Romania’s capital city Bucharest has two functional air strips. The oldest of them, Aurel Vlaicu Airport, also known as Baneasa Airport, came into commission in 1920. Lying 8 kilometers from the city center, the airport is currently used only for private and charter flights. All passenger air traffic has been diverted to Henri Coanda airport, in Otopeni city, situated 17 kilometers north of the capital city. Henri Coanda airport is operating flights run by both traditional airliners, as well as low-cost companies.
The two airports are managed by the Bucharest National Airport Company. In 2017 the institution reported over €217 million in revenue, by 8.3% more as compared to 2016 and an €88 million profit, by 45% more than the previous year. Of course, Henri Coanda Airport accounts for the largest share of these revenues. Theodor Postelnicu, the spokesperson of the Bucharest National Airport Company, told us more:
“These figures are first and foremost the result of our operating income, due to an increase in the air traffic flow, as well as a result of a series of actions aimed at streamlining airport activity. These included decongesting the flow of incoming and outgoing passengers, optimizing the security check for passengers and adding a second lane for vehicles transiting the airport”.
With almost 13 million passengers in 2017, the Henri Coanda Airport is one of the largest in Eastern Europe. The airport is used not only by people from all over Romania, but also from the Republic of Moldova and northern Bulgaria. The increased availability of air travel, especially after the expansion of low-cost flights, poses new challenges for the management of the Henri Coanda airport in 2018. Theodor Postelnicu, a spokesman for the Bucharest National Airport Company:
“Air travel grows from one year to the next. This can be easily seen in the last few years, around the world and not just in Romania. There is an unavoidable growth trend to which we have had to adapt. We took a series of measures to this end in 2017 and will naturally continue to take steps in the future.”
The capacity of the Henri Coanda Airport is, however, limited. The airport requires new air travel facilities, either by expanding the current structure or by building a new one. Theodor Postelnicu:
“There used to be a private project to build an airport in the south of Bucharest, a project no one has mentioned for some time. We do have a development project for Otopeni, though. We are planning to build a new terminal. We have begun the necessary steps and have recently obtained some of the needed approvals. This will be an intermodal terminal, with its own arrival and departure areas, cargo terminal and passenger terminal and a new platform. It’s basically a new airport.”
One of the major problems of the Henri Coanda Airport is the absence of railway connections. There is a line that connects the largest train station in the capital city, Gara de Nord, to the town of Otopeni. The trip takes nearly an hour, and the arrival is at a small station 3 km from the airport. From there, a shuttle service provided by the National Railway Corporation takes passengers, free of charge, to the departures terminal. The duration and the transport of the trip usually make passengers avoid this solution. Apart from taxis, the only public transportation options are two bus lines, one leaving from downtown Bucharest, and the other from Gara de Nord. Once again, it may take an hour to get from the city to the airport.
Under these circumstances, there have been talks, on more than one occasion, to build an underground line connecting the Romanian city to its main airport. Several initiatives have been proposed over the years, but only recently have the authorities put together concrete plans. At the end of last year, the Romanian transport minister Felix Stroe announced that the application of the funding of a connection between Bucharest’s underground network and the Henri Coanda Airport was rewritten and the European Commission approved it. The line will be 14.2 km long, it will include 12 stations, and the total budget of the project will be 1.391 billion euros. (Translated by C. Mateescu, V. Palcu, A.M. Popescu)