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Old 8th August 2018, 01:00 AM   #1
SQueeze
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Default TAROM old school economy service from Moldova to Rome

Background:

The 3rd installment of my USSR series brings us to another retro experience with TAROM. While itís not exactly as retro as the experiences in Ukraine and Transnistria, and I was not expecting to write a report on TAROM (originally thinking that it would be just a regular intro-European flight). To my surprise, TAROM is quite still a relatively special experience because it is still pretty much old school. It reminds me of late 1990s and early 2000s.

For those who have not read my earlier installments, you may find them in the links below

Part 1: Throwback to USSR: Ukraine Intíl and the State Aviation Museum

Part 2: Time travelling to USSR: 1973-vintage An24 and overlanding through Transnistria

Chapter 1: TAROM ATR-42 (Chisinau-Bucharest)

Flight: RO210
Aircraft: ATR42-500
Registration: YR-ATG
Class: Economy
Seat:12D
Load: 100%

My flight on the Long journey back to Asia began in the wee hours at Chisinau Airport. While Moldova is often said to be the poorest country in Europe, Chisinau airport is pretty much almost first world and of relatively good standard on par with airports in more advanced parts of Europe



Itís a small single-storey airport with check-in areas on the ground floor and a landslide cafe above.



It was not a particularly busy morning and I cleared my check-in in minutes. I was on a Long-ish itinerary KIV-OTP-FCO-RUH-CGK. All on Skyteam. 2 separate tickets with TAROM and Saudia. I asked for through check-in but was declined. But not an issue as I have allowed a good 4 hour buffer in Rome for the connection.




Departures that morning. They are mainly regional European destinations. There is no intercontinental service into Chisinau. Note that the board is in English / Romanian / and Russian. Essentially Moldova is the Romanian-speaking region of the former USSR while Romania was independent of USSR



KIV is a small airport and I cleared a quiet security pretty fast and walked through the duty free. Literally walking through it.



And I made my way up to a nice cafe for breakfast since I have no status in Skyteam and had no lounge accesss. Looking down to the main Hall, I have to say itís a pleasant airport.



The cafe upstairs



And the waiting area, which got gradually filled up as the flight times approached.



The flight was on time and we boarded from Gate 7.



KIV only has bus gates. Itís a very simple modest airport.



And then we were driven to our ATR who had overnighted.

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Old 8th August 2018, 01:10 AM   #2
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Seats are regular economy class.



Ok legroom. (for me but not for anyone taller than 170cm)



Looking out of the windows to a breaking dawn, I could spot Air Moldova, the national airline. Itís relatively unknown but it seems to be doing well connecting passengers from western to Eastern Europe. I originally wanted to fly it from here to Rome but the connection with Saudia would have been just about an hour and 15 minutes and I wouldnít risk it.



On the other side is what appears to be the old terminal which doesnít seem to be in use.



And in the far distance, some retired soviet-era airliners.



A short while later, we were airborne above the rolling Moldovan countryside. Just like Georgia, whenever I think of Moldova now I think of wine ... lovely wines.



Inflight magazine of TAROM.



Its fleet of narrow bodies.



And its network. No intercontinental flights. Those are code-shares.



Bucharest is just 180 miles away, and a short 45 minutes flight away. But TAROM offers full cart service with complete variety of beverages. And itís all free! Just like in the good old days.



The array of items before the actual breakfast was passed on.



Breakfast was a very filling sandwich. With a snack bar.

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Old 8th August 2018, 01:14 AM   #3
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Not too long after, we descended towards Otopeni airport over the beautiful Romanian countryside.





We landed smoothly shortly after.

This looks like the old terminal but refurbished.



One last look at our ATR before we were bussed to the terminal.



Transitting through OTP was a rather chaotic affair. Our bunch of transit passengers were travelling up and down towards immigration due to lack of clarity of procedure. I thought TAROM regularly carries transit traffic, yet the transit security was unmanned that morning and it took awhile before an officer came down and sort things out. It was very disorganized and the checking of identity and tickets was also haphazard with no proper queue.



In any case, some minutes later, I found myself in the transit zone of OTP airport, which is pretty much looking like a 1990s experience although i have to say is quite well-maintained.





Although, some parts of the terminal appear to be an extension and it is much more modern. Including where the lounge is located. However, like mentioned before, I had no access.



I walked around. There are plenty of cafes, certainly no shortage of it. Also interestingly, there is a casino.

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Old 8th August 2018, 01:28 AM   #4
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Chapter 2: TAROM 737-700 (1993 vintage) from Bucharest to Rome

Flight: RO403
Aircraft: 737-700
Registration: YR-BGF
Class: Economy
Seat:7F
Load: 100%


The gate was packed and luckily boarding commenced on time and in Romanian order (not so orderly .




My first look at our 737-700, parked next to an El-Al flight.




Entering the plane, I was surprised that TAROM still has real business class seats in 3 rows of 2-2. How old school. What a gem it is in Europe, compared to the ridiculous Euro-business class of the rest of Europe.





Economy seats are also of old-school type with thick padding and dark blue tones. What a rarity in todayís slimline boring grey designs. I believe all these seats are still original from 1997 (the production year)




The legroom is massive! It just reminds how the economy experience has degenerated over the last 20 years!





Old school IFE.




Safety demonstration was manual.



And shortly after, we were airborne.

Despite all the old school things just mentioned, this flight is equipped with modern wifi and personal IFE is available through our own devices through it. I was really beginning to love TAROM. All the good things of old-school hardware is there, and is complimented by modern conveniences! How better can it be for Intra-Europe travel. I would rate it 5 stars anytime compared to Lufthansa, and Air France etc.






The meal service was also full service, including wine!

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Old 8th August 2018, 01:34 AM   #5
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A short while later, we left the Balkans near Split, Croatia. And even a short while later too, we made landfall into Italy



We landed in warm and sunny Rome on time



While the plane parked at a gate, we disembarked through stairs and were bussed to the terminal. One last look at our stunted 737-700.



And we were on our way. After some time in Eastern Europe, the mood of home could be felt here. Asian airlines come here (TG and SQ) and I met my fellow Asians for the first time in almost 2 weeks.



After a convoluted drive around FCO, we reached the terminal.



From here on, it is to be continued to Part 4: Saudia business class experience from Rome to Jakarta via Riyadh.

So how would I rate TAROM? TAROM is a gem. To me, the flight was the best economy class experience in Europe ever. Such good old-school seat with very generous legroom is such a rarity elsewhere these days. Combined with a full cart service at no extra costs, I would say this is 5-star service and I would consider it the best European airline (if we exclude Turkish)




Chapter 3: Moldova

For those interested, I would also like to share Moldova, often said to be Europeís least-visited country, and infamously thought to be its poorest.

Well, it is poor, but I still feel it is relatively better than some parts of Asia.

Chisinau is the capital, a modest-sized city with relatively few sights.

It has a very pleasant park around the cathedral and it was especially gorgeous in the spring morning.





There is a modest Arc de Triumf.



And the main drag of Chisinau is Stefan cel Mare avenue.





Further south, more communist reminders still remains.

Such as the abandoned Hotel National.



And a few patriotic monuments.



And beautiful socialist murals.

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Old 8th August 2018, 01:39 AM   #6
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I stayed in a communist-era hotel called the Hotel Cosmos.



A very special experience with spotless restored rooms which still preserve its vintage flavour. I totally love it.



Although the corridors are not quite as spotless. And with very strange things like this trolley which appears to be the Housekeeping trolley.



The breakfast room still has the same vintage feel.






Except for the euro signs!



The food was not bad and the spread was extensive although the presentation still looks like it came from 1985 USSR.



These ancient TVs should belong to museums now.



Overall, it has been a fulfilling experience for Soviet-nostalgia buff like me. However, I am not sure if everyone will appreciate the same.

Thank you for reading.
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Old 8th August 2018, 10:48 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SQueeze View Post
Overall, it has been a fulfilling experience for Soviet-nostalgia buff like me. However, I am not sure if everyone will appreciate the same.

Thank you for reading.
Really appreciated the tour of Chisinau! It's been another one of those out of the way destinations I've thought about visiting. There's a mass of photos floating round Instagram of all the Brutalist architecture. Too bad you couldn't stay at Hotel National, hey
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Old 10th August 2018, 07:58 AM   #8
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Thanks for the TR, Squeeze! A great read, as usual!

The Moldovan countryside looks very scenic in your pictures…on those flights it looks like it paid off to have a window seat…great views along the route.

Pleasantly surprised to see real business class on these intra-Europe flights.

Nice pictures of Chisinau as well…

Quote:
Originally Posted by SQueeze View Post


And beautiful socialist murals.
The sculpture you posted reminds me of the one in the Changi T3 arrival hall…


Last edited by yflyer; 10th August 2018 at 08:09 AM..
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Old 14th August 2018, 04:28 AM   #9
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I really enjoyed this TR SQueeze. Vintage of everything looks really unique. It is also intriguing where you stayed had tube TV's as well. Reminds me of the 90's and 2000's. Hope you enjoyed your trip overall.
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