First of all, a quick digression. Do you LOVE that photo to the left? Turns out the lady in the picture has her own Facebook page and everything. And guess what? She loves TAROM too! Yes! Oh and by the way, in case you think that giant scarf thing that appears to be eating her neck is just some kind of glamour shot kinda deal, I’m here to inform you that you are SADLY MISTAKEN, MY FRIEND. It is the actual uniform worn by real deal TAROM stewardesses or air hostesses or whatever the ding-dong name for that job is these days.
Another minor digression – and this is the only time you’ll ever hear me say something bad about TAROM – I had to go to great lengths to “borrow” that photo from TAROM’s website. They apparently hired some super sneaky genius Web 2.0 guy who did his darn best to keep I, and the rest of TAROM’s adoring fan base, from just right clicking and saving the lovely photos on the site. Just saying…
Ok where were we? Ah yes, TAROM and how awesome it is. Well the name isn’t too awesome because it sounds like an industrial paint solvent or something but it stands for “Romanian Air Transport”. But that’s because the Communists weren’t very adept at “marketing” and so they went around naming everything, well you know, just by what it is. The public bus company in Cluj is called “Public Transport Company of Cluj”. The natural gas company was called “Northern District Gas Company”, etc, etc. A little clunky but hey, at least you never had to come across a bottle of “Mountain Dew” which is bright neon green and wonder how the heck Homer Simpson style nuclear waste juice has anything to do with water droplets on a pristine mountaintop LOL
So don’t be fooled by the name. TAROM conjures up images of some hideous Eastern bloc company where you imagine all the workers wear brown, square shoes and shout at you and there’s drab orange carpet everywhere or something. Not even close. Although if you read about the “short history” of TAROM on their website you’ll probably slip into a coma. Long story short, back in 1954, the Romanian government created TAROM and it’s still here today and what it does is fly planes around. Shocker, eh?
Actually the cool thing about TAROM that will surprise you, besides giant, jaunty neck-munching scarves on the flying ladies who serve you drinks is that it’s still owned by the government. Wow! I never would’ve guess that, and I say that in all seriousness.
These guys (and ladies) seriously have the best customer service I’ve ever experienced and I’ve flown just about everywhere in Europe and the western hemisphere. Besides the post I linked to at the top of this blog entry, I can tell you a few stories about TAROM, all of them good!
Back in the old days, TAROM used to fly from the United States directly to Romania, which right there you know it’s going to be a flying party. Manele blasting through the speakers and free shots of tuica for everyone! Whoo hoo! Break out the gold saxophone if you got one and let the good times roll!
Ok that’s all a lie – I admit it. But the food was excellent. Yum!
Somehow, some way I had a flight that went from New York City (I think) directly to Timisoara and then it continued onto Bucharest. The problem was that buying the ticket to Bucharest was cheaper but I actually wanted to get off in Timisoara, although I wasn’t going to Timisoara either, but it was closer to where I actually wanted to go.
By the way, don’t ever ask me to explain why I do such weird things. Even I don’t know.
Obviously I could deplane (that’s fancy airplane talk for “walk off the airplane”) in Timisoara with no problem. But my freakishly large piece of luggage was at the bottom of a giant 747 and would continue on to Bucharest without me. What to do?
In hindsight, I realize now I guess I could’ve called someone earlier and tried to get this all jiggled out and settled ahead of time. But I was too craven to do it. There, you happy now? You made me cry! I hope you’re happy! LOL
So I get to New York City (after flying a filthy American airline of some kind I’m sure) and I race up to the TAROM counter and explain my situation.
Unbelievably good service. The TAROM lady at the desk got on her walkie-talkie and was literally talking her crew on the other end, step by step, as they dug through a mountain of luggage to find just MY special bag and then exchange the super-duper coded tag from Bucharest to Timisoara.
Literally took “us” a half an hour to do it as I had to describe my bag to the TAROM lady and then she had to translate what I said into Romanian and walkie-talkie it to her crew who then had the thankless task of finding my non-descript luggage.
But she did it – and they did it. And when I walked off the plane (aka “deplaned”) in Timisoara, my bag came trundling out a few minutes later. Yay!
Funny addendum – for whatever reason, the customs guys in Timisoara that day were using a dog to sniff/inspect all the luggage. Now normally when you imagine a dog working for customs, you imagine a line of passengers all with their bags in hand and the dog being kept on a leash and doing his/her “inspecting”. Right? NOT IN ROMANIA, MY FRIEND!
No way. These guys had some old dog of unknown breeding (looked like a total mutt to me) who literally climbed onto the conveyor belt full of luggage and went up and over each piece of luggage LOL it was like a little obstacle course for him/her as they went down to the belt, up and over the next bag, down and up and over, up and over. Also it was raining outside so the dog left little perfect muddy pawprints all over each bag. Hopa!
Brief digression: Years later I actually lived in Timisoara and got drunk with a guy who was one of the “big wigs” down at the airport and he was a drunken lout who constantly wasted all his money despite making “big bucks”. Nice guy but terrible worker. He offered to drive me to the airport to check out the control tower “behind the scenes” and I turned him down only because he was colossally drunk. Not saying that he flies the darn planes or anything but he was in management of some kind… just saying LOL
That was probably the greatest TAROM experience I ever had. They’ve also let me (a different time) fly using only a mutilated AND expired passport. Hey, they’re just cool like that, don’t get your underwear in a bunch. I am the King of Romania, after all.
They also have some of the friendliest staff working at their local offices in town (where you buy the tickets). I had quite a nice long chat with them the last time I went anywhere with them (which was just a few weeks ago). Another bonus – when you have to remove your shoes to go through the super looper metal detector, they give you little “footie” socks to slip on OVER your regular socks so the scuzz of 5 million passengers’ sock sweat doesn’t ruin your socks. Yay!
Sadly, due to expense or paranoia or whatever other reason, TAROM doesn’t “get out” quite as much as it used to, I mean to those really far away destinations. It’s mostly an Eastern European regional carrier these days although they do hit all the four major Romanian cities as well (Iasi, Timisoara, Cluj and Bucharest). It’s a damn shame in my opinion because it truly was fun riding to Romania with a bunch of Romanians who were all excited and pumped to get back “home” and glad to finally speak Romanian again to someone and eat the awesome food. Yeah, the food IS awesome here ;)
So what are you waiting for, lazy bum? FLY TAROM TODAY!