "East", try Stuttgart Airport to get a taste of Swabians in bad humour being 110 % in everything. Kind of a shame as many "important" managers etc. land there.

I used to hate airports and flying as well. But now I'm nearing flight No 100.

A good airport can be quite nice, even outside the lounges (I don't qualify either). Airports like Singapore, Zürich or even Malta are made for travellers primarily. Even if you can go shopping or working there as well.

Bergamo is the typical low-cost-airline airport. These airports wouldn't exist without Ryanair, Wizzair etc. On a positive note you might be happy that these airlines and airports exist, on the otherhand you "pay the price" for having a bad airport and bad facilities. Low-cost-airlines pressure these airports (and even local governments) a lot. "Either you give us the low price or we land somewhere else.". I could tell you many examples in Germany (e.g. Lübeck, Zweibrücken or Hahn). The result is of course awful service.

My top airports:
Singapore (big, cozy, safe, free wifi & computers)
Zürich (well organized, friendly, punctual)
Kota Kinabalu (friendly, cheap, fast)
Stockholm Arlanda

My flop airports:
Copenhagen (unfriendly, chaotic, expensive, useless)
Oslo (one big duty free shop, extremely slow)
Dubai (overrated)
Stuttgart (see above)

True story said...

So it worked out finally, didn't it?

Actually I once flew out of Stuttgart to Moscow with German Wings. I had no problems and actually I remember there were no lines, quick and efficient. Who knows, maybe that's because I decided to fly instead of taking the bus for another 72 hours. :) So anything is better than that.

I heard Singapore is amazing, yes. Hopefully I'll stop by one day - preferable flying with Singapore Airlines. For free. ;)

Loeffle said...

Yes it did :)
I use google chrome now and can post with my google address.
Word Press account still doesnt work :(

alberto reyes said...

try frankfurt am main they are fckng nazis there, your stay expired for a few days, you pay a 150 euros fine and go to the police office at the airport, the funny thing is the majority of people at the police office are black people and people of color if you're black and have 'a first world passport' fly with the white people, you can find more blogs online about this racist airport, i thought i was the only one posting

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