01/02/2012

Private jets at Sion cannot be photographed

The Director of Sion airport is said to guarantee confidentiality for rich clients in private jets, including banning photography of passengers and the registration: more separation of "them and us"!


This report came in Le Temps on 30 December 2012. Under the direction of Bernard Karrer, private jet traffic has doubled this last 8 years, perhaps in part because Sion airport guarantees its clients confidentiality: it forbids any photography of either passengers or the part of the aircraft that carries the registration.

The attraction feature of Sion airport, one of four regional airports permitted to handle international traffic, is supposed to bring in extremely rich clients who may wish to get to the ski stations. They are encouraged to buy second homes (chalets) in up-market places like Gstaad, Montana and Verbier (whose Swiss residents now have to live elsewhere!), and negociate special tax agreements only available for foreigners. On arrival at Sion they can within minutes be jumping into a helicopter to get to their destination. The statement was made that despite the general economic problems in Europe, the rich are often extremely rich and not affected. One case mentioned was of a Russian frequent visitor having equipped his private jet as an apartment (bedroom, living room, shower etc.).

Despite all of these rich clients, plus some "normal" ski flights around now, the airport loses around a million Swiss Francs a year: a loss subsidised by Sion town and the Valais authorities. Perhaps they should be a bit wary, given the recent case of another rich Russian gentleman who has gone to Monaco and left a rather large hole in the ground in Cologny, Geneva (Le Matin Dimanche suggested that the Geneva authorities are being unusually understanding of the problems of this gentleman!).

All of this does nothing to dispel the increasing feeling of many people, backed up by economic statistics, that the gap between rich and poor is constantly growing here in Europe. It is therefore hardly surprising that in "developing" nations, and also ones that are still poor, the top people see it as quite "normal" to enrich themselves in the same way.

Of course, any serious aircraft spotter could tell Mr Karrer that there is virtually no way that his airport can keep all their traffic hidden from view. The spotters that come to Geneva each year for EBACE have laptop computers that can capture and analyse the transponder signals of all aircraft, identify them, look them up on the Web and listen to the conversations between pilots and the control tower: if they decide to go to Sion then all would be revealed.

 

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