I had a rather bizarre experience at the Lizst Ferenc Airport in Budapest last evening. I boarded the plane from a warehouse. Really.
When it was announced at 7:25 pm that our 8:15 RyanAir to Barcelona would board from gate A18, we walked expectantly to the A side of the terminal, hoping to find our gate. All we found was this gate that said “A12-A18”, before accessing which there was boarding pass control. It seemed bizarre, but we assumed that we would be taking a bus to another terminal to board, got our passes scanned and walked on.
There was going to be no bus. There was another terminal to board from, however, but it was a warehouse. Literally. Here’s what it looked like (pictures from wife’s iPhone):
That’s right. We were indeed in a large warehouse-like temporary structure constructed out of tin or asbestos or some such material. A rather ingenious way to extend the airport.
This warehouse had eight marked entrances (A12 to A19) and eight marked exits (respectively). At the entrance of each entrance there was another level of boarding pass checking (along with passport), after which we were let in to the queue to board. And this was where RyanAir separated out its “regular” customers from those that had paid for priority boarding (who were put in another “bin” (no better word for that) ).
Ours was not the only flight boarding at that time (though you can see that one side of the warehouse – A12 to A17 was completely empty). A Hungarian low-cost carrier called WizzAir was boarding its flight to Milan from A19 at the same time. And it again looked like a bus stand. Long snaking lines of passengers who had gone past the boarding pass check waiting to board.
Low cost airlines sometimes try to save on airport costs by using secondary airports in several cities. For example, in London, they use airports such as Stansted and Luton, and in Paris they use Orly. But some cities don’t have a well functioning secondary airport so even low-cost airlines are forced to use the primary airport. This “extension” of the Budapest airport as used by the likes of RyanAir and WizzAir is simply bizarre, though!
Anyway, presently a stewardess appeared and opened the exit door for A18 (this was after A19 had been opened and the Milan passengers sent on their way). We walked out through carefully marked barricades, and saw a RyanAir plane in front of us. And we walked through the barricades until we were stopped a few metres before the plane (the line had been orderly so far, and would remain so).
We remained there for a few minutes as they presumably cleaned up the aircraft in that time. I think the reason we had been moved from the warehouse to this queue was so that more space could be created in the warehouse so that boarding passes of all passengers could be checked in this time. The use of so many “buffers” (or “chambers” if you were to draw a sewerage analogy) was quite interesting in terms of RyanAir’s queue management (the wife has promised a more technical blog post on this). Anyway, here’s what this queue looked like after we had exited the warehouse:
Soon the final barricades opened and we were allowed to board the aircraft (both doors of the aircraft were open). There was a bit of inefficiency here since people approaching the wrong door ended up slowing the boarding process (there were some people in rows 31 and 32 who boarded from front creating a massive traffic jam), but the boarding was concluded soon enough (all previous bottlenecks having been removed, and the flight took off on time!
It was a rather bizarre experience, and the first time I had boarded in such a large airport without using either an aerobridge or a bus. And I don’t know if this is a temporary arrangement in Budapest as they either expand the airport or reopen Terminal 1, or if this is how things are supposed to be in the long term. And I’m amazed that this kind of jugaad was first implemented in Europe rather than in India.