A sign in bad English used to hang in the gloomy international arrival lounge of Sheremetyevo airport: "If this is your first visit to the Soviet Union, you are welcome to it!"
And that is exactly how most passengers felt as they had to make the long walk in semi-darkness, past smouldering rubbish bins that thoughtless passengers had used as ashtrays, before joining the two-hour-long immigration queues.
All that will be gone from February 6 next year when the long overdue Terminal 3 becomes operational, which has taken more than four years to build at a cost of $650m.
Sheremetyevo, just outside Moscow, is the main international entrepot to Russia and the finished building will be able to handle up to 12m passengers a year. Russia's state-owned Aeroflot plans to move all its flights from the Sheremetyevo-1 and Terminal-C terminals to the swanky new terminal.
The new terminal will also bring back some of the international airlines that had abandoned Sheremetyevo for the refurbished and modern Domodedovo airport on the other side town, which served Central Asia in Soviet times. Aeroflot's partner airlines and members of the SkyTeam Alliance are expected to make 33 international flights from the new terminal starting February 6, 2010.
The project to build the terminal was financed by Aeroflot and state-controlled banks VTB Bank and Vnesheconombank, or VEB. Aeroflot holds 55% in the new terminal, while state-controlled VTB Bank owns 25% plus one share, and state-owned Vnesheconombank (VEB) holds 20% minus two shares, says Prime-Tass.
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