On Arrival: Lviv International Airport Excitement building as Leopolitans anticipate the dawn of a new era of travel possibilities
No more lingering sense of Soviet isolation Lviv has waited long for an international airport worthy of the name. Despite still having a good claim to the title of ‘Europe’s undiscovered gem’, Lviv has slowly moved onto the radar in recent years, as witnessed by the growing number of international airlines adding the city to their regular schedules. The number of international carriers offering Lviv flights has now expanded to include Lufthansa, Austrian Airlines, Turkish Airlines and Lot, and as the daily flight list has grown the airport’s inherited Soviet infrastructure has been increasingly exposed as wholly inadequate.
For decades, flights into Lviv have been received at the city’s shabbily grandiose Stalinist airport terminal – a poorly lit little Soviet temple complete with fading murals of proletarian heroes and packs of men in leather jackets and hats whispering into mobile phones. The whole place appears to have been designed with a minimum of convenience in mind, as if to hurry the weary traveler along. The general impression created is always of having arrived in some kind of end-of-the-line backwater rather than a historic regional metropolis and major international cultural crossroads. For many, this was symptomatic of the Soviet inheritance which saw Lviv shrouded and cut off from its erstwhile contemporaries in Prague, Krakow and Budapest in both a physical and a cultural sense.
Lviv’s Eurasian gateway inheritance returns to centre stage
The all-new Lviv International Airport will radically transform the city’s air travel situation and should banish memories of post-Soviet obscurity almost overnight. With expanded runway capacity and a terminal building capable of processing 2,000 passengers per hour, the city will enter a different league altogether, creating a regional hub that will serve communities hundreds of kilometers from Lviv itself. There is not a single international quality airport within a 400km radius of Lviv, providing the city’s international airport with an enviable catchment area including a total population of around 5 million. While these West Ukrainian passengers will now finally be able to enjoy the kind of theoretical mobility that they have long hankered after, the new airport will also open up the region to international audiences and provide a boost to what is already a fast-expanding hospitality and tourism sector.
Sky’s the limit for Lviv tourism sector
It comes as no surprise to learn that those most excited about the arrival of the new airport include representatives of the region’s tourism sector, which is counting on the facility to play a game-changing role in the rise of the West Ukrainian tourist industry. The entire Carpathians area is within easy reach of Lviv International Airport and the arrival of an international air hub will provide a further boost to a sector which at present continues to sustain its impressive annual growth on the back of rising domestic demand. Lviv International Airport’s broad catchment area serves to make it an attractive new port of call on a European map which is increasingly interlinked by direct flights between second and third tier destinations. Everyone is now understandably hoping to see a flurry of new flights in the wake of the airport opening, adding to the existing international schedule of Lviv flights. However, while construction work is expected to be completed well before New Year 2012, the airport is only scheduled to reach full operational capacity by March 2012. Or in other words, just in time for the extra-long and ultra tourism-friendly Lviv Easter season!