Moscow playing cardLast March, Moscow was put to the most severe test by me and came through with flying colors.

It was my own fault, really. Usually, when I receive a proposed flight schedule from the travel agent,  before approving it I check not only the connecting flights, but also the time interval between flights. This time I overlooked that second step. When it was already too late, I noticed with horror that the international flight from Odessa, Ukraine, to Moscow was to arrive only an hour and ten minutes before the departure from there to Novosibirsk.

Only an hour! Never mind that all this would take place in Terminal D of Sheremyetovo Airport. In order to make the next flight, I would have to fill out two copies of the emigration card, endure the slow line at passport control, pick up my bag, go through customs, stand in another unending line to check in, recheck my bag, go through security, and find the gate. A travel agent who hasn’t done it personally sees only that it all works on paper, and cannot possibly realize the complications of going through Moscow. Even within the same terminal, you just don’t change flights in an hour.

At the Odessa airport I had a long discussion with the checkin clerk, explaining my situation and requesting her to check me and my bag through to Novosibirsk. She was unyielding, saying, “Those are the rules.” So I resigned myself to missing my homeward flight. I sent an email to my Novosibirsk contact, informing him that he probably wouldn’t need to go to the airport at 4:00 a.m.Burger King Moscow

Yet Sheremyetovo offered more than one surprise. There was no emigration card to fill out. At passport control they scanned my passport and a machine automatically printed out the card. Still, more than half my allotted time had already passed. I collected my bag and raced toward checkin. To my amazement, there was an agent right outside customs who took my suitcase and checked me in, in no time flat. All that remained was to go through security and find the gate.

SheremetyevoI ran to security, which went pretty quickly, and headed full steam to the gate. I was out of breath and had only moments to spare before boarding. But I made it! In the Moscow of old, all this wouldn’t have been possible. (See my tale about our first time in Moscow.)

Sheremyetovo has gone from being one of the most inconvenient and fearsome to one of the most contemporary and comfortable airports in the world.