TRIP REPORT: TAROM, Larnaca - Belgrade via Bucharest

TRIP REPORT


Submitted by Nemjee

Good morning everyone.

Due to some last minute work obligations I needed to go to Cyprus. These days flying between the two countries is quite easy with Air Serbia and Wizz Air offering non-stop flights while both Aegean and Tarom offer competitive one stop options. There's also the occasional opportunity with Alitalia but the backtrack is not worth it given AZ's horrible service and tight legroom.

Since I don't enjoy flying on Wizz Air I decided to go for Air Serbia as, unlike most people, I don't mind their flight times. The midnight departure allows me to have a full day at work, go home and prepare for the trip in peace.

I decided not to make a trip report for Belgrade-Larnaca as flying on Air Serbia is extremely unimpressive, monotonous and there is absolutely nothing that makes them remarkable. Unfortunately at this point, besides the price or schedule, there is no reason to fly with them. With such an approach I don't see them creating a loyal fanbase anytime soon.

Our flight was operated by the ten year old A319 (YU-APE), load was 75/144 and there were a lot of transfers from both Ljubljana and Prague. Roughly half of the passengers were locals. A couple who was sitting behind me was speaking with their neighbor and they actually complained about Wizz Air's prices. He mentioned that when they were looking for tickets (parents and a child), Wizz Air came out to be around 110.000 RSD while they paid 86.000 to fly with Air Serbia.

One thing I noticed is that the prosciutto sandwich was extremely popular and by the time they reached my row (18) they were all out of it. They needed to get it from some other trolley, I suppose from the return flight?

Anyway, that was Air Serbia. Back to Tarom.

My return flight was with Tarom. They have been flying into Belgrade since December 2009. During the first month of operations they had a total of 325 passengers onboard their 10 flights. Same time next year, they carried 866 passengers onboard their 18 flights. Overall, it seems like they've always done well in BEG.

I flew on Tarom once before (2011) and found them to be quite ok. Back then their onboard product consisted of a drink and a sandwich. I was happy to find out that seven years later their onboard product actually improved.

Tarom
Larnaca-Bucharest
Scheduled: 13.20-15.40
Actual: 13.30-25.25
Flight time: 01.55
Aircraft: A318, YR-ASB, delivered to Tarom brand new back in December 2006
Age: 11.6 years
Load: 104/113


Good morning from Nicosia. By 09.00 it was already 32 degrees. Pictured is the Limassol Avenue that takes you straight to the highway.



Kapnos Air Shuttle offers hourly departures to the airport. A one way ticket comes out to be €8 which isn't too bad given that Larnaca airport is located some 42 km from Nicosia. The bus station also offers its passengers to check in for their flights and to print their boarding pass. This is especially convenient for those flying on airlines such as Wizz Air.


Summer is always a busy period at LCA. Last year they welcomed 7.734.290 passengers while combined, the two Cypriot airports welcomed over 10 million passengers. Their goal for 2018 is to add another million and to pass the 11 million passenger mark.


Check-in was an utter disaster. From what I saw, Tarom doesn't offer online check-in at LCA (like our beloved JU) so everyone is forced to wait in line. There were three desks, two for us mere mortals and one for 'Priority.'

Check-in started but one of the computers broke down meaning that in the next 40 minutes only 40 to 50 passengers were checked-in for the flight.

A Cypriot passenger, somewhere from the back of the line, started shouting how this treatment is unacceptable, how he has been standing in the same place for over 40 minutes and how he wanted to speak to their supervisor. The three ladies at the counters ignored him which made him even more furious. He went to them shouting, demanding for an explanation.

Right at that moment their supervisor arrived only to see that he knew the passenger personally. To make things even worse, he took him and his wife from the back straight to the 'Priority' desk. That's when all Hell broke loose and when other Cypriots started to shout and scream.

While Cypriots were shouting Romanian passengers started to jump the line and to rush to make it to the counters. Waiting lines broke down and there was total chaos.

As if all that wasn't bad enough, the Romanian lady working on the priority counter shouted (in Greek) to the supervisor that she doesn't want to 'see' that passenger and his wife at her desk and that she doesn't care. The Cypriot shouted back at her that she is unprofessional and that this is unacceptable. Her colleague working on the other counter asked him if he is willing to pay for an upgrade if he wants to cut the line? Without waiting for him to answer she added that maybe next time he should pay for business class before arriving to the airport.

The whole process was an absolute disaster. Luckily later on they opened a third counter so things started to move once again. Had they not done it, I am certain there would have been a physical confrontation between the vocal Cypriots and the Romanians cutting the line with their luggage and personal belongings. Some Romanian women were using their children as an excuse to get ahead, this worked on some- mostly Cypriots.


LCA gate area located behind duty free shops and restaurants.


Our ride for today docked at gate 23.


Seats were comfortable and legroom was good.


Boarding took a while as there was a lot of hand luggage despite Tarom not charging for checked-in luggage. Economy class was overbooked, three passengers had to sit in the business class section.


Next to us was the heavily delayed Wizz Air A321 from Luton.


Taxiing to the runway while passing Ukraine International going to Kiev, Royal Jordanian to Amman and Aegean to Tel Aviv.



Passing by the B747SP that is owned by the Las Vegas Sands Corporation. I suppose they were on the island for the opening of the country's first casino.


Service started some 30 minutes after take off.


Tarom offers a complimentary meal/snack onboard all of its flights. The sandwich was rather big and very fresh. Interestingly, unlike most airlines they don't offer something sweet but they give you nuts. 


I was surprised by their selection of drinks. They offer beer, white wine, red wine, tomato juice, Coke, Coke Zero, Fanta, Sprite ... by the time they reached my row (15) they finished two bottles of white wine. Two crew members were giving out sandwiches and nuts. One is serving drinks while the purser goes last with a selection of hot beverages (coffee, tea...).


Hello!


Our A318 parked at the gate 101. It's next destination was Istanbul Ataturk.


Bucharest airport has a relatively new terminal. It's nice, modern but its only downside is that it has become too small for the number of passengers it handles. There are gates on both sides of the terminal while shops, cafes... are between them. When a flight is full it is not uncommon for the middle area to be covered with people waiting to board their flight. This gives the impression of an overcrowded terminal and it's unpleasant while walking through all that. Bus gates and the food court are located underneath the main terminal area.

Tarom flight RO217
Bucharest - Belgrade
Atr-42, YR-ATF, delivered to Tarom brand new in March 1999 (19 years old)
Scheduled: 18.30-19.00
Actual: 18.38-19.03
Flight time: 01:25
Load: 31/48 (65%)

Though it's worth noting that RO has a dedicated business class section on its Atrs. Actual economy class load was somewhere in the 80%. Passengers were mostly businessmen and locals while there were three transfers onboard, I and two Norwegians that connected onto Air Serbia's evening flight to Podgorica.



This was the aircraft's third rotation that day as it previously flew to Belgrade and Chisinau.


Interior of the Atr-42. Seats were quite comfortable but legroom was a bit tight, I supposed due to the business class section in front.


Service was identical to the one from LCA to OTP. It's no wonder why Tarom does so well on the route given the fact JU has no real onboard service and they mostly fly at night. Good for Tarom for spotting an unserved market and for developing it over the past nine years. I was impressed by the fact that they will keep it as 9 weekly this winter.


We were supposed to land at around 18.50 but we ended up flying south of the airport, making a U-turn only once we passed Simanovci.



We were parked at C5 after which we were bused to the terminal building.


Arkia landed before us and I am certain they arrived full as their luggage belt had at least 70 or 80 people waiting. There was also a large group of Israeli football players (children) that were going to some mountain resort for practice.

Conclusion:

Tarom is a fine carrier. They offer free airport check-in, free luggage, free seat selection and a free onboard product. Crew was kind and friendly but didn't smile too much which I didn't mind. The biggest downside is Bucharest airport which can get crowded at times and is actually too expensive. For example a bottle of water costs €3 while a coffee is anywhere between €5 and €9. One thing people should be careful with is the exchange rate. If you are paying with your card then always ask them to charge you in Lei. Their Euro prices are much higher, in some instances by as much as 20%.
We landed during Tarom's wave of arrivals. I was waiting for it to pass so that the terminal becomes a bit quieter. It did not happen as planes are literally landing and taking off all the time! I realized that the second runway is saving them from a total collapse. By separating their arrivals and departures they can ensure that there is an efficient traffic flow especially since planes arrive from one side and depart from the other.

Last month Wizz Air discontinued their own Bucharest-Larnaca flights. Seems like they couldn't compete with Tarom and BlueAir. I wish Air Serbia would step up its own game in Larnaca by introducing at least a one weekly flight that departs Belgrade at a 'normal' time.

Thank you for reading this report. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed flying with Tarom!

Multumesc și la revedere!


Share your travel experience by submitting a trip report to exyu@exyuaviation.com


Comments

  1. Fantastic report Nemjee. Loved every bit of it. I have never flown or even seen TAROM's product so this was very interesting. Quite generous catering in this day and age from them.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you. The whole experience was quite enjoyable, they are like a better version of Jat. There is something nostalgic about flying with them, like stepping back in time!

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  2. A318, ATR42, and 747SP. Lots of baby planes. 😂

    Nice trip report.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you - all we were missing was the B736!

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    2. Very rare planes! Lucky!

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  3. Those seats remind me of JAT's old blue clothed seats.

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    Replies
    1. Absolutely, these are also much more comfortable than the leather ones that are popular these days.

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    2. Do Aviolet 737 have those?

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    3. No, Jat replaced them with Lufthansa leather seats around 2-3 years before Etihad took over

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    4. Thank you, didn't know that.

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  4. 31 passengers? That's disastrous.

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    Replies
    1. It's an ATR42

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    2. An ATR42 with a business class. :D You don't see that very often.

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    3. i hope they consider SKP soon

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    4. RO used to code-share on JU's SKP flight, there were barely any passengers so they ended up cancelling it. I guess O&D demand is really low.

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    5. JU is not a big factor here. Im sure RO can get 30pax from SKP to feed their west-european flights (see OK from few days ago). direct flights trigger the market as well

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    6. Thing is that Tarom isn't big on transfer passengers, they are mostly after O&D. Mind you, they don't even offer swift and convenient transfers. Before going into the departure area you first need to go a floor up to the passport control then you go back the same way downstairs where you pass through the security control which consists of a single x-ray machine and a single metal detector.

      That said, RO seems to be changing its business model by launching GYD, TBS... so simultaneously they should be upgrading their airport facilities.

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    7. tbh sounds as bad as transfering non-schengen to schengen at ATH.

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    8. Yes, it's stupid to go out into Greece to go upstairs to the checkin area. LOL

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  5. Great report.

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  6. I have used Tarom for Belgrade - Bucharest flights few times because of terrible schedule Air Serbia has for this route. Last time, evening flight from Belgrade (I think 19:40) was delayed for 2 hours because plane was late at arrival. Generally I don't like ATR42, quite small, I had couple of very "shaky" departures from Bucharest. it's a shame that Air Serbia schedule is such disaster on this route.

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    Replies
    1. I think the shaky departure was due to the weather not the aircraft. Btw JU uses Atr as well.

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    2. JU uses bigger ATR then Tarom - ATR72 vs. ATR42. And if the plane is smaller then it is more sensitive to weather conditions. I had flown with ATR72 million times but some experiences with ATR42 were unique :)

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    3. JU has two different Atr72, with 66 and 70 seats. The 66 one is much more comfortable.

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  7. ASL fails again...

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  8. "Summer is always a busy period at LCA. Last year they welcomed 7.734.290 passengers while combined, the two Cypriot airports welcomed over 10 million passengers. Their goal for 2018 is to add another million and to pass the 11 million passenger mark"

    Never would have thought that Cyprus has the same level of air traffic as all of Croatia's airports combined!
    Thanks for the nice trip report Nemjee!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you.
      This was a really good summer season for them so I am sure they'll make it. Paphos has so much room for expansion as that area is not as developed as the one around Larnaca and Limassol. I think PFO could easily handle 4 million in the future.

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    2. @An.10:29
      Cyprus is an island, far away from continental Europe, its main emitive market. There is no other way to visit except by plane. Majority of Croatian tourists are from Austria, Germany, Slovenia, Italy, Czech republic, and 90%of them arrive by car , bus, ferryboat. If Croatia had geographical position of Cyprus, it would have at least 30 milion passengers arriving by plane

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    3. LOL @ Anonymous 12:15 PM

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    4. Anon 12.15

      I am sorry but that's not true. First of all, Cyprus used to have ferries to Greece, Israel, Syria and even Egypt but they were all cut as they proved to be unprofitable. People can afford to fly so they always chose the plane which is faster and more comfortable. LCA-BEY is the perfect example of this phenomenon. Distance between the two countries is some 207 km but all ferries went bust. Today you have MEA, Cobalt and Cyprus Airways operating multiple daily flights between the two airports. The situation with Israel is the same however due to the EU-Israel Open Skies there are more players on the market, including Ryanair from Paphos.

      Furthermore, Cyprus has an extremely strong industry (shipping, consulting, finance...) which further stimulates the need for air travel.

      Saying that all this demand comes only from it being an island just goes to show how unfamiliar you are with the whole situation down there.

      By the way, even the occupied area in the north barely has any ferries to Turkey despite being much poorer than the Republic of Cyprus. I think it has to do with the mentality of the people. Just like most Croats prefer the bus or mini van when travelling to Vienna, that's how most Cypriots prefer to fly to Lebanon or Greece in stead of taking the ferry.

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    5. Da li to znači da većina turista u Antaliji i Izmiru dolazi busom jer Turska nije ostrvo? Koja je to logika?

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    6. Anonymous at 1:08 PM
      +1000
      Same with Italy, Greece etc.
      I just googled and I found that Cyprus has only 1/5 of Croatia's population yet they have similar levels of air traffic.
      And Croatia is supposed to be a tourist powerhouse...

      BTW Bravo Hrvatska for last night!

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    7. Cyprus is also affected by seasonality but it does have enough passengers during the winter months. Here is a comparison of LCA, PFO, ZAG and SPU.

      January:
      LCA: 294.086
      ZAG: 168.788
      SPU: 30.423
      PFO: 71.175

      February:
      LCA: 273.479
      ZAG: 154.679
      SPU: 23.932
      PFO: 74.578

      March:
      LCA: 343.825
      ZAG: 192.533
      SPU: 33.828
      PFO: 125.145

      April:
      LCA: 558.605
      ZAG: 240.168
      SPU: 123.230
      PFO: 222.576

      May:
      LCA: 745,954
      ZAG: 268.847
      SPU: 257.445
      PFO: 267.028

      June:
      LCA: 878,069
      ZAG: 310.921
      SPU: 403.586
      PFO: 282.679

      July:
      LCA: 1,045,608
      ZAG: 351.532
      SPU: 657.056
      PFO: 317,557

      August:
      LCA: 1,076,319
      ZAG: 347.663
      SPU: 593.709
      PFO: 328,927

      September:
      LCA: 942,096
      ZAG: 330.855
      SPU: 421.122
      PFO: 301,396

      October:
      LCA: 844,808
      ZAG: 297.682
      SPU: 198.150
      PFO: 285,747

      November:
      LCA: 400,008
      ZAG: 222.697
      SPU: 39.552
      PFO: 148,878

      December:
      LCA: 331.433
      ZAG: 205.682
      SPU: 36.143
      PFO: 92,483

      Total in 2017:
      LCA: 7,734,290
      ZAG: 3.092.047
      SPU: 2.818.176
      PFO: 2,518,169

      Hopefully this comparison will show you why it's silly to compare the Croatian coast to Cyprus. Main difference is that Cyprus is more comparable to Zagreb in terms of yearly demand than to SPU, DBV or even RHO. There is year-round demand regardless of the tourist industry. Compare the winter months between SPU and PFO.

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    8. Forget LCA, looks like very soon SPU and PFO will be busier airports than ZAG!!!

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    9. Don't know about PFO but SPU has no chance this year because ZAG is having double digit growth.

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    10. For your info sweetheart, LCA traffic sums up ZAG+SPU and almost DBV together and I am not including PFO in the list.
      So lets stick to reality and not compare apples with pears. Thanks.

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  9. I flew TAROM only once in 2008, SKG-SBZ via OTP, and I remember it as a very enjoyable experience. At the time I remember getting transferred onto my connecting flight was quite convenient and easy.

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    1. Was it the new or old terminal? What planes did you fly on?

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  10. RO is a very good and reliable airline. It's a pity they are loss-making because of the huge competition back home.
    It doesn't have JU's almost 90+ years rich history, but definitely nice airline.
    Excellent domestic coverage, good safety and still generous service.
    OTP needs a massive expansion as the numbers are getting bigger every year and it's already neck to neck with BUD.

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    1. Yes, I hope they manage to improve their finances as it would be a shame to see them go.

      That said, the market demand between Serbia and Romania is doing quite ok, it's actually stronger than the one between Serbia and Slovenia.

      BEG-OTP passengers:

      2015: 66.058
      2016: 71.876
      2017: 67.114

      Average number of passengers per day:

      2015: 181
      2016: 197
      2017: 184

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  11. Very interesting and well covered trip report. Thank you :)

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