07/19/2016

Long-haul (night?) flights

Now that OFAC has opened the door for airport expansion, what will be the next destinations and at what time.


The Swiss Civil aviation office (OFAC), part of the federal office for the environment, transport, energy and communication (DETEC) has just issued their "Processus de coordination du Plan sectoriel de
l’infrastructure aéronautique (PSIA)" for Geneva airport. As many airport neighbours feared, this pushes the door wide open for the airport to continue expanding (known as meeting the demand!). This goes against the wishes of airport neighbours, communes in Geneva and Vaud and nearby France, and also the expressed desire of the Geneva State Council to stabilise the impact of night flights, and hence the area subject to unacceptable noise.

It is a logical conclusion the OFAC will, by issuing such a ruling, effectively allow the airport to fully utilise the new East Wing terminal as soon as it comes into operation. Thus, the current agreed limitation of no more than 6 aircraft at any one time using this terminal will fall by the wayside, allowing its use for up to 9 aircraft at a time. Being realistic, this agreement, negotiated some years ago, was merely a ploy to gain time and temporary peace: it was inevitable that the airport would not spend (at least) half a billion Swiss francs on a new terminal for only a limited usage.

So where is the inevitable long haul expansion likely? In an interview with the magazine l'Hebdo the airport president already talked of more connections to India and Asia, so it is interesting to look at which of their airlines have recently (this Summer) sent aircraft to Geneva.

From China, as well as the regular service of Air China to and from Beijing (normally the noisiest departures of the day), a Boeing 737 operated by Beijing Airlines has visited Geneva on its way to Paris Orly. From Japan, both Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways have sent large Boeings to Geneva. As of only three days ago, 16 July 2016, the latter company sent a Boeing 777-300 from Tokyo to Geneva and then back to Tokyo. Air India has also seen one of its Boeing 747 fleet pass through Geneva.

Worse (for the airport neighbours) is the stated intention not to aim for a limitation of night noise, because this would not permit night flights to South America and South Africa. To quote from the OFAC document

Il appert également que le plafonnement de l’exposition au bruit pour les heures de la nuit (22 heures – minuit) mettrait en péril les possibilités pour développer des vols long-courriers dont les départs depuis l’Europe se font durant les heures de la nuit (vols pour l’Amérique du Sud ou l’Afrique du Sud par exemple).

This is tantamount to a declaration that the economy is much more important than the health of tens of thousands of people living around Geneva airport. As such, perhaps the DETEC (Département fédéral de l’Environnement, des Transports, de l’Energie et de la Communication) should be renamed DTECC (Department for Trashing the Environment in this Country and Canton).

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