Domodedovo, all you need to know about traveling through DME airport.
Domodedovo, DME, is one of three major Moscow airports. The airport was built in soviet times. After USSR collapsed, in 90’s DME was transferred to private hands and since than airport undergone a number of rebuilds. Nowdays DME is a modern airport providing level of services, comfort and safety comparable with major international airports in Europe and US. Construction of the airport is not finished yet, new concourses are being built together with third runway. Existing DME infrastructure is capable of handling any types of aircrafts including A380.
Design-wise DME terminal is nothing fancy. It’s a practical piece of architecture, simple and very utilitarian. DME terminal performs basic airport functions such as check-in, security, customs and passport control, food, duty-free shopping, business lounges, baggage handling and so on. Also DME has small orthodox church and mosque.
DME terminal is new, clean, tidy and well organized, but not very spacious. Not sure about official figures, but it looks like that airport is running at the edge of its capacity and it seems to be always very crowded. It gets worse in peak travel seasons, for which please see special precautions below.
How to get to DME airport. There are two ways of getting to Domodedovo airport:
By Aeroexpress train from Paveletskiy rail terminal. The train rides every 30 minutes and it takes 45 minutes of travel non-stop. In DME train platform is connected directly to the terminal. Ones you’re out of ticket gates (located at the exit from platform), the terminal door is in a few steps away. Unlike other airports, DME train platform is outside and if you have to wait for the train, be mindful about weather conditions.
By car, if you are willing to take a risk of being stuck in Moscow traffic, especially on MKAD (Moscow ring road). There is no direct road from Moscow downtown to DME, you almost inevitably have to drive on MKAD to get to the road that goes to DME. The road to DME originates from MKAD (Moscow ring road) and has no thru traffic, meaning it ends at Domodedovo airport. Another issue with using car is that Domodedovo unlike most modern airports does not have elevated ramp for departures. In addition, area in front of the terminal used for car pick-ups and drop-offs is very small and inefficiently organized. Because departures and arrivals use the same area it’s always a total mess of cars and passengers. Airport administration had tried to organize traffic flow for a number of times with no success.
There are buses running from Domodedovskaya subway station, but they also depend on traffic.
All navigation in the airport is bilingual. Do not expect airport personnel to be able to have conversations with you in languages other than Russian. Most likely airline ground personnel will be able to address basic and common issues in English, but no more than this.
There are no direct transfer options between DME and other airports (VKO, SVO) other than taxi. It will take at least 2 (most likely 3) hours by car to get from DME to any other Moscow airport, unless you travel real early in the morning (like 3am, but no guarantees). Alternatively you can go through Moscow downtown, but this will require changing different trains and subway or taxi between trains as they depart from different stations.
Transfers between connecting flights within DME are relatively easy if you checked-in for your final destination. For international flights all transfers happen within one concourse and roughly one hour between flights should be enough (more for international – domestic transfers). Beware that even though you will not be leaving international flights area you will need to go through security checkpoint between flights. This means if you have liquids purchased in duty free before previous flight they will be confiscated. There is plenty of personnel and information desks in the arrival areas to help you with transfers.
Special precautions on traveling through DME in peak travel seasons:
Peak seasons are: December 15th through January 1st, April 15th through May 10th, July and August in general. It is advised to add one extra hour for arriving and getting through all airport procedures.
If you are going to the airport by rail, board the train as early as it opens doors for passengers. Trains get overcrowded and you will have to stand for the whole 45 minutes of traveling. This is especially valid for December and April-May seasons. As an alternative, book business class seats as they guarantee seating, but booking must be done in advance and it will cost extra.
Add extra time to get to the airport by car. City traffic gets worth in holiday seasons especially in December (because of weather).
If you are going by car, beware that you will stay in traffic just to get to the drop off area entrance gates. This might take 30-60 minutes easily as number of cars in peak seasons will be enormous and airport is not designed to handle increased traffic well. It will take extra time (up to 30-40 minutes) even to get into the airport building. You have to do luggage screening at the terminal entrance and capacity of check points is not enough for peak seasons.
Expect crowds and long lines everywhere from check-in to passport and security control. This is because passenger traffic increases drastically and airport is not that spacious.
There might be flight delays because of weather, especially in December. Flight delays means more passengers in the airport, more chaos and more time lost at security and passport control.
If you are stuck in DME or have to make overnight stay, be informed there is only one small, overpriced, run-down hotel in walking distance from the terminal. Nothing else is available and if you have time it is better to stay overnight in Moscow downtown nearby Paveletskaya rail station.
Official website of Domodedovo airport (English). Versions in Deutch, Spanish, Arabic and Chinese also available.