One of the attractions of Warsaw as a capital city is that the airport is close (approximately 6 miles) to the city centre. Indeed, as I write these words from my 26th Floor office in the heart of the central business district, I can actually see it (making a slight allowance for the wintry haze, this morning). It was not, therefore, the most welcome news when, during the summer the some budget airlines moved their flights from the main Frederic Chopin airport to Modlin, a renovated military airstrip some 25 miles north west of Warsaw. Of course, by definition budget airlines need to offer budget prices and the high landing charges at the main airport do not really fit in with that model. However, as you might have expected, not all has gone accordingly to plan. It seems that those running Modlin airport have been taken by surprise by something the wholly unforeseeable: fog in winter.
Anybody with experience of Warsaw in winter will know that fog is common (although I do recall being told, many years ago and in apparent seriousness, that no, Warsaw did not have fog in winter – probably by someone with the same mentality that blames the excessive road accidents here on the roads rather than the actions of the drivers (but more on that another time)). Be that as it may, this week, clearly exasperated by weeks of disruption to its flights, Wizz Air announced that it was, until 6th January next year, moving all its flights back from Modlin to Frederic Chopin airport. It appears that Modlin airport is not yet equipped with the appropriate functioning Instrument Landing System which allows planes to land in poor visibility. Wizz Air claims that it was promised that the ILS system would be functioning by the end of October although Modlin contradicts this and expects the system to be operational soon claiming that, in any case, no airport has this system in place until the airport itself has been functioning for some time. Another report suggest that the equipment is ready but it is awaiting final approval from the Polish air navigation and safety authority – an echo, perhaps, of the situation some years ago when a new tunnel on the Wisla Strada (a major highway running along side the river Wistula in Warsaw) inexplicably had to wait months after completion before the fire authority would approve it and allow traffic to use it. Wizz Air meanwhile has stated that it will be sending the bill for this disruption to Modlin.
But as every cloud has a silver lining, Wizz Air’s passengers will be able to fly from Chopin over Christmas even if this does little for Modlin’s reputation and serves to contribute to the cliché of organisational efficiency not being Poland’s strong suit.
All this is a rather involved way of my saying that if you are travelling over Christmas, I wish you safe disruption and fog free journeys and a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.