Is Geneva a black hole?

As usual at Christmas, the TV news showed Geneva airport on one of its busiest days: full of passengers coming (maybe to France!) and going.

The spokesman for the airport, Bernard Stämpfli, sometimes lets his enthusiasm get in the way of accuracy. However, his figures for the increased airport passenger traffic this year (around 6% higher than in 2011) are certainly pretty accurate. This increase comes at the end of a year which was foreseen to be difficult for the airlines: it has indeed been so for several airlines, with bankruptcies, job losses (sorry, restructuring!) and mergers galore.

Another interesting statistic, reported in the newspapers, was that people are commuting daily to Geneva from over 100 km away. I also hear of others who work in Geneva but live still further away: they do a weekly air commute (or maybe some also use the trains).

How does all of this match up with the numerous people who are in financial difficulties? We know that in countries around Switzerland there are very many people with no jobs and no prospects of a job. Spain and Greece are the countries most often quoted, but others are also in difficulty. Even here, as was said in the Mise au Point TV emission last night (23 December), there are people trying to live on an income which does not match with Geneva prices.

So how can it be that so many people are still flying? To look for an answer I checked up approximately how many aircraft flew from the UK to Geneva in the first 3 months of this year, and I came up with a figure of about five thousand, of which two thirds came from one of the London airports. Assuming that a majority came for snow sports, not business, and that an aircraft carries typically 100 passengers, that would mean about 400,000 people, probably meaning something like between 100,000 and 150,000 familes.

It sounds a lot, but when you compare it to the population of Great Britain it equates to less than 1% of their population. Of course, another few per cent may fly elsewhere (looking for sunshine rather than snow). However, that shows that air travel can easily survive, even increase, based upon a small minority of people who do not have to worry where their next meal is coming from.

What about the large number of people, all over Europe, who cannot even think about holidays because they don't have the money? How do these people think when they read read reports of increased air traffic (and its possible contribution to climate change)? Of wealthy Geneva and Switzerland where many big industrial conglomerates decide to base their affairs? Of Swiss banks making vast profits by manipulating interest rates? Of tax dodgers using Swiss, and other, banks to ensure that they pay a minimum amount of tax on their wealth and earnings?

CERN is famous for investigating black holes. Is Geneva, and even Switzerland, becoming a bigger and bigger black hole in the centre of Europe?

Remember that black holes suck in everything around them, not just the nice things!

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What about Netherlands, which goes well too? And Austria, Luxembourg, Norway? All "black holes"...?

Posted by: JDJ | 12/25/2012

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