01/16/2013

Geneva airport unmentioned snow problems

Every time it snows in Geneva I expect media reports which understate the problems! Yesterday was another case.


It started to snow in Geneva yesterday morning, 15 January. At 8h40, after the takeoff of Lufthansa LH1213 for Frankfurt, the runway was closed. The report in the "20 Minutes" paper, and its on-line site, said that the runway was closed for 30 minutes in order to clear the runway, and that some pilots decided to go elsewhere, rather than circling and waiting to land. Sounds wonderful: the efficient Geneva snow team did a great job (which they probably did). I would assume that the paper got its information from the airport.

Now, what happened next is not reported anywhere! The runway was actually closed for an hour. Then, the first aircraft to land was the easyJet flight EZY6149 from Bristol. It appeared to land with no observed problems, taxiing to the bay a few minutes later. However, there were then no further flights, either takeoffs or landings, for another 30 minutes, meaning that the airport was effectively closed for 90 minutes, not 30 minutes.

Given that long delay, it is pretty certain that other aircraft circling waiting to land, had to divert to other airports because the pilots feared running out of fuel. In fact, eleven flights diverted, including the big incoming Swiss A-330 from New York (it went to Zurich). Some of these then continued back to Geneva: Irish passengers from Dublin had a sight of Toulouse! As well as the diverted flights, there were a fair number of other flights cancelled, mostly outgoing ones (of aircraft that could not land here).

However, the interesting part concerns the easyJet aircraft which landed at 9h40. This aircraft would normally have soon returned to Bristol, but it stayed in Geneva most of the day, before taking off for Bristol at 5h22 pm as an empty flight! Had it been damaged during the landing? Had the pilot reported the runway as not really fit for landings? Was it all just a coincidence? Perhaps a journalist would like to ask the airport or easyJet!

The passengers for Bristol did not have too long a delay: easyJet Switzerland used one of its own aircraft to take the passengers to Bristol, before returning empty.

One curiosity was that an Air Europa (the Spanish low-cost airline supposedly in conflict with Iberia) Embraer E190 circled directly over Geneva (rather than over the holding zones north and south of the airport) for virtually all the closure time, before being the first to land after the re-opening. It was actually preceded by the takeoff of a small business jet belonging to the Berne-based Sky Work Airlines, which made far more noise over Vernier than any other aircraft in the whole day: just proves that in terms of noise, size does not always matter!

A last point: yet again I experienced difficulties in connecting to the airport web site. At the home city of the Web and for an airport making big money, this should be unacceptable (as should the fact that even when one gets onto the web site one rarely finds any useful information about the day's problems).

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