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A year ago, the idea that Sheremetyevo Airport (SVO) – built as a ‘temporary’ facility for the 1980 Moscow Olympics – could ever re-establish itself as Moscow’s leading aviation hub would have seemed plain fanciful. Its rivals at Domodedovo and to a lesser extent, Vnukovo, were steadily eroding its traffic base, both had (and have) enviable commercial facilities and each could boast far easier access to the city than SVO.
Now, though, the picture is changing, as I’ve discovered during a fascinating few days in Moscow. Whisper it quietly, but could SVO be on the verge of making a dramatic comeback?
First, of course, there’s the opening, scheduled for 29 March next year, of the stunning new T3, which will host Aeroflot and its Skyteam partners. I visited the terminal site (pictured above) today and it’s a real eye-opener. It’s got great light and openness and a wide sweeping shape that will wow passengers. With OAO Terminal’s mantra of ‘Transparency, Modernity, Prestige’ as core values, it’s a location that promises much.
Duty free retailer Aer Rianta International has leaned on those values in developing its own concepts there. The company describes the T3 business as a new flagship for its European operations – and suppliers are backing its bold statement with big investment, as I saw when I looked through the floor plans. You’ll hear much more about T3 both online and in our next Digital Print Edition.
But that’s not all that’s happening at SVO: far from it. The airport authority is pouring huge investment into a major overhaul of SVO2, the iconic, though dated terminal of old (pictured below). It’s adding new commercial space, while retailers such as Moscow Duty Free are getting a major – and belated – makeover. In addition, in a new zone being created to link T2 and T3, there’s more than 3,000sq m of duty free being tendered too – which all looks set to make the next year one exciting time at SVO2.
Beyond the terminals – and let’s not forget the radical new maritime-themed store just opened by RegStaer in Terminal 1C – there’s something equally exciting happening at SVO’s new rail station. The fact that there is now a train linking the airport with the city will come as a blessed relief to the many travellers who have had to endure Moscow’s grinding traffic – and steep taxi fares – to get out to SVO.
The new Aero-Express opened last month is still in its infancy – and the service is still irregular – but it will soon run every 30 minutes to a new, more central station, and is expected to carry 5 million people a year.
The train terminal boasts almost as much retailing as the airport does – and could compete on F&B services and maybe mid-priced fashion with the airport operators – but it shows that a new and welcome commercial approach is sweeping through SVO – placing it on a much better footing to compete with its Moscow rival airports.
All of this is likely to make travellers reconsider the easy, old prejudices about SVO – and transform attitudes to this key gateway.
The reawakening of SVO is just one of the messages that I take with me on my journey home. One thing I know for sure: very little in this amazing city stays still for long – and in the world of Moscow aviation, nothing stays still at all.