Sofia Airport – You need 2 hours!

Arrive 2 hours before your flight from Sofia Airport!

We all know that it’s advised to arrive at the airport at least 2 hours before your flight. I’m not the kind of person that likes to rush and leave things until the last minute so usually, when I’m flying from Sofia airport, I allow myself about an hour and a half. Only if I have luggage to check in do I get there earlier but even then, it certainly wouldn’t be more than 2 hours before the scheduled departure of my flight.

Sofia airport has two terminals. The old Terminal 1 and the more modern and much bigger Terminal 2. Since it opened in 2006, Terminal 2 has been used for all of the major airlines such as Bulgaria Air and Lufthansa, whereas Terminal 1 became the budget airline terminal, catering for the likes of Wizz Air and Easy Jet.

As the budget airlines became more and more successful, Terminal 1 started to become incredibly crowded. Parking is almost impossible at certain times of the day and the queues for checking in and security can be very long. Most of the flights I’ve taken over the past 3 years (between 5-10 trips a year) have been from Terminal 1 as I often use Wizz Air. However, on the odd occasion I would fly from Terminal 2 and when I did, this was always a very different experience. Up until about 2 months ago, Terminal 2 of Sofia airport felt a little bit like a ghost town. You could park, get through security and be sitting down having a coffee in about 25 minutes. Terminal 2 was a travellers dream.

And then something happened. I can only assume to ease the pressure on Terminal 1, Ryanair were given permission to start flying from Terminal 2. From January 2017, they would be the first budget carrier to operate out of Sofia Airport Terminal 2.

I had my first experience of Terminal 2 since the arrival of Ryanair last weekend when I was flying to Athens. I’d found a fantastic ticket price at just 40 EUR return (with Ryanair) and was flying out very early on Friday morning. As I mentioned, I don’t like to rush so I had arrived at the airport around an hour and a half before my flight. I had no luggage to check-in and given my past experiences of Sofia Terminal 2; I was expecting to be through security and sitting down having my breakfast in no time.

I couldn’t have been more wrong!

On arrival, I saw a queue that went from the passport check, along the check-in desks all the way to the opposite end of the terminal. I immediately joined the queue but very quickly realised I would be there for a long time.

The queue was moving, but very slowly. People were getting tense. Like me, many of the travellers had arrived around an hour and a half before their flight, and as half an hour passed, we were anxious that we only had an hour to get through this queue, then security, and then to the gate.

A few people asked the staff if they could jump the queue as their flight times were getting very close and they were told, very abruptly I might add, that no, this was not allowed. If you wanted to catch your flight, you should have arrived earlier! Ordinarily I would agree with this. However, Sofia Airport also need to think about adding more passport check desks and security scanners, because two desks and four scanners is clearly not enough to cater for an international airport of this size!

After over an hour of stress, and a dash to the gate, I made it with only minutes to spare. It was very close and had I arrived at the airport any later; I would not have made that flight.

My advice is, if you’re flying from either Terminal 1 or 2 of Sofia Airport, make sure you listen to the airline and get there 2 hours before. If it’s not busy at least you can sit and have a coffee while you wait. That’s far better than risking losing your flight completely!

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