From the moment I heard about the proposed plans for Doncaster airport I was a supporter. I even sported a sticker on my car showing my support, although there were a few folk in Doncaster who didn't want the plans to go ahead. Well tough luck because the plans did go ahead. Doncaster Airport was to be situated at the old RAF base in Finningley which boasts one of the longest runways in Europe. A terminal was built, staff were employed and trained, airline companies caught on and very soon it was ready for business.
Doncaster Airport (owned by Peel) was given the rather silly name of Robin Hood Doncaster Sheffield Airport but I can understand why it wasn't just named Doncaster Airport. After all not many people have heard of Doncaster, especially those who don't live in this country. From what i've read I think they used the name Robin Hood to attract international visitors to the airport, and Sheffield was added to the title as it's the closest city to Doncaster and more people have heard of it. Well regardless of it's official name most people refer to it as either Doncaster Airport, Donny Airport, or Finningley Airport (as it's situated at a village called Finningley)
Just a few short weeks ago this airport was opened for the first time and I had my flight tickets ready. We'd booked a holiday to Benidorm and whilst we usually fly from Manchester Airport or East Midlands this time we wanted to fly from Doncaster as it's only a few miles away from where we live. Much more handy.
The journey to the airport was very easy as we knew where it was but those unfamiliar with the place may struggle with directions at this moment in time as due to a dispute with the council on road signs there are only little yellow signs and these can be few and far between. Hopefully very shortly this should be sorted out but for now if you're travelling to Doncaster Airport I would find out the directions prior to travelling so you don't get lost.
On arrival the terminal building is pretty impressive. It looks state of the art with huge glass panelling and looks pretty much like an airport abroad. In fact because we arrived at the airport on a hot summers afternoon it felt like we were already abroad. The car park is huge and plenty of spaces were available including dozens of disabled spaces right near the terminal entrance. I'm unsure as to how much the car park costs as we were just dropped off.
Unfortunately we did encounter a slight problem straight away and one which i've never encountered before. You have to put a coin in the luggage trolleys to use them and we didn't know this so we had no change. It's a good job the shop (a Spar) inside the terminal was open otherwise we would have been stuck for change, thankfully they changed a note for us so everything was OK. The trolleys cost £1 or 1 euro which you get back when you take your trolley back.
Inside the terminal it's quite clear to see the building work hasn't quite finished yet. Work was still going on around us if rather quietly. Not many people were around, there was none of the airport hustle and bustle or noisiness. In fact it made a rather refreshing change. I'm sure once it's been open a while longer and more flights are taking off it'll get busier and more hectic but for now it's nice to have a quiet airport.
Checking in was easy although the clerks were a little slow, i'll give them a break though as they're new to the job and it's not like we were in a rush anyway. Once checked in you don't go to the other side like normal, instead you take a right turn and go up some stairs. So the 'other side' is actually the top floor. This reminds me a bit of Humberside Airport which is one of the smaller airports.
Departures is a fairly small area with a small duty free shop and a small general shop. To be honest it's not very impressive but i'm sure given time it'll be far better. There's a Costa Coffee Shop which does lovely coffee if a little on the expensive side and a bar. The smoking area is tiny and you have to wait your turn to sit down as no way is there enough room for all the vile smokers (which includes me)
One gripe I did have was the baby change facilities which to put it bluntly were crap. For a start there was no sign directing us to where it was so we had to ask. Then when we found it all it consisted of was a hard bench for changing the nappies, a sink and a toilet. No baby change mat was provided, no chair for breastfeeding Mums, no comfort whatsoever. There was even a hole in the ceiling with a wire hanging down. Still, like I said the airport isn't finished properly yet so hopefully they'll get this sorted ASAP.
Our plane was delayed slightly but only by half an hour. Whilst we were waiting to board we watched in laughter as the ground crew tried to empty the toilet on the plane but ended up covered in all the waste. That was rather funny. Still they're new at their jobs and I don't think they'll want to make that error again in a hurry. It gave us some decent entertainment whilst we waited though hahaha.
On returning to the airport after our holiday it was rather a disappointment. We had to wait 15 minutes on the plane after landing because the ground crew could only find one set of steps for us to unboard by. It was discovered the other set of steps were on another plane which had landed earlier that day so the whole plane ended up unboarding with just one set of steps. What they doing by not having enough steps? Go figure.
Luggage collection was pretty easy and as we were the only plane to have landed within ages the building was very quiet. Again the trolleys had to be paid for but at least there were plenty available unlike a lot of airports.
On entering arrivals the first thing I noticed was this disgusting smell of turps or something. Yeah welcome to Doncaster hahaha. The turps will disappear once the building work has finished but they could have tried to mask the smell with something. One HUGE bonus about arrivals is there is the good old Spar shop (where we got our change for the trolleys at the start of our journey) The Spar shop was still open even though it was past 11 at night, this was handy to stock up on milk and other essentials for when we got home. I can't remember ever entering an arrivals where you can access a shop, a huge bonus for Doncaster Airport in my eyes.
Taxi collection outside was a bit of a nightmare. There is a huge space for the official airport taxis but if you've ordered a taxi from other companies the pick up area is relatively small. I saw no-one get into an official airport taxi (probably too expensive) most people had ordered other taxis which meant there was a huge jumble of taxis spreading from one side of the airport to the other, and queueing even outside the airport park. As bad luck would have it our taxi took over half an hour to show up which really annoyed me as we only live a 10 minute drive from the airport but after waiting for our taxi for ages it took us nearly 45 minutes in total to get home. Not the airports fault, our taxi companies fault. Don't order Micks Taxis to pick you up from the airport as they're unreliable. Order Bawtry Taxis as I saw loads of them all arrive promptly.
So that concludes my review of Doncaster Airport (oh sorry I mean Robin Hood Doncaster Sheffield Airport) Yes there are a few teething problems but it's only just opened. Although not many flights take off from here yet it's sure to increase very rapidly. Already demand for tickets is so much higher than they ever anticipated. Another two terminal buildings are in the pipeline and more facilities and shops are to be built. Give it time and it'll be a fantastic airport to fly from, especially for me with living so close. It's a great benefit for Doncaster town and for the people who live here.
In time and when I fly from Doncaster again I shall update this review with changes they've made. For now i'd like to give it a 3.5 star as some areas could be improved but as I can't give half stars i'll have to give it 3. It pains me to not give it 5 stars but it's not a finished airport yet, a lot still needs to be worked on.