Why Warsaw Modlin Airport Should Be Avoided – a Review

First of all, as a Polishman I feel obliged to apologise for your experience at Warsaw Modlin Airport.

In case you are just going there, please accept my apologies in advance.

This place is not the way we run things here in Poland. As you will see later on in your journey to Poland, the place is an exception.

I understand that your first impression of Poland has already been ruined by this airport. All I can say is to give us a go anyway, give us a chance to make up for this.

Just do not travel to or from Poland using this joke of an airport ever again. We do have good and functioning airports in this country – it is just not the Modlin one.

Every passenger should get one of these cards, but – just like the toilet paper in the the airport’s toilets, staff patience and free seats – they ran out too. Yours Sincerely, Staff and Management at Warsaw Modlin Airport

Already there? Well, to make your experience a little bit less unpleasant, treat Modlin as some kind of weird tourist attraction showcasing communist times.

Like it is some kind of dystopian political fiction movie where Poland was still a failed communist state but somehow joined the EU.

Jokes aside, I really cannot understand how we can allow the bunch of clowns running this airport to shot us in the foot like this. Those brainless idiots ruin the image of Poland right from the start.

No amount of PR money can fix the damage they are inflicting upon our country day after day.

My biggest complaint about the airport is not the mess and inconvenience. It is how bad it is for Poland. Instead of greeting our visitors with the best we have, we greet them with this disaster.

Some screenshots of Google reviews. No need to hire an expensive consulting firm to find out what is wrong…

People who experienced Modlin will be extremely difficult to convince that Poland is not that bad and that we actually have things that work, that not all of us are ignorant morons, we speak languages, have manners etc.

On the other hand they will become much better and understanding customers of other airports, as Modlin will put places like Stansted in the right perspective and let you appreciate them.

You do not know what a proper bad airport is before you set your foot in Modlin. Your scale is not calibrated – but do not worry, here comes your chance.

I guess the airport’s management got their positions as some kind of “jobs for the boys”. Unfortunately this happens a lot in Poland and effects are always very similar to what you see at Modlin Airport.

Incompetence is the name of the game here.

We can have lots of things to see and do and Poland can be a really good place to visit. But when the first thing to experience here is the dreaded Modlin Airport, the first impression of Poland is really awful.

Modlin Airport is like saying hello and kicking somebody in the balls at the same time. Quoting great George Carlin, „this is our way to say hello”.

Reviews leave no doubt. The place is total mess. It is not just me having a bad day there six times in a row.

If you are looking to do business in Poland, you will think twice seeing how disorganised things are in here.

If you are looking to relax and enjoy your holiday, you are in for a rough ride right off the bat. Modlin is not a good start of your holiday, just to put it mildly. Nor it is a good end.

So again – I am sorry. Once you get out of there (not as easy as it sounds) things will get better, I promise. Just stay off the roads.

This idea can help the airport to curb on some irresponsible passengers that overuse toilet paper – and thus cause shortages. If introduced, it may significantly lower the number of reviewers complaining about lack of toilet paper. The revenue generated off this scheme may be spent on improving passenger services. No, I am joking – it will go towards management’s bonuses of course.

What Makes Warsaw Modlin Airport so bad?

Here I will assume that you have just arrived, and will list the problems in the order you will likely encounter them.

Long queue to buy toilet paper during communism in Poland. At Modlin Airport you will get this experience free of charge: there are long queues and toilet paper is a luxury good too. Source of photo: Wikipedia.

Waiting outside

When you get off the plane, you will be marched – a bit like cattle – to the customs/passport control hall. I guess normally buses would be used, but in Modlin they do not see the need for such luxury.

They are more Ryanair than Ryanair.

Unfortunately you will not be able to enter the building itself, as there is not enough space inside for all the passengers. Especially if another plane has landed roughly at the same time.

Great planing like this shows in almost every aspect of airport’s operations. It feels like arriving planes are a kind of surprise to the staff there, like they were never meant to arrive at this place – but somehow they did.

So thanks to thoughtfulness of airport’s management and designers you will be waiting in a really large queue (or rather a herd as the crowd does not form a line, it is more like a mosh pit at some metal concert.) outside of the airport building.

The guards friendly staff will discretely watch you so you do not go where you are not supposed to.

If it rains or snows, if it is hot or cold, if your legs hurt, your kid cries, if you need to go to the toilet – then you are out of luck. Sorry.

Let us pretend it is some kind of weird tourist attraction or some historical reenactment. This will make things easier for you.

Long queue for passport check

The airport does not have enough capacity to check passports of the arriving passengers in reasonable time. I never saw all the booths to be opened, so it means the situation could be improved, but for some reason it is not.

It was bad even after they introduced automated self-service gates.

Use the toilet on the plane because it is hard to say how long you will wait outside of the airport building. Some reviewers report two hours.

I have to say that I never waited longer in any of the European airports I visited. So likely it will be worse than anything you previously experienced.

There is no such signs at Modlin Airport yet. But it does not mean there is no need for them…

And in Modlin the waiting was a rule for me every time I had the misfortune to be forced to use this airport.

The folks working at passport desks make the worst possible impression. They look like some soldiers (which they are) from a banana republic. Extremely official, suspicious and full of self appointed authority.

Seriously you may think that they will shot you if you sneeze or something. This is completely unnecessary and sets some weird totalitarian tone.

They do this while failing miserably at doing their job efficiently, adding insult to injury.

Wow, someone had it even worse than I did… this lady was effectively detained at Modlin Airport for two hours, how else can you call this? If it is not being detained, then at which point does this mistreatment become an illegal detention? After three hours? After four?

The place and the atmosphere is like in those movies where somebody has to cross the border with fake papers to escape to freedom. It is hard to say why you feel like this, but you will see what I am talking about once you get there.

It is unpleasant, one thing that is missing is some large guard dogs barking at people. But poor lighting, armed soldiers, crying children and muffled announcements over a megaphone are there just like in the movies.

Look, the way the place looks like, how long things take and the way those border control folks behave is bad even for me. I was born in a communist state, I am used to being treated like shit.

Banksy’s Dismaland – Modlin Airport gives you the taste of it free of charge. Image credit: Dazed and source post here. To be honest, I would rather go and see the original thing, it seems to be less stressful:

The truth is that my country has been treating me like this for my entire life. Now – by accident – anyone who lands in Modlin gets to see what it is like to be Polish.

I have been traveling in and out of Poland for almost 20 years, never heard “welcome home” from these assholes in any of the Polish airports. Not even once. Not that I care now, they can stick their greeting up their arses.

It is supposed to be my country, but instead I am a problem, a nuisance here. I am not welcome and neither are you.

Their Irish counterparts somehow always manage to say “welcome back” or something – and smile. Do not worry if Polish guys do not smile, this is normal, you have done nothing wrong, they will not arrest you.

So even some fake friendliness is too much to ask for in Poland I guess and really there are way more serious problems with all this passport business than just that.

Long waiting time has to be solved in the first place. We have a wise saying in Polish: “no time to pity the roses when the forests are are burning”. Smiles can wait.

Is Modlin Michael O’Leary’s dreams come true… or would it bee too much even for him?

So let us assume you finally got out and after queuing to use one of the few well hidden toilets you are ready to hit the city.

Not so fast though, because…

The airport is badly connected

There are many airports in Europe that are located far away from cities. Modlin is not an exception.

What sets it apart is how poorly connected the airport is to the city of Warsaw.

Please make sure you have some way to get out of there booked in advance, you will save yourself trouble. And when booking your transport do allow for slow passport control mentioned before.

Allow at least an hour of a delay, just to be on the safe side.

If you arrive say after 10 pm, your options to get out are really limited. There is a train, but train station is a couple of kilometers away. To get to the station, you need to use a shuttle bus.

Near the exit from the airport building you can buy a joint ticket valid for both shuttle bus and the train to Warsaw.

When you arrive at Modlin train station, you will be surprised again. It looks like abandoned.

You can wait inside of the station building or on the platform. Both equally cold in the winter.

Especially at night, the already bad experience from the airport itself gets magnified by that joke of a train station that is supposed to service an international airport.

To get on the train you will have to get up and down some falling apart concrete stairs, go over the railway tracks and back down again. Not sure how this will work for disabled for example, maybe there is a lift somewhere.

Anyway, if walking up the stairs is not your thing, it may be as far as you will get.

The light is very poor. Do use the flashlight in your phone as the stairs are in a bad shape and it is easy to fall and roll down.

No facilities, no clear instructions for foreigners. Travelers from abroad have to rely on fellow passengers to get any information on how to get to the city from that dark and dirty spot.

I do not think there is a toilet there so do your business while still in the airport.

The trains themselves are nice and clean, but unreliable. Sorry, I nearly missed a flight thanks to this train. Ended up taking Uber from Warsaw to Modlin…

I missed the train, because wrong platform was announced and displayed. Actually everybody who wanted to travel on this train missed it, like 30 people.

I got my fare money back from the train operator, but they refused to reimburse me for the Uber cab.

There are some private bus operators connecting Modlin Airport with Warsaw, but they have to be pre-booked or you may not find a place.

The buses are usually packed full (as the only viable way to get in and out of the airport) and communication with drivers is limited due to language problems.

Also even if you pre-book, your flight may get delayed and you are in trouble anyway.

These problems get magnified on late evenings, during the day you should be ok.

If you get stuck, try to get Uber – at least you will know the price in advance. Do not use cabs that wait outside of the airport, they are bound to charge you many times what Uber will charge.

Some tricks never get old…

Going back

So let us say you stayed in Warsaw for a couple of days and you actually had a good time. But unfortunately it is time to go through the bloody Modlin Airport again.

Well at least you will not get caught unprepared this time.

Arrive early. You already know that the facilities are limited there so you do not expect much.

First problem when you go back is calculating the right time to go through security. As I will explain later, beyond security there is usually nowhere to sit down and it only gets worse once your go through passport control and get to the departures hall and gates.

A basic rule is that the deeper you go, the worse it gets. The public part of the airport is ok, behind security screening it gets congested but you may still get a seat and at the gates (after passport control) it gest really bad – chaos, crowd, no seating.

You have to arrive at the airport ahead of time, because the transport in and out is not reliable – but you already know it.

Or maybe it is reliable and I was just unlucky once. The problem with those things is that if you get unlucky once, you can never trust again. So I do not.

This means even more wasted time as you have now not only to make up for the airport’s problems, but also take into account possible problems on your way to the airport.

But let us get things in the right order.

Security & string bag scam

I never waited much in security there, but there is a neat trick to know. It is about the small plastic bags you are supposed to put your toiletries and liquids in.

You will not find them anywhere in the entire airport. So if you travel from a civilised airport, just take one extra plastic bag for your return trip.

Otherwise you will have to buy one.

Just as you enter the security check area, you will see vending machines where you can buy the bags for some extortionate price like one euro for a plastic bag.

You are nervous because you face having to throw your liquids to the bin and so you swear and buy the bag. The whole thing is organised in a way that you are left with no choice.

I am sure the vending machine belongs to some asshole from the airport management. Or – more likely – to one of his/her relatives, to cover the tracks a bit. The scam is simple and profitable.

Do not buy the bag. The security guys will give you one if you do not have it. Update: in the light of the review below, looks like this advice may now be outdated.

Source of review here. I would really love to know, who owns the vending machine…

Therefore I advice you to not take with you anything that requires the plastic bag, or take an extra bag in the airport you are traveling from.

Of course do the above unless you are ok with being scammed into buying the plastic bag.

It is possible that bag purchase is now mandatory, things may have changed since I was there (security folks were simply giving the bags to those who did not buy).

It is such a disgrace to scam travelers like this, I just cannot find words for this. This is hopeless.

It is not that I consider one euro or whatever they charge to be a big loss. I consider this to be another hit to the image of Poland, the fact such small-time extortion scheme can continue to exist here in a broad daylight.

Nobody likes to get ripped off and people tend to remember those things. Well thanks to some greedy sob at Modlin Airport this plastic bag thing may be all the visitors will remember from Poland.

The security itself was ok when I was going through, but after all those years I am a really frictionless customer.

Cramped area past security screening

After you pass the security, there are a few duty free stores and a couple of restaurants/bars.

They are not too bad but I do not remember being able to sit down and eat there. So if you planned to eat, drink or rest before the flight – it may not happen.

This area is not the worst though. Because the worst are departure gates past passport control. Watch the queues to the passport control and enter the departure hall as late as possible, because it is the worst.

Here I am just expanding on the management’s plastic bag vending extortion scheme. Once your 15 minutes sitting time is almost up, the spike can poke you a few times to remind you that you have to either vacate the seat, or insert another coin. This idea could easily solve the airport’s seating shortage problem – and provide the management with some extra funds too. Feel free to use it, I forego all copyright.

Departures hall and gates

The departure hall, divided into gates is usually full of people.

One of the Google reviews of the airport say that it is like a war zone. I remembered this phrase because it is a very good description of what is going on there.

It is total chaos, like some hasty evacuation from somewhere, like some badly managed crisis.

Forget sitting, unless you sit on the floor. Toilets are limited in numbers, but I managed to use the toilet there, even though there was only one.

It is easier for guys. I guess the ladies would have it much worse there.

It is disheartening that in twenty first century in Europe an airport exists that suffers from lack of such basic amenities.

There is just one place where you can buy some snacks and something to drink and this would be it.

The crowd is so huge, that it is easy to be in a wrong queue without even knowing it. Seriously, you have to really watch out for what is going on and what plane is boarding.

Because of the overcrowding, people and queues from different flights get mixed up. I is even hard to tell where the queue starts or even if you are in a queue.

Once I saw a large group of people that missed their flight in all this chaos. An argument broke out, it was hell.

To alleviate the overcrowding in departures hall, the staff starts boarding as early as possible, even if there is no plane yet. This often means standing outside for a long time.

I stood for a good half an hour there in hard summer sun, 30+ degrees, no shade. No fun.

The elements will get you again, just as when you arrived. Modlin Airport does not give a shit.

Final Thoughts

Traveling through Warsaw Modlin Airport is like traveling through some third world country. Is annoying, frustrating and has a potential to ruin your trip right at the beginning.

It also does a huge damage to Poland as the visitors are confronted with such a mess the very second they set their foot on Polish soil. So it is not only bad for those traveling, it is bad for Poland and polish hospitality business.

Young people traveling on a budget will probably not mind if they can manage without being able to charge their phones.

Traveling with a family or with small children is certainly a big no-no, unless you are a kind of prepper/survivalist type who travels with small children across Amazon jungle.

Modlin is also not for you if you are a bit older or cannot stand up for a long time.

You see, my own requirements and expectations are already very low. I am a poor emigrant worker, well used to second class travel and Ryanair level of service.

I am used to accepting inconveniences during travel. I travel mostly because I have to, not because I like it.

Given the above, what goes on in Warsaw Modlin Airport is too much even for me, on many levels. The only reason I used this airport more than once, was money.

So if you are able to afford it – save yourself frustration and avoid Modlin.

On my last journey I promised myself that I will not go through this again and simply spend more or travel to another city and fly from there.

You see they pissed me off enough to write this whole review and this should be your best warning.