Perpignan airport was always a bit like a favourite elderly relative that you looked on it with affection, while accepting their faults. It has been described as ‘a little scruffy and quirky’ – and that was a compliment! While they are pretty good at getting planes to arrive and depart on time, they appeared to have given to thought to the well-being and onward travel plans of the passengers. For instance, there was no official airport shuttle bus (you had to know the timetable of the Line7 Cabestany bus which would then drop you off at Place Catalogne in town, 1km from the bus and train station), there were never enough staff at the car hire desks (even if they were miraculously open at the same time that a flight arrived), and there were no tourist information boards –no pretty pictures showing what to do in the region and no advice on how to get there (or even how to leave the airport!)
Happily the airport is now having a facelift and it appears to be major surgery as the process has been going on for years. At it's worst, the check-in area was a building site with plastic sheeting stapled to the walls, festoons of electrical wiring hanging from the ceiling, loos located in a portakabin in the car-park, and the ‘shop’ no longer existed. There was dust and noise everywhere and the only clean thing was the sign apologising for the fact that there were no loos in the ‘departure lounge’. I use the inverted commas because one would need an excellent imagination to call an overheated cupboard with 17 chairs and a broken vending machine a ‘lounge’.
On Saturday I went to the airport for the first time in ages and was very nearly pleasantly surprised. The Check-in hall is looking good with a smart cafe and shop area, there are shiny new toilets (with lift access) downstairs, and the car park is now sheltered with solar panel roofing. I have no idea whether the Departure lounge area is fully functional yet but it seems highly unlikely as passengers have to present their passports at a desk in the corner of the hall and then disappear into a building site. The Arrivals area is still very much a ‘work in progress’ and you have to wait outside at the far right of the building (next to two portakabins which house Avis and Hertz). Not pleasant on the few days it rains here, and it will be even worse in the blazing heat of summer…
I am sure it will be lovely when it is finished (hopefully in my lifetime) but so far they appear to have forgotten something very important – Passenger Information. I was there to meet somebody off the Stanstead flight due at 3pm and it was only by word of mouth that I found out from other people waiting that it was delayed by 15 minutes. We went to watch it arrive but to our dismay it didn’t land but continued overhead, raised it’s landing gear and flew off towards the sea. As the only information screen in the building was advertising a ‘coffee and croissant’ deal at the restaurant, we could only guess at whether it was too windy to land, or whether there was a sudden Air Traffic Control strike, or whether we would even see it again.
Eventually the plane arrived and we found out (from the passengers) that there had been an obstacle on the runway. Seriously, Perpignan Airport Authorities, please could you find a few extra euros in your budget for an information desk – a nervous looking check-in lady muttering ‘5 minutes’ with her fingers crossed is not enough!