Sochi – we’re looking forward to the Olympic Games opening this coming Friday, motto: Gateway to the Future!
Future, present, past … well, it’s been thirty years ago, in my final year of apprenticeship at what used to be the GDR’s sole airline, spending a few weeks accompanying my instructor check-in agent at Berlin’s Schönefeld airport, which at the time belonged to the airline as well. “Okay, listen, we’ll be doing Budapest, then Sofia, then Adler.” she said, with a voice modeled by too many hours in the airport’s dry hall as well as the occasional Alte Juwel cig outside.
With “Adler” being the German word for “eagle”, I thought this must be some code for either the lunch break, quitting time, or, something I wasn’t aware of – yet. I did dare to ask, despite my fear to embarrass myself: “What do you mean by Adler then?”, which was received with a deep-drawn sigh, and I learnt that Adler (IATA: AER, ICAO: URSS) is the urban district which is home of Sochi airport.
Come on, there were misunderstandings much worse over airport names, leading to erroneous bookings, even carriages! Dulles/Dallas, Porto/Bordeaux, LEJ/LEI, HAJ/HAN … not that I was involved in any of these.
Back to Sochi/Adler: the airport reported its busiest year in 1990 (2.3 million passengers), whereas last year it was only 1.5 million; the number of tourists to the area decreased by one third since 1990 as well.
Whilst there were two nonstop flights between Berlin and Sochi in the summer timetable of the mid 80s, there are none to be found today. The best connections are one-stop via Moscow, manifold though. Thus, could the current charter activity encompassing the Olympic Games lead to a renaissance of Sochi airport, the Russian Riviera, more nonstop flights? – GDR tourism in the 80s was not too dissimilar from what is in fashion today – put in a nutshell: two weeks, southbound, sun, beach.
Two distinctions: The travel restrictions limited the variety of destinations, with the Russian Riviera running in only second to the Bulgarian Black Sea coast. And demand for package holidays outstripped supply by far; I remember the load factor of these flights was 100%, no cancellations!
OK, now, listen, tour operators and leisure carriers, remember there’s a subtropic “eagle” near Sochi waiting for you!