Monday, 14 October 2013

Why can't all airports be like this?

My taxi collects me at 04:20. I'm at Departures at 04:32. No queue at check-in (Poles are hyper-punctual; the rush for the 06:00 WizzAir departures was half an hour ago, the second check-in opened). I'm through security (six out of eight lines are operational) and air-side within 13 minutes of stepping into the airport.

You may think it's because I hit a quiet time of day - not so. In the ten minutes between 05:55 and 06:05, no fewer than eight flights are scheduled to take off from Warsaw's Okęcie airport, mostly Airbus A320s or Boeing 737s, each carrying around 150 people on average loading. Over one thousand passengers handled in a short space of time - efficiently, without stress.

I compare this to my last two return flights home to Warsaw, from London Heathrow and Luton respectively. In both cases, turning up at exactly two hours before scheduled take-off time, I was left with a mere 15 minutes in the departure lounge, because check-in and security took so long. Both experiences were miserable and stressful.

But back to Okęcie. It's five am and most of the duty free shopping is open (although the prices do not tempt - the retail operators might make up more profit from volumes than margins if they lowered prices to levels that were truly competitive internationally.

And back to hyper-punctual Poles. My flight for Liverpool takes off at six. At 05:08, the flight is called. Everyone stands to join a queue that we know will remain stationary for at least half an hour. Everyone at the gate will get on the plane; so why all the unnecessary waiting? It's now 05:18, the front of the queue has not moved, the back of the queue is getting ever-longer.

My answer for swift and hassle-free boarding is as follows. Stay seated as long as possible. The low-cost planes flying from Okęcie are not connected to the terminal building via a sleeve; passengers are taken to the aircraft by bus. Two buses are needed to take all 150+ passengers. The first bus takes around 80 people. The second takes the rest. There is no rush. It's now 05:23, most people have been standing unnecessarily for a quarter of an hour; I've been benefiting from free wi-fi and topping up the battery on my laptop from the electrical sockets conveniently placed under the window seats.

It's now 05:26, and the people with infants under the age of two, and who've bought priority boarding, are starting to be let onto the first bus. The queue begins to move slowly. Five minutes later, the queue's moving faster. 05:31; time to get up, unplug and join the back of the queue for the bus...

I board the plane at 5:44,  take-off is 06:17; landing at Liverpool John Lennin Airport, 08:39 (that's 07:39 UK time). Time for a restaurative coffee; Okęcie airport at five am is buzzing, Liverpool is still asleep at 8am. In a few minutes I have a bus to the city centre, and my first ever visit to Liverpool. I've been through and around the city, but have never delved deeper into it. I should have plenty of free time around my business meetings to take it all in.

This time last year:
Rapid development in the wetlands

This time two years ago:
Sun shines down Al. Jerozolimskie

This time three years ago:
Warsaw Metro vignette

This time four years ago:
The most dangerous word in the English language

This time five years ago:
What a difference a day makes


Marcin said...

I belove obeying of the securities procedures by the Heathrow Intl' Airport security staff and its scrupulosity and conscientiousness.
"Lech Walesa 'will never return to London' after being searched at Heathrow

Lech Walesa, Poland's former president, has vowed never to return to London after he was stopped and searched at Heathrow.

Lech Walesa, the Polish former president, has said he will "never go to London again" after complaining about being searched at Heathrow airport's border control.

Travelling to the UK for the British premiere of a new biopic charting his struggle against communist rule, Mr Walesa, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, also claimed Polish embassy officials had "abandoned" him to his fate during the incident.

Mr Walesa said the embassy had assured him that he would receive a VIP pass when he landed in the UK but instead of being ushered through without let or hindrance he got a very different reception.

"When I landed it turned out the embassy had done nothing," he told a local newspaper in his hometown of Gdansk. "What I got instead were some mischievous guards who didn't like Poles, and when they saw me they began to rifle through my belongings.

"They got my suitcase and pulled out my pants and socks; everything was visible," he added. "It was embarrassing."
Hahaha, best for you Englishmen. And good for you.

Marcin said...

Well, I just only forgot a link. Here it's.

Sigismundo said...

Who is this John Lennin fellow for which Liverpool Airport is named? Is it mayhap an unknown Georgian emigré political writer, a younger brother of Josef? Or perhaps a relative of Senior Sergeant Peperski the famous Ukrainian revolutionary and singer-songwriter who had such a solemn heart?

Michael Dembinski said...

Lennin was a dreadful communist who preached equality yet drove a Rolls-Royce. (Both of them.)

Bob said...

Was @WAW twice this week via the new road. Overall a great improvement. Will however send you a couple of photos that smack of 'kombinowac'.

Anonymous said...

Michael - just you wait until Modlin reopens! I hears its happening soon! ;-)

Michael Dembinski said...


It's already opened - just one airline - RyanAir - which I refuse to fly on account of the total boorishness of its CEO, Michael O'Leary. And WizzAir has already stated it will remain in Okęcie. As will BA and LOT. EasyJet may tempt me to Modlin, should that airline ever decide to return to Warsaw.