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A Modern Gateway Into An Enigmatic Land
Moscow Domodedovo Airport (DME)
Member Name: Hishyeness
Moscow Domodedovo Airport (DME)
Date: 11/01/11, updated on 24/01/11 (196 review reads)
Advantages: Clean & Modern. Good Facilities.
Disadvantages: Long term construction work gives it a transitional feel. Expensive.
ARRIVING IN MOSCOW BY AIR
Domodedovo (DME) is the largest (in terms of passenger numbers and cargo) of the three major airports that serve Moscow (the others are Sheremetyevo and Vnukovo). The airport is located around 40 kilometres (roughly 25 miles) to the southeast of the Russian capital, and as such is the furthest from the centre of town. Originally built in 1964, recent redevelopment and expansion has turned it into a quality transport hub, and it is currently the only airport in Russia capable of handling the Airbus A380, the largest operating passenger jet.
The improvements in infrastructure and facilities means it serves as the Russian hub of choice for around eighty carriers, including those in the Star Alliance (including BMI, Continental, Lufthansa, SAS, and United) and the Oneworld Alliance (including BA, AA, JAL & Iberia). DME serves both international and domestic flights out of its one terminal building, with one wing (T1) for internal Russian flights, and the other (T2), which is currently undergoing a expansion programme, hosting mostly international flights. There are plans for two further terminals, which will double DME's capacity and make it the largest airport in Eastern Europe.
GETTING INTO TOWN
Despite its distance from Moscow, transport links are good. There is an express train service to and from Paveletskiy Station (located on the Garden Ring on the south side of town) which takes passengers directly to the main terminal building. Current fares are 300 Russian Rubles (£6.50) standard class, or 500 Rubles (£10) in Business class. Trains leave every thirty minutes. Make sure you use the AeroExpress service, rather than the local stopping service, which takes around half-an-hour longer. The other option, if you're feeling confident, is to take an airport shuttle bus for the 15km trip to Domodedovskaya Metro station, which takes around half-an-hour and feeds into Moscow's wider Metro network.
If a taxi is required, make sure it is either pre-booked before arrival, or use the official taxi rank outside the airport entrance. There are a lot of illegal gypsy cab drivers who will immediately crowd you, offering a lift, as soon as they see you enter the arrivals hall. Avoid them like the plague, as you run a very high risk of being overcharged. Very few taxi drivers speak English, so make sure you have the address you are going to handy, preferably in native Cyrillic, as many do not recognise Roman letters. If you are pressed for time, the express train is much the better option as Moscow is notorious for its traffic jams. The reasonable looking forty kilometres (roughly 25 miles) from the airport to the city can take as much as two hours, and will cost you (if pre-arranged) around 1500 Rubles (£30).
On arrival, you leave the aircraft by jetway, straight into the terminal building. The time from debarking to passing through passport control and collecting your luggage is relatively quick, but will obviously depend on the number of flights arriving at the time. There are free luggage trolleys near the baggage claim, which were a refreshing change from the number of airports I use that still insist on charging for them. Expect to clear customs, if waved through, in around forty-five minutes from landing. Currency exchange facilities are available in the hall, but they are even less competitive than those in UK airports, so try to ensure you get hold of Rubles in advance. The car rental desks (Hertz, Europcar and Sixt), and airline and hotel courtesy desks are also in the International arrivals hall (left wing) of the airport.
The terminal building is chaotic, especially on departure, as Russian citizens rarely display the art of patiently waiting in line like their Western counterparts. Check-in and baggage drop are very quick, so the longest part of the process is security. If you use the express train service from Paveletskiy Station, there is the option of checking in at the train station if you are taking domestic flights. It is not unusual for travellers to delay arrival at the airport until no more than two hours before their flight. Security is tight, and you will be expected to remove shoes, belt and watch before entering a full body scanner. Most staff speak basic English, albeit heavily accented, so communication is relatively easy. Signs to the terminals and facilities are bilingual (English & Russian).
Once past security there are a number of Duty Free shops and eating options in the international departures area, including gift shops for Russian souvenirs (which are vastly overpriced compared to the centre of town, so best avoided). Airport shops will generally accept a number of credit cards and currencies, including Rubles, Euro and Dollars, but it should be noted that payment in foreign currency anywhere else in Russia is generally prohibited. The departure gates are in the same hall as the shopping complex, which can get very busy at peak times and on key travel dates, such as public holidays. As such, given the relatively small size of the seating areas at the departure gates for ordinary travellers, it can be hard to find somewhere to sit down. This airport gives no real incentive to linger.
THIS IS RUSSIA
Domodedovo (named for a nearby village) is a clean and modern facility, which caters to most of the needs of international travellers, and creates a favourable first impression for first-time visitors. However, it can get very overcrowded, and there are few diversions in the event that flights are delayed. Its extended expansion and construction programme also gives it an air of permanent transition, but, judging by its sweeping glass frontage, it will look very swish when it is finally completed. The airport has an excellent and informative web-site, which is available in English, that is well worth checking out before you fly, especially for the photos, which give a good indication of what to expect.
**Note: Written before the 24th January 2011 terrorist attack**
© Hishyeness 2011
Summary: Moscow's biggest airport.