The 3rd installment of my USSR series brings us to another retro experience with TAROM. While it’s not exactly as retro as the experiences in Ukraine and Transnistria, and I was not expecting to write a report on TAROM (originally thinking that it would be just a regular intro-European flight). To my surprise, TAROM is quite still a relatively special experience because it is still pretty much old school. It reminds me of late 1990s and early 2000s.
For those who have not read my earlier installments, you may find them in the links below
Part 1: Throwback to USSR: Ukraine Int’l and the State Aviation Museum https://www.airliners.net/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1395075
Part 2: Time travelling to USSR: 1973-vintage An24 and overlanding through Transnistria https://www.airliners.net/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1396741Chapter 1: TAROM ATR-42 (Chisinau-Bucharest)
My flight on the Long journey back to Asia began in the wee hours at Chisinau Airport. While Moldova is often said to be the poorest country in Europe, Chisinau airport is pretty much almost first world and of relatively good standard on par with airports in more advanced parts of Europe
It’s a small single-storey airport with check-in areas on the ground floor and a landslide cafe above.
It was not a particularly busy morning and I cleared my check-in in minutes. I was on a Long-ish itinerary KIV-OTP-FCO-RUH-CGK. All on Skyteam. 2 separate tickets with TAROM and Saudia. I asked for through check-in but was declined. But not an issue as I have allowed a good 4 hour buffer in Rome for the connection.
Departures that morning. They are mainly regional European destinations. There is no intercontinental service into Chisinau. Note that the board is in English / Romanian / and Russian. Essentially Moldova is the Romanian-speaking region of the former USSR while Romania was independent of USSR
KIV is a small airport and I cleared a quiet security pretty fast and walked through the duty free. Literally walking through it.
And I made my way up to a nice cafe for breakfast since I have no status in Skyteam and had no lounge accesss. Looking down to the main Hall, I have to say it’s a pleasant airport.
The cafe upstairs
And the waiting area, which got gradually filled up as the flight times approached.
The flight was on time and we boarded from Gate 7.
KIV only has bus gates. It’s a very simple modest airport.
And then we were driven to our ATR who had overnighted.
Seats are regular economy class.
Ok legroom. (for me but not for anyone taller than 170cm)
Looking out of the windows to a breaking dawn, I could spot Air Moldova, the national airline. It’s relatively unknown but it seems to be doing well connecting passengers from western to Eastern Europe. I originally wanted to fly it from here to Rome but the connection with Saudia would have been just about an hour and 15 minutes and I wouldn’t risk it.
On the other side is what appears to be the old terminal which doesn’t seem to be in use.
And in the far distance, some retired soviet-era airliners.
A short while later, we were airborne above the rolling Moldovan countryside. Just like Georgia, whenever I think of Moldova now I think of wine ... lovely wines.
Inflight magazine of TAROM.
Its fleet of narrow bodies.
And its network. No intercontinental flights. Those are code-shares.
Bucharest is just 180 miles away, and a short 45 minutes flight away. But TAROM offers full cart service with complete variety of beverages. And it’s all free! Just like in the good old days.
The array of items before the actual breakfast was passed on.
Breakfast was a very filling sandwich. With a snack bar.
Not too long after, we descended towards Otopeni airport over the beautiful Romanian countryside.
We landed smoothly shortly after.
This looks like the old terminal but refurbished.
One last look at our ATR before we were bussed to the terminal.
Transitting through OTP was a rather chaotic affair. Our bunch of transit passengers were travelling up and down towards immigration due to lack of clarity of procedure. I thought TAROM regularly carries transit traffic, yet the transit security was unmanned that morning and it took awhile before an officer came down and sort things out. It was very disorganized and the checking of identity and tickets was also haphazard with no proper queue.
In any case, some minutes later, I found myself in the transit zone of OTP airport, which is pretty much looking like a 1990s experience although i have to say is quite well-maintained.
Although, some parts of the terminal appear to be an extension and it is much more modern. Including where the lounge is located. However, like mentioned before, I had no access.
I walked around. There are plenty of cafes, certainly no shortage of it. Also interestingly, there is a casino.