Review: TAROM ATR 72 Economy Class from Budapest to Bucharest

During a month-long family trip to Europe, I had a chance to take a little side trip to Romania. While the main purpose of the trip was to catch an Embraer EMB-120 on a flight from Cluj-Napoca to Budapest, I was also excited to fly on Romania’s national carrier TAROM for the first time.

The first of my two flights on the airline took me from Budapest to Bucharest on an ATR 72. Continue reading this review to see what the flight was like.


Booking the Flight

I booked this TAROM ATR 72 flight a few days before departure using Delta SkyMiles.

The economy class itinerary from Budapest to Cluj-Napoca which included this flight and a domestic flight from Bucharest to Cluj-Napoca onboard a TAROM 737-700 cost 10,000 miles and 20,700 Hungarian forints (approx. 60 dollars) in taxes and fees.

Check-in, Lounge & Boarding at Budapest Airport

After a stressful drive to Budapest Airport (it took about 4 hours instead of the 2.5 hours I was expecting), I headed to Terminal 2A to check-in. While I checked in online the day before without any issues, I still wanted to get printed boarding passes.

In no time, I had both the boarding pass for this flight and the next day’s connecting flight in my hands. I went through security and – since Romania is in the EU but not in Schengen yet – through immigration, both of which were a breeze.

Budapest Airport TAROM Check-in
Check-in counters.
Budapest Airport
Budapest Airport.

Once in the non-Schengen departures area, I visited both of the lounges that can be found there – Platinum Lounge and Plaza Premium Lounge. Both of these can be accessed using Priority Pass.

Neither of the lounges (or any of the other Priority Pass lounges in Budapest for that matter) were anything to write home about. They were both small and didn’t offer that much in terms of food and drinks. Still, they provided an OK place to spend a few minutes in before departure.

I left the Plaza Premium Lounge at 5:50PM and headed to gate B8 which was right next to the stairs leading to the lounge. When I got there a minute or two later, boarding was already in progress.

Platinum Lounge Budapest Airport
Platinum Lounge.
Plaza Premium Lounge Budapest Airport
Plaza Premium Lounge.
TAROM ATR 72 Boarding in Budapest
Heading to the departure gate.

Boarding was, as expected, done using buses. With this being an ATR with limited cabin space, passengers with larger bags were being handed “delivery at aircraft” tags so that they could hand in and retrieve their bags during boarding and deboarding respectively.

About 20 minutes passed from the time I got on the bus until the bus arrived at the aircraft. Most of that time was spent at the gate, waiting for passengers to get on.

Ryanair 737 MAX in Budapest
Ryanair 737 MAX.
Aegean and Finnair in Budapest
Aegean A320 and Finnair E190.

Once I got off the bus, it took a few minutes until I was able to get onboard as there was quite a queue and some passengers were dropping off their too-large-for-the-cabin bags.

I didn’t mind the wait one bit, though, as I enjoyed looking at the ATR in a beautiful sunset.

TAROM ATR 72 Boarding in Budapest

TAROM ATR 72 Economy Class Cabin & Seat

Once onboard, I settled in my seat 13A. While the seat was toward the back of the aircraft (TAROM’s ATR 72s have 17 rows in a “2-2” layout for a total of 68 seats), it was closer to the main cabin door since the aircraft was boarded from the rear rather than the front.

The overhead panels were equipped with individual air vents. Given that the cabin was very hot during boarding, they came in handy.

TAROM ATR 72 Welcome on Board
Welcome on board.
TAROM ATR 72 Economy Class
Economy class cabin.

The legroom was not great and the cabin ceiling was low but that was nothing unexpected considering the aircraft type.

Each seat was equipped with a regular seat pocket as well as a document compartment. The latter included a waste bag, a flyer about the 2023 European Capital of Culture – Timisoara (the headrest covers promoted that fact too), and a safety card. The small tray table was more than sufficient for the type of flights typically operated by the aircraft.

Of course, there was no onboard wi-fi or in-flight entertainment on the TAROM ATR 72.

TAROM ATR 72 Economy Class Legroom
TAROM ATR 72 Economy Class
TAROM ATR 72 Economy Class
Headrest cover promoting Timisoara.

TAROM Flight 238 Departure

By the time boarding was finished, there was not a single empty seat on the plane.

One of the flight attendants, when doing the final pre-departure check, offered to store my bag in an overhead compartment saying that there was still some space. While I decided to keep it under the seat for easier access, I thought it was a nice touch that she proactively offered that option.

We left our parking spot six minutes behind schedule, at 6:26PM. While making our way to the runway, the cabin crew announced that we were expecting a flight time of 90 minutes. Then, a manual safety demonstration was done.

At 6:29PM, we took off from 13L. Shortly after take-off, we made a sharp left turn, then a right turn, and then flew more or less straight to Bucharest.

TAROM ATR 72 Departure from Budapest
Climbing out of Budapest Airport.

TAROM Short-Haul International Economy Class Service

About 10 minutes after take-off, the seatbelt signs were switched off. Just a few minutes later, a buy-on-board service started (no free drinks were offered).

While there was an option to pre-order a meal for 12 EUR up to 24 hours before departure, I didn’t take advantage of that. The three pre-order options included two types of quiches and a cold plate.

The onboard menu included a selection of snacks and lighter items to eat like sandwiches. There was also a selection of drinks. The prices definitely weren’t cheap but I’d say they were reasonable. I got myself a bottle of water.

TAROM Economy Class Buy-on-Board
Buy-on-board drink menu.
TAROM Economy Class Buy-on-Board
Buy-on-board sandwich.
TAROM Economy Class Buy-on-Board

Arrival at Bucharest Airport

For the remainder of the smooth flight, I relaxed and organized my schedule.

Then, at 8:41PM Romanian time (one hour ahead of Hungary), the seatbelt signs were switched back on. Twenty minutes later, the pilots lowered the landing gear.

At 9:05PM – about an hour and a half after we took off from Budapest Airport – we landed on Bucharest Airport’s runway 08R.

We arrived at our remote parking spot at 9:11PM – six minutes behind schedule. Deboarding took, once again, a bit longer than usual as passengers had to pick up the bags they handed in during boarding.

TAROM ATR 72 in Bucharest
Deboarding the ATR 72.

Still, by 9:23PM, the bus to the terminal started moving, and just a couple of minutes later, we were dropped off.

As I didn’t check in any luggage, I went straight to immigration. That took just a minute or two, and in no time, I was walking toward Relax Casa Victoria – my accommodation for the night.

Bucharest Airport
Arrival in Bucharest.

TAROM ATR 72 Economy Class Summary

The TAROM ATR 72 flight from Budapest to Bucharest was in line with what one can expect from an intra-European economy class flight these days. The seats were nothing to write home about (although fine for the short hop) and there was no free onboard service.

That said, the flight operated more or less on time and the cabin crew was nice. One thing worth noting is that the flight took about 30 minutes longer on the ATR than it does on the occasional days when it is operated by the jet Boeing 737.

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