Low-cost terminal 'a cattle shed'

Angry travellers using Bordeaux's new Billi terminal say it is a disgrace to rest of airport

Angry travellers using Bordeaux's new Billi terminal say it is a disgrace to rest of airport

BORDEAUX Airport's new Billi terminal, designed for low-cost airlines, has been criticised by Connexion readers as too basic and uncomfortable.

Travellers wait to board in an area like a "cattle shed", said June Clarke, from the Dordogne adding that conditions were "appalling" and "this is becoming a matter of great concern to British residents of this area, their families and friends".

The terminal lacks "normal airport facilities expected in a departure or arrival hall", she said. Signage is poor, there is no covered walkway between Billi terminal and the main one. The terminal also lacks suitable overspill areas for those hit by delays, who end up "pushed into a small inadequately ventilated room", Mrs Clarke said.

Duncan Andrews, from the Gironde, likened Billi to a "warehouse" and "a disgrace to the rest of the airport".

Mr Andrews, who runs a gîte business, said he fears his guests’ first experience of Bordeaux will be an arrivals area lacking facilities apart from a currency exchange desk, with no public transport information or taxis.

What is more, he said, facilities for people waiting to welcome those arriving are basic, without toilets or food and drink and with very few seats.

He wrote following comments we published on last month’s letters page from Elaine O’Mahoney of Bonnes in the Charente.

She complained of the walk in the open air to the terminal and said "passengers are herded into metal sheds with minimal facilities". There was "minimal seating" in the departure area and no toilets or seats at the boarding gate holding area, where they stood for 45 minutes. Friends had said they would not use the airport again.

The Billi terminal was opened in June, becoming the third terminal for Bordeaux-Mérignac. It was specifically designed for low-coast airlines, especially Ryanair and EasyJet, and is the third such terminal in France. It serves destinations including Luton, Gatwick, Liverpool, Edinburgh and Bristol.

Airport director Pascal Personne said they were looking to put toilets in the outer entrance to both departures and arrivals area, to cater for people seeing off or greeting friends, (there are already toilets in the main departure lounge). However, he added, the terminal was just 40m from terminal B, which has extensive facilities.

He said: "Billi terminal is designed to be very efficient, which is very important for the low-cost companies: everything has to be quick. The customer should not spend very long in it.

"Secondly, it was meant to be economical so we charge the companies as little as possible for using it, we obviously didn’t put in marble, like in our very beautiful main terminals.

"There is also a very dense, but attractive and varied, commercial area, with gifts, duty-free, press and food and drink. Normally the customer enters that area, then moves quickly into a pre-boarding space, then on to the plane, and it works very fluidly."

He said there may have been times this summer when things worked less than ideally because staff were getting used to new procedures, but they had now worked intensively on making processes as smooth as possible.

Some flight delays had led to passengers feeling they were "piled up" waiting but this was for reasons outside the airport's control and the departures area had been "saturated" on some occasions. About 30-40 new seats have been added there, he said.

However, the pre-boarding area near the gate was not designed for comfort as you should only spend a few minutes there. People had had to spend longer than usual in it because of crowding in the departures hall, but this was "very rare" and was not normal. Usually people are there only when the plane is at the terminal.

Ryanair’s European communications manager, Daniel de Carvalho, said the firm was happy with the services provided at Billi: "Bordeaux is enabling us to deliver very functional flights, not to lose bags and to run an efficient operation at low cost, which is what our passengers are looking for."

He said the airport delivers efficient and timely boarding, there are minimal delays and safety standards are high.

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