Over Christmas and New Years, I was going to stay with some friends over in Lappeenranta, Finland. With flights to Finland rather expensive at this time of year, I decided to fly via Milan in order to keep the costs down as well as open up the chance of flying direct to my destination! Having flown in with British Airways (BA2700) in the morning and spending the day in Bergamo itself, I was now back at the airport and ready to fly again!
A rush to the airport!
Getting to Bergamo was certainly an experience. As I had seven hours to kill during my stopover, I headed for the town to kill some of this time as well as enjoy Italian culture for a bit before reaching my destination. Leaving the airport was hassle-free, no traffic, all quiet. Returning? Bergamo is a whole different world.
During peak times, as the airport sits in the middle of a motorway and industrial park, the access road certainly gets backlogged. This wasn't helped either by my original bus missing a departure slot, leading to 30 minutes of extra waiting. In all, it took me 55 minutes to travel a mile and a half (30 mintes of waiting, 25 on the bus) from a small road outside of the airport perimiter to the terminal itself.
By the time I got to the terminal, I had 70 minutes to departure, meaning 25 minutes at best to get through security, walk to gate and queue up. With the security queue at Bergamo starting to build up, I decided to opt in for fast track for the first and likely last time. This turned out to be a good decision on my part, as getting to gate was a 10 minute walk, plus time to buy a bottle of water and quick snack for the outbound flight.
Milan Bergamo Airport
Milan Bergamo is the city's secondary airport. It is most commonly served by low-cost airlines with some light access to the city by bus or connecting train. The terminal is fairly modern and capable of handling full-sized traffic. Having flown into Bergamo in the morning, getting through security was a quick process and very soon you were outside of the terminal.
Returning however was a little less hassle-free, due to my own bad timing and transport issues getting to the airport. Other than that, I had no issues once past security, with a large selection of restaurants, bars and shops to choose from on the other side!
Getting to the aircraft was via bus which took us to Bergamo's remote stands. This trip did take a couple of minutes as we travelled to the far west of the airport, but this did give us time to enjoy the view of parked aircraft and GA flights en route.
Boarding was the standard Ryanair, with rear door entry for my seat 26A.
Three hours with Ryanair
Aircraft: Boeing 737-8AS Registration: EI-EPH Engines: 2x CFMI CFM56-7B26 Age: 8 Years
Milan to Lappeenranta is by no means a short flight in Ryanair context. While the average length is an hour and a half, to Lappeenranta you were onboard for twice that! Fortunately, we were greeted with the newer space flex interior which features the thinner seats (leading to more legroom) and slightly higher tray table when compared to the original seats which were at knee-level.
Bergamo city sits on the foothills of the Alps, with stunning scenes from a number of vantage points. As we departed in the evening, we got to enjoy the cool yellow sun shining over the mountains, a view that lives on with me as the start point of my holiday. I have flown over the Alps a number of times in the past two years, but this was certainly the most memorable, even more so than my first time viewing when flying to Greece last May.
The flight itself was absolutely fine. A couple of years ago, Ryanair had announced their 'quiet flight' scheme where any red-eye flights would not be subject to scratch card calls and trumpet cheers on landing. Flight time was a total of two hours and 58 minutes, slightly longer than the advertised 2:45, but given the weather conditions in Finland at the time with low frozen fog and strong headwinds, I am not one to complain.
We did get the standard trolley service of food and duty-free. While I don't generally buy items on Ryanair flights, they do offer a large selection of goods and snacks at slightly inflated prices. This, however, is where a lot of Ryanair's income comes from, with flight tickets being so cheap. Economically passengers pay just the right amount to cover fuel costs and crew salaries, the trolley amenities is where the profit comes from. In the past I have certainly made use of this with crisps and drinks, also buying the 1:200 scale model plane they sell onboard (I like collecting these as small mementoes of flights). If you're feeling peckish or want a quick bite to eat, it's certainly worth the service.
You can also have a read of Ryanair's in-flight magazine, Runway Retail, which gives you a browse of the products they have on offer and on the odd occasion (not in each issue published) stories from different destinations.
I did manage to sleep for most of the flight (which is unlike me as I am generally awake for large portions) but while I was aware of my surroundings, the flight itself was calm and cabin crew made a few walks up and down the cabin.
Just shy of three hours after we took off, we were now on final at Lappeenranta runway 06. As mentioned earlier, low fog meant we didn't see much of the ground, but instead enjoyed a massive light show as the aircraft landing, navigation and strobe lights flashed in the blanket black that surrounded the plane. We soon broke below the fog later and seconds later touched down onto the wide runway in South Karelia. Taxi to gate did not take too long given the length of the runway giving us plenty of time to slow, and only a single taxiway connecting the two together.
The terminal at Lappeenranta is certainly minimalistic. After leaving the aircraft down a set of stairs and entering the terminal building, you arrive at a small room that serves as an arrivals hall. There is a conveyer belt for luggage, and an exit door. No other services are provided, although I know that a kiosk style cafe exists in the departures hall. The airport in its current form is incapable of holding non-schengen flights, meaning there are no passport facilties in the terminal, you are free to walk through and leave the airport. As a Brit this certainly feels different, but is certainly the norm within Europe.
A few years ago Finavia, the Finnish Airports Authority wanted to shut down Lappeenranta due to high costs and low traffic numbers. Ryanair instead opted to build a separate terminal at the airport and create a base here if they were granted permission. Finavia instead rejected this, leading Ryanair to cancel all flights in and out of Finland. Finavia then sold the airport in 2011 to the city who runs it to this day. Ryanair now fly to six destinations from Lappeenranta along with a Lauda service to Vienna.
Bonus : Click here display hide
Looking for a good place to eat while in Bergamo? Head to Ristorante Pasta e Basta! Here you can enjoy traditional local pasta at low prices while serving portion sizes well above the tourist traps that Milan especially is known for in modern times.
If you also have the time, head over to the funicular and ride up to Città Alta. Here you can enjoy stunning views of Milan from the foothills of the Alps, as well as a walk through the old city showing you life in Italy from another era.
Bergamo - BGY
Lappeenranta - LPP
Ryanair gets a lot of stick for a number of reasons. I won't say none of it is justified, but I certainly have never had an issue with this airline. Yes, it's rated 6/10 above, but this is only down to the fact that you get no meals or entertainment. It's low-cost flying, it's no-frills. If you need to get from A to B at low-cost and quickly, I wouldn't recommend anybody else.
Bergamo at a peak time can be stressful, but with enough prior planning, you won't have any problems getting to and through the airport. Lappeenranta is certainly a joyful city and somewhere I will be sure to visit again, the airport itself is small and very easy to travel through.
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