Tuesday, 21 January 2003

British Airways switches to Domodedovo

From July, British Airways passengers flying into Moscow will not face the gloom of Sheremetyevo airport with its too few passport control koisks and luggage carousels as the airline has announced that it will start flying out of Domodedovo Airport on July 1 2003, in a cross-town move that will cost Sheremetyevo one of its biggest clients.

British Airways said the main reason that it decided to switch airports was a common passenger complaint: shoddy service.

"We in BA have decided to make this move because customer service is key to our business and to our success," said Daniel Burkard, British Airways commercial manager for Eastern Europe.

"Domodedovo is a modern, user-friendly airport with a high level of customer appeal. It has state-of-the-art facilities, a good infrastructure, excellent transfer service and is easily accessible," Burkard said at a news conference.

British Airways will continue to offer 14 flights a week from Moscow, as well as its five flights a week from St. Petersburg's Pulkovo Airport, he said.

Flight schedules will remain the same for now, although the airline is hoping to obtain an 8:05 a.m. time slot by next winter or summer 2004 British Airways, which currently offers 5:45 p.m. and 8:40 p.m. flights to London, had been trying for several years to get a morning time slot at Sheremetyevo.

The airline had been considering switching airports for two years. In making the decision, British Airways will be able to offer passengers a dedicated check-in area and fast service at immigration, customs and security checkpoints. Business and first class passengers will have access to a British Airways lounge.

Passengers also will be able to check in at Paveletsky Station and make the 40-minute trip to the airport by rail.

Built for the 1980 Olympic Games, Sheremetyevo's international Terminal 2 has been unable to cope with the post-Soviet travel boom. Travelers often complain of poor infrastructure and rude staff.

Sheremetyevo has been trying to spruce up its image, but the changes have been mostly cosmetic -- such as free baggage carts.

I, personally, will miss its unique stuffy aroma of Russian cigarettes (papirosa) and dust that hit your nostrils once you step into the arrivals hall.

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