Saturday, 7 July 2012

Modlin Airport - not a chimera

Yes, it's here - yes it exists - but will it be ready on 16 July? Poland's first all-new passenger airport to open in 44 years had its open-day today - thousands came to see Modlin, but there's still a question mark over whether Poland's civil aviation office (Urząd Lotnictwa Cywilnego) will sign off the runway as being ready for commercial passenger use in time. [Incidentally, urząd = 'office', biuro = 'office', but urząd does not mean the same as biuro.]

Rumours of the non-existence of Modlin Airport may have something to do with the fact that all the way up the siódemka ('national route 7') from Warsaw to the turn-off for it there is not one single road sign telling you where it is. Modlin Airport is actually easy to get to by car - head up the Wisłostrada, cross the river, take the first right after the Vistula onto DK62 (ul. Generała Wiktora Thommée - named after the Polish general who commanded the garrison that defended Modlin in September 1939) and first left off that. Easy.

There will be a bus service from town to Modlin (operated by Translud) for 33 złotys one way, or else take a Koleje Mazowieckie train to Modlin station (12.50 złotys), a bus will take you to the terminal (4 złotys). By 2014 (it is said), there will be a direct rail spur to the airport. But then the viaduct taking ul. Poloneza over the S2 was meant to have been ready by December 2010 and Jeziorki's still waiting. The bus is quicker than the train at night, the train quicker than the bus during peak hours.

The old website gives the impression that the former military airport is still little more than a planner's dream; Google searches throw up this site ahead of the new one, so confusion is expected (note to Modlin airport managers - find yourselves a search engine optimiser this week or it will be thin).

Anyway, today's dzień otwarty was a great opportunity to see the place a mere eight days before it (hopefully!) opens, and for the airport authorities it was a chance to see how the place works in practice. In the morning, people were invited to come along with dummy 'luggage' and enact check-in - suitcases were weighted and scanned; for the rest of the day, pretend passengers were allowed to test security.

Above: the drop-off zone in front of the terminal. As no one was flying anywhere today, and the temperature topped at 34C, dress code was... informal. Jaguar owner boasting of Knightsbridge address?

Above: departures hall. Information board can show up to 22 flights simultaneously (only). This is Poland's first purpose-built low-cost airport. No sleeves to take passengers to planes - no coaches - you walk from the gate. Planes are to be turned around in 25 minutes. The result should be fares significantly lower than from Okęcie.

Above: the guided tour takes visitors air-side. We can see the runway, 2.5km long, and 60m wide (the old military runway was 80m wide). No radar - that's based at Okęcie.

Above: we go back via the arrivals area. We are told that customs officers are not only looking for the usual drugs, tobacco, alcohol and foreign currency smugglers - they will also be looking for crocodile-skin belts and fake Nike T-shirts and Louis Vuitton handbags - you have been warned! Baggage reclaim is just around the corner.

Modlin will be open 24 hours a day, low-cost carriers first (WizzAir and RyanAir), though there are hopes that charter flights will start to fly from here in the autumn.

Above: vue générale of the Modlin terminal. Location-wise, to put into perspective with other European low-cost airports, as the crow flies, Modlin is 35km from Warsaw city centre. 'Brussels' Charlesroi is 45km from the centre of Brussels, 'Glasgow' Prestwick is 45km from Glasgow, 'London' Stansted is 50km from London, 'Paris' Beauvais is 70km from Paris, while 'Frankfurt' Hahn is a 102km from Frankfurt! (note - these are 'as the crow flies' distances and do not compare actual travelling time).

If the waiting list for your very own Clément Ader Éole or Avion III is too long, you can always consider buying a Polish-built Ornithopter (above) for your aerial commute.

The open day was well organised and fun for all. Above: musical entertainment laid on - a covers band that stuck to 1970s British music - Smokie, Elton John, Eric Clapton, Dire Straits.

Above: cooling things down on a scorching day, the Modlin airport fire brigade showed off their kit - and I hope it's never used in earnest. The open-day was a great example of community and customer relations, fostering pride that another infrastructure project has been completed (though I still worry about our flight on 18 July - will the ULC give its approval on time?)

This time last year:
Along Austro-Hungary's strategic railway

This time two years ago:
Gone is the threat of Państwo Smoleńskie

This time three years ago:
Get on your bike and RIDE!

This time four years ago:
Moles in my own garden


WPICity said...

Wiele osób jest rozczarowanych zarówno organizacją wczorajszego pikniku jak i samą infrastrukturą lotniska. said... is a private, not official site about Modlin Airport

Scott said...

Yes, that's a personal blog - although very, very informative (in my case, through Google Translate).

Given that Modlin, after so many false starts, has got most other things right, they've been REALLY slow getting their website in order. If I'm not mistaken (again Google Translate looking at the official site's tender page) they only tendered out the website design in May which is a bit sad given people can book flights there already without any info on the airport.

I'd certainly know a lot less if it wasn't for the informal website (and posts like this). Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Now, they made it. Airport has just been certified by the ULC,sa_pierwsze_zezwolenia_dla_firm_dzialajacych_na_lotnisku_w_modlinie.html