Sunday, 24 May 2015

Okęcie airport opens 'new' 'old' terminal

In my 18 years in Poland, Okęcie airport has always been the portal to the 'Old Country'. The end of the runway is less than 4,500m from our house. When flying back Kingdomside for work or holiday or family reasons, it's almost always through Okęcie. I fly through the airport eight times a year on average, and over the years I've seen the place improve and improve.

The latest improvement involves the re-opening earlier this week of the 'old' 'new' terminal, built in 1992. So many changes over the years - the new and the newly-refurbished old, now joined together seamlessly. The modernisation took the best part of three years to complete. In good time for the summer holiday rush.

So now Okęcie has it all - a rail link to the city centre, a motorway link to the outside world, two bright, modern terminals, plenty of shops and bars, gates where you can sit and wait in comfort, an excellent website that no longer takes hours to load and a Twitter feed lauded as the best in Poland. The S2/S79 link means that in a taxi at 5am I can get to Okęcie from home in 12 minutes.

The important thing to remember in what Sector your check-in desk is located. All desks in Sector A are to be found in the 'new' old terminal. Once you've passed through security, the gates (45 of them) are all accessible from one long corridor spanning both terminals

Below: do you remember when this was all in a rather disgusting shade of magenta? All that's missing is the glider, suspended from the ceiling...

Something entirely new is Sector B (below), to be found between the 'new' old terminal and the old 'new' terminal. Architecturally this reminds me of the drabber bits of Heathrow and Gatwick. Ah - sectors C, D and E are still to be found in the 'old' new terminal.

There are plenty of new shops, now offering greater choice than the old Aelia/Keraniss duopoly. And more bars and restaurants. What's this? A Scottish restaurant! Located on the ground floor level of the 'new' old terminal, under Sector A.

From the 'new' old terminal, there's an underground passageway linking directly the train station (W-wa Lotnisko Chopina) and the long-distance bus terminus. Today, this looks like part of a nuclear bomb shelter, but in time I'm sure the grey walls will carry advertising.

Once back out at street level by the train station, you can take a lift up three flights to the all-weather observation deck (taras widokowy). Equipped with reverse-sloping windows to cut glare and reflection, this is an improvement over the old, open-air one (closed seven years ago). Not only is entry completely free of charge, there's also a cafe and an aviation gift-shop, and it's open from 6am to 10pm. And there's a gallery of truly stunning photographs of planes at or around Okęcie.

The airport gets better and better. Long gone are the days of Etiuda terminal (2004-2009), cattle-shed for those travelling with low-cost carriers. Being shut in there with two small children for seven hours because our Christmas flight to London was delayed must rank among my most dismal air travel experiences of all time ever. Worse than my ten-hour delay at "London" Gatwick where at least we got 45-quid's worth of food and drink vouchers (which I spend very wisely!)

Okęcie is on target to carry 11 million passengers this year, breaking all records, while to the north of Warsaw, Modlin continues to prosper as Ryanair's principle airport after a shaky start.

I fly to London in two weeks' time, so I'll be able to report on how the extended airport looks like from airside.

This time two years ago:
Arrogance vs. humility

This time three years ago:
Warsaw looking good ahead of the football-fan influx

This time six years ago:
Heron over Jeziorki

This time eight years ago:
Present rising, future loading

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