The new terminal of the Bucharest Otopeni airport was built in 1999 and is very modern. The one anomaly here is that the first thing you’ll get to when you enter this building is the security check of your luggage. It is obvious to me that this security check area was added as an after-thought, and with no other spacious area to put the x-ray machines, they ended up putting them in the open area before the check-in counters. This means that people accompanying you prior to your flight will be cut off from you almost as soon as you get inside – since, of course, there are no un-ticketed passengers allowed after the luggage security check.
This also has an adverse effect on the check-in area. Most of the décor here is in black and gray marble with those nice leather seats. Since, the luggage security checks area is between the glassed in front of the building and the check-in area, the natural light is blocked off from the check-in area, making it very dark looking, despite it being very cleanly kept. You should know that El Al passengers as well as TAROM passengers travelling to Israel have a second security check area before they can go through passport control. It is from this separate room that you will also depart for internal flights within Romania. Be careful in the summer, however, since this area is insufficiently air-conditioned, and if your flight is in the morning, all of the sun comes in the glass windows and heats it up like a sauna.
Passport control is slightly cramped here with only three stations, but it seems to go fairly quickly despite the smaller staff. Afterwards you enter the departures waiting area where there are now two spots for purchasing refreshments – a bar and a self-service snack bar. However, I was unable to find any duty-free shops on my first visit to the new building, or even a place where they sell T-shirts. I found this to be strange, but no stranger than not being able to find any tourist targeted T-shirts anywhere in all of Romania! There’s a market here that’s totally untapped and when someone gets wise to it, they’re going to make a bundle, I’m sure. But for those now visiting Romania, when departing you'll find quite a nice small selection of duty free shops, but nothing amazing.
The departure area is also the transit passenger lounge. Here you’ll find more of those leather-upholstered seats, which are arranged in friendly circles. The décor hasn’t changed since it was opened, and I’m pleased to say that it has been well maintained. The bathrooms are modern and aesthetic, and again, are kept scrubbed and polished. It seems that everything has been done to help you feel as comfortable as possible. By the way, for those smokers among us, even though all of the rest of this airport is non-smoking, you can have your final fag before take-off at the bar located at the closest point after the passport control desks. Strangely enough, this bar looks out onto the gangway that you walked when you arrived in Romania.
On my two last visits to Romania, I was traveling with a Frequent Flyer who got me into the priority lounge. This lounge is really very nice. There is a smoking side and a non-smoking side. Both have about 6 computers with high-speed internet connections. You also have quite a good selection of soft drinks, beers, juices, coffees, teas, cakes, cookies, crackers, crisps and some baked goods. I even found some dips for the crackers and crisps, but they did seem to have a lack of fresh fruits and veggies. Oh well, nothing's perfect. But I must say I was very impressed with this lounge since it is nicely decorated with light colours and very comfortable seats.
As I’ve already written here, there seems to be a pretty good security system here for checking baggage. However, you should also know that there are police and armed soldiers stationed around every flight that goes to or from Israel. The airport has police around it in general as well, and I’d say that as far as that goes, its doing a pretty good job. That they don’t check the cars and trunks of vehicles that enter the airport is something that apparently is only done in Israel, so one really can’t complain.
Otopeni Airport in Bucharest, Romania has come a very long way over the past ten years or so. Its gone from being cramped, crowded, dingy and dark, to being light, airy, welcoming and efficient. This has become a truly lovely little airport, if a bit shy on space and security. The only thing left for Romania to do is fix up the rest of the country! But that’s the subject of another review altogether, isn’t it?