Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Short haul musings

Unbelievable! You can fly Ryanair from Warsaw Okęcie to Wrocław for 9.19zł + 8% VAT (as a domestic flight), in total 9.93zł, or £1.95 each way. Booked just 15 days in advance.

I had to be in Kąty Wrocławskie for a meeting that started at 09:30; the outbound flight from Warsaw to Wrocław (the airport is 27km from my destination) arrives at 09:15. Too late. Instead of the cheap flight, I take the tried and tested night train, which arrives at Wrocław Główny station at 06:18. Plenty of time for a Scottish breakfast and for the 30km journey by car to Kąty Wrocławskie.

Night train masterclass: it's great to have a compartment to oneself. Buying a one-person compartment is awfully expensive; an advance booking (week+ ahead) costs 368.00zł. A bed in a three-berth compartment costs 139.40 zł. Now, a bed in the two-berth compartment costs just sixty zloty more - 199.90zł, which is a whole 168.10zł cheaper than the single berth compartment. Now, here's the trick - few people go for the two-berth option. If you book late (no later than two hours before the train begins its journey), and you see the lower berth is free - the chances are you've got it to yourself.

As regular readers know, I'm a great fan of the night train, it combines travel and accommodation in one ticket. This trip was a dream - compartment to myself and slept soundly from Warsaw to just outside Wrocław, woken with a coffee and croissant from the attendant.

But I flew back. My last return from Wrocław was by evening train, which took over four hours. By air, the journey is far swifter. I arrive at the airport with ample time, so I go through security, have some pierogi at the Flying Bistro bar (19.90zł - less than four quid for a plateful), catch up with emails and wait for the gate to open.
16:05 Gate opens 
16:15 I leave the terminal building, having shown my boarding pass and ID card.
16:19 I'm in my seat (3E). 
16:34 Plane pushes back from its stand 
16:47 Take off 
17:10 Captain switches off 'fasten seatbelt' sign 
17:15 Captain announces "Cabin crew, prepare for landing" 
17:28 Touchdown, 12 mins ahead of schedule 
17:37 Buses take passengers to terminal 
17:45 Leave airport on foot [18min walk] 
18:03 Koleje Mazowieckie train departs W-wa Okęcie station 
18:08 Train arrives W-wa Dawidy station 
18:40 Arrive home, having walked across the frozen lake [32min walk]
I could have saved half an hour by taking a taxi home from the airport, but that 10.5km journey would have cost four times more than the 360km Ryanair flight between Wrocław and Warsaw.

Above: Wrocław airport. Below: arrival at Warsaw, just 9.93zł away.

I'm amazed at how efficient the service was.

When PolskiBus.com began selling tickets online, it instantly created a competitive headache for existing bus operators, as well as the railways. Why pay 50zł for a five-hour train journey when you can book a five-hour bus journey for 15zł?

Now Ryanair is pushing things further. Why pay 15zł for a five-hour bus journey when for even less you can fly the same distance in less than an hour?

Unlike the ill-fated OLT Express, Ryanair is a company run by people that know what they're doing. All those extras - suitcase fees, choosing your seat, paying through the nose if you want to fly last minute - that's what's keeping the firm profitable. Those low, low fares are there if you book ahead in low season. But while those seats are there at this price - go for it!

This time last year:
Mind, matter and life

This time two years ago:
Compositions in blue and white

This time five years ago:
Waiting for the change to come

This time six years ago
A wetter Poland?

This time eight years ago:
Heavy overnight snow

This time nine years ago:
Changing Jeziorki skyline


Anonymous said...

And what is the environmental impact of using flights for such short distances?

It's a riddle to me that in western Europe trains have replace planes over short distances (London-Paris, Paris-Amsterdam), yet here in Poland, where there's a perfectly good rail system, planes are making an inroad.

Michael Dembinski said...

@ Anonymous

Environmental impact certainly less than 150 people (flight was totally full) driving in 100 cars, but indeed cannot be ignored.

Why not trains? The trick is city-centre to city-centre. Eddie took the Eurostar to Paris from St Pancras for New Year and said it totally beats flying for such a journey.

Ryanair would not be getting the demand if it were operate domestic flights out of Modlin - it's the middle of nowhere. Okęcie is only seven station stops away from W-wa Śródmieście by SKM or KM (six from W-wa Centralna, 20 mins). To put that into perspective, London City Airport is ten station stops away from Bank (22 mins).

PKP InterCity needs to pull its socks up in terms of journey times. Once Pendolino is running to its full potential and Wrocław to Warsaw takes under three hours, it becomes competitive once again.

Bozena Masters said...

That's quite a deal! Last year I was amazed to discover I could fly from Modlin to Gdansk for £8, Gdansk to Manchester for £13. As you say, Modlin is in the middle of nowhere. I prefer to take the first flight out so getting to Modlin in the morning is a bit of a nightmare. From now on I'll look for availability from Okecie - much handier.