The holiday island of Madeira's Airport

You may wonder why I have decided to write about an airport. Well, this airport on the island of Madeira is certainly unusual, plus, if you visit, the information here may help.

Funchal airport is actually situated about an hours drive from the capital, Funchal. It is called Santa Caterina and is quite near to Santa Cruz on the eastern side of Madeira.

Sao Laurences below us

As you approach the island you travel over Sao Laurences, a barren and brown looking rocky headland that tapers out a fair way into the Atlantic Ocean. From here, you glimpse Machico, the old capital of the island.

Before you have time to get your breath, you are banking over, and dropping at considerable speed to approach the runway. This runway was extended over the sea in order to accomodate the larger holiday airplanes. It is supported by massive pillars which, on one of our trips we rode through whilst travelling under the runway. Fascinating.

Travelling under the runway

Now, although large aircraft are able to land here most of the time, at certain times during the winter this airport still has to be closed to such planes. The high winds and storms, which can attack the island, can mean it is closed at short notice. This can result in flights being diverted to Porto Santo, The Canary Islands or even Lisbon. This usually happens in January or February.

Most travel companies now have direct flights to Funchal airport on Madeira. We flew with TUI from Manchester on a Boeing .

We landed about 7.30am, in September to a calm, humid but cloudy morning. Disembarking from the plane and looking round I was struck immediately by how modern and well kept this airport is.

A coach took us from the runway to the airport buildings. On entering you are greeted by a pleasant building with two floors. The whole place has a very clean well kept feel to it. Everyone joined the only two queues to get through passport contro . As so many planes were landing this was a bit slow.

There are escalators to the next floor if needed. If I remember rightly, we had to go down the escalator to the exit.

After a painless journey through customs we were in a huge marble type foyer. There were all the holiday reps directing everyone off to their transport. Having got through pretty quickly I decided to use the ladies, which was exceptionally clean and well equipped.

From here we went to use the cashpoints. They operate in several languages including English. We got our Euros and I thought, next time, I don't think I'll bother with travellers cheques. As we had travelled on Sept 11th, when many restrictions were in place, my husband had no lighter or matches for his much wanted smoke. So, next we bought what he needed from a kiosk. Easy and good prices. There are a few stalls around here selling a variety of goods.

There was ample parking outside, if needed, and taxis available. As you drive in or out of the airport you realise just how well laid out it is with lovely, bright green grass borders and flower beds. Being right on the coast the sea air which greets you is wonderful.

Going Home Taxi-ing close to the waterGoodbye to Madeira

Our next visit was, of course, for our return journey. Of course you look at things a bit differently when going home.

We entered the ground floor and realised just how many check in desks there are. Unfortunately our rep had given all of us the wrong desk number and pandemonium ensued. Why god knows, when you have plenty of time. We had our seats reserved, so no sweat for us.

There are monitors and screens all over the place so that you can check timings and flight details. There are a few shops on this floor. This check in area is huge and not dissimilar to Manchester Airport. However there were far too many planes all coming and going at the same time. It was sheer chaos.

Once checked in you go up the escalator to the next floor and pretty much come out in the duty free shop .

Now I assume this is still the same. Although it is an EEC country, you can bring back 3200 cigarettes and a suitably increased amount of alchol and perfumes. 200 cigarrettes were 25 Euros at the time. This shop is very well laid out and has a good selection of goods compared to some airports that we have used.

On leaving the duty free shop you are in the main departute lounge. We did have quite a wait for our flight and, once we were queing to get through passport control to the plane, we had our documents checked twice. Maybe it was just as things were difficult at that time. I had also been told that if you had for example changed your hair colour from your passport photo, it could be awkward. I did not have any bother, despite being blonde now and brunette on my photo.

In this lounge there are not very many refreshments. We used a coffee bar in the corner near the gates. Like most airports it was nothing to write home about and a little pricey, so if you can take something with you, all well and good. Still it was clean.

Also there were very few seats in the departure area. Me, I sat on the floor as that doesn't worry me but if you have mobility issues you may find it tricky standing for a long time.

The taxi-ing to leave the airport was not has hairy as the arrival, but the plane did travel right to one end, over and near the sea, and then turn round for take off.

You still got fabulous views on take off and a spectacular banking over of the plane .

Having used a few airports abroad I would say that this one is average size. However ,you cannot fault it for it's layout and design, cleanliness and facilities. Although, due to the various checks slowing things down, it was a much slower process leaving than arriving.