Sunday, January 30, 2011

Tbilisi Airport

There really are few places whose daily peak is at about 0400; in fact, I can’t think of another off hand. However, Tbilisi airport is one of those, and it was my pleasure to have landed there this morning at that God Awful time.

Worth it, though, I have to say, as the drive into town was speedy, and really rather beautiful; slightly misty, and the wonderfully illuminated castles, old buildings and streets were a picture.

The airport, however, wasn’t. One of the perils of being a, shall we delicately say, second division destination is that airlines tend to determine when they get served. Major European airports, and even their minor strips, have landing restrictions that theoretically allow those who chose to purchase dwellings near an airport to sleep. This leaves aircraft sitting on the ground all night, unless they are able to squeeze in a round trip journey of nine hours or so to allow a plane to make some money at night.

As this timing requirement needs a landing strip about four hours away that is open in the middle of the night, the choices are fewer than one might imagine. Tbilisi is one; as are such attractive destinations as Yerevan, Yekaterinburg, Perm and so on.

I have left Tbilisi on the return journey, and although an 0430 departure fails to warm the cockles of this jaded traveller’s heart, it is a vast improvement on arriving at that time; getting to the hotel by 0530, asleep at 0600 and sort of awake by noon, clinging to the hope that one’s body will eventually synchronise with the day’s cycle of food smells.

It was a long journey; actually, I almost spent longer in airport lounges (13 hours) than actually flying (14 hours) due to the peculiar schedules, and a well-placed respect for the idiocy of a tight connection in Chicago.

In Munich at one point, I did find myself staring at the departure board wondering where I was actually going. All of the destinations looked pretty appealing, but it was only by reference to my boarding pass that I got myself back on track.

And here I am, back in the Georgian capital for a series of meetings that will hopefully nudge another couple of projects forward. On Wednesday I hope to fly up to Mestia on “my plane”; the aircraft that I worked on leasing to the Georgians is operating a service up to the mountains, and it would be fun to be able to go for a ride. We will see.

In the meantime it is time to again enjoy Tbilisi for a few days, and not think about airlines, airports, schedules or moving again for a few days.