05/06/2012

easyJet ropes off their automatic check-in terminals

Last year, some easyJet automatic check-in terminals were often broken. Now, at busy times, most are roped off. Result: back to those long zig-zag queues before the counters! Why?

I noticed this "back to the past" approach when going to the airport with someone who had a Tuesday flight back to London. In the area where there are located about 20 automatic check-in machines, almost all of them were roped off and hence made inaccessible. The inevitable consequence was one of those long queues where one moves slowly left then right in a snaky queue between parallel tapes. What we could describe as a "back to the past" traditional method of queueing, as well as being a reason why passengers are told to be at the airport two hours in advance of the departure!

Why was this the case: I have no idea. It is probable that this was a busy time of day for easyJet (around 2pm), and that there are quiet times (I am not quite sure when these could be!) when the automated check-in machines are made available. Maybe, also, the unstructured queuing to get at a working check-in machine was causing frustration and arguments between passengers!

Of course, at some airports passengers can opt for "Speedy Boarding", via an extra payment, to have access to priority check-in desks (I am unsure whether easyJet in Geneva has such check-in desks). Maybe this will apply to the flights designed to be attractive to business travellers (fast check-in, choice of seats, special lounge maybe?), as easyJet tries to lure these passengers away from the more traditional airlines? However, Lufthansa, one of many airlines currently losing money, are hitting back with a full page advert (in Le Matin Dimanche today, 6 May) for Geneva-Berlin next month from CHF 49 (not including a possible CHF 11 credit card charge!).

So what next? How about the system that we get in post offices, Swisscom help centres and other places, whereby we enter at a gate where we are given a numbered ticket (perhaps by pushing a button), plus an estimate of the expected waiting time, and then wait patiently until our number flashes up? If we knew that it would be long (more than 30 minutes) we could even go and get a coffee and a biscuit (against payment, of course, and at inflated prices!).

I have not looked at the use of the automatic check-in terminals for other airlines, but I did not notice any similar snaky queues anywhere else.

 

12:46 Posted in easyJet anecdotes | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: easyjet, geneva, airport, check-in | |  del.icio.us | | Digg! Digg |  Facebook

05/03/2012

Foreign Air Force planes visit Geneva

Since mid-March 2012 big Hercules C-130 transport aircraft of the Algerian and Moroccan Air Forces have been visiting Geneva regularly. What are they transporting?

These aircraft, with just one exception, do not emit any callsign to indicate what flight they are operating. Unsurprisingly, they do not appear on the Airport arrivals and departure boards. Somehow, however, the spotters around the airport seem always to know when they are coming, and hence are invariably there to take photos.

One recent one, belonging to the Royal Moroccan Air Force, came here yesterday morning, May 2, then left just before 8 am this morning. Its departure over Vernier would have been very noticeable to Vernier residents: the ARAG microphone in Vernier indicated a level several times more noisy than any other early departure (though the departures to the USA subsequently registered similar, though lower, levels). This level of noise will probably be repeated, perhaps today, by a different Hercules of the Royal Moroccan Air Force which arrived today at 10h30 am. On the Web there is a nice picture of this aircraft, with registration CNA-OI and in military camouflage colouring.

Also very much of interest is the Hercules registered as 7T-WHP and belonging to the Algerian Air Force. Since 16 March of this year the aircraft comes to Geneva every Friday between mid-morning and early afternoon. It stays for two to three hours before leaving again. One would suppose that this is the time required to unload it and/or load it, but as to what is unloaded or loaded we have no knowledge. Perhaps someone could learn more by going to a vantage point around the airport tomorrow, Friday 4 May, equipped with a pair of high-power binoculars!

It is interesting to note that Switzerland has a problem with some Algerians whom it would like to deport, since the Algerian Government refuses to sign an agreement to take back these people. This has led to the Geneva State Councillor, Isabelle Rochat, to make proposals to incite these unwelcome Algerians to return voluntarily to their country in return for certain financial incentives. These proposals have been extensively debated.

Perhaps the Geneva government should ask the airport to refuse these Algerian Air Force flights until the Algerian Government accepts that they return carrying some of its unwelcome (in Switzerland) citizens!

 

15:45 Posted in Unusual aircraft | Permalink | Comments (3) | Tags: hercules, geneva, airport, algeria, morocco, rochat | |  del.icio.us | | Digg! Digg |  Facebook

05/02/2012

Nature abhors a vacuum: airlines also

Iberia pilots have been striking in protest at the setting up of a new low-cost subsidiary, Iberia Express. Now there is another Spanish airline operating low cost services to Geneva.

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12:05 Posted in Potpourri | Permalink | Comments (0) | |  del.icio.us | | Digg! Digg |  Facebook

04/30/2012

M-KATE: not the British Royal Family

Over the past few weeks an Airbus A319 has paid several overnight visits to Geneva. I thought that this Isle of Man Registration might be related to Harry and Kate, but no!

There are many private jet aircraft registered in the Isle of Man which come to Geneva, but very few are of the size of an Airbus A319, capable of carrying over 100 passengers. This one, registered as M-KATE, was one of the ones for which the registration might be personal (many of the M- registrations are personal), so I tried to find out more.

It turns out that the aircraft belongs to a company called Sophar Property Holding BVI (British Virgin Islands, I believe). The history of this company is somewhat mysterious, because some years ago it was bought by the Russian potash mining company called Uralkali, the head of Uralkali being a Russian oligarch called Dmitry Rybolovlev. At the time that it was bought, its only assets were an option to buy two private jets: a much smaller Falcon and this A319.

Somehow, when Dmitry lost his position in Uralkali, it seems that he was rather attached to these jets, so apparently he bought them back (effectively buying Sophar Property Holding at the value of the two aircraft). If this is so, then he can travel around in either of them.

The three overnight visits of M-KATE to Geneva this year have been on 15/16 March, 20/21 March and 28/29 April. Data from an aircraft tracking web site appears to show that this last visit came from Zurich and then went to Nice. Not exactly long flights from an aircraft which is said to have installed extra long-range fuel tanks.

Mr Rybolovlev appears to be another of the eastern European rich people who like to acquire Football clubs in Europe: he was at the head of a consortium which bought a controlling interest im Monaco FC last year. Another Russion, Roman Abramovich, has long owned Chelsea FC, and will have a prime seat for the European Champions League final shortly. Other East European adventurers have been less successful, including in Switzerland (Neuchatel Xamax!).

18:37 Posted in Potpourri | Permalink | Comments (0) | |  del.icio.us | | Digg! Digg |  Facebook

04/27/2012

Strikes will affect flights to Spain and Portugal

Air travellers would be wise to check on days on which flights to and from Spain and Portugal will probably be affected by flights. Several Web sites gives details.

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10:35 Posted in Special days and notable incidents | Permalink | Comments (0) | |  del.icio.us | | Digg! Digg |  Facebook

04/26/2012

TAP flight arriving around midnight

My predictions of flights from Lisbon to Geneva arriving around midnight were rapidly confirmed last night, but other late flights should not have been allowed.

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10:04 Posted in Special days and notable incidents | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: tap, geneva, airport, westair | |  del.icio.us | | Digg! Digg |  Facebook

04/25/2012

International noise awareness day

Today, April 25 2012, is International Noise Awareness day. The reports of the great and continuing increase in traffic at Geneva airport is very relevant to our noise awareness.

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11:35 Posted in Special days and notable incidents | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: noise, awareness, geneva, airport, health | |  del.icio.us | | Digg! Digg |  Facebook

04/18/2012

Swiss air pollution is rising

According to the Swiss federal environment office, Switzerland emitted more greenhouse gases in 2010 than in 2009. What happened in 2011 and will Kyoto targets be met this year?

The report indicates that in 2010 the CO2 emissions equivalent for Switzerland was 54.2 tons, an increase of 3.4% over 2009 which was attributed to extra heating requirements because of low temperatures in the home heating season. The expressed hope is that the situation will be improved in 2011, because of more clement temperatures. However, the graphics on the federal web site do not exactly make this expressed hope obvious. I have to say that, in my experience, official figures usually tend towards the optimistic side. We will have to wait for some months to see any actual figures for 2011.

According to the Kyoto protocol, Switzerland is required to reduce its emissions by an average of 8% relative to 1990, in order to drop to not more than 48.6 tons this year. The first indicator for the feasibility of this drop will be the figures for 2011, and one has to say that the drop in heating needs might be counterbalanced by the rise in other sectors due to the general economic improvements last year. As for this year, I wonder what effect the extremely cold weather of February (and the start of April) will have!

One of the ways (somewhat artificial in my thinking) is to buy certificates from other countries via the "Fondation centime climatique". According to newspaper reports, the Federal Government, under its minister Doris Leuthart, has signed a contract to increase the certificates that it will buy for the period 2008 to 2012 from 12 millions to 17 millions.

2011_NO2_Geneva.JPGSome figures that are already available for 2011 are that of air pollution in Geneva, as calculated by Geneva cantonal authorities. These do not make for particularly comforting reading, especially for NO2 emissions around Geneva centre and the airport. In 2010 there were two zones in which the year's emissions exceeded what is called the emission limit value (VLI : valeur limite d'immission) of 30 micrograms per cubic metre: one around the centre of town and one around the airport. Figures now issued for 2011 show that both of these zones have increased enough to be merged into a large single zone.

This VLI zone is one inside which the NO2 emissions are said to have a harmful impact on people's health and the ecosystems. Thus, anyone resident in a very large area between the airport and the town centre is liable to this harmful effect. It is, of course, possible that other regions in Switzerland will all have less pollution in 2011 than in 2010, but I would not bet too much money on it.

What is very annoying (to put it mildly) to many environmentalists is that the calculated CO2 emissions for Switzerland do not include any contribution from international aviation. This is one of two exceptions stated in the Kyoto protocol, the other one being shipping: not too much of that emitted by the steam-powered lake steamers on Geneva lake. It is another demonstration of how the airline lobby has succeeded in retaining enormous privileges, always claiming that air traffic only adds a few percent to global emissions.

In England I am sure that one would be able to do spread betting on the final 2011 and 2012 emission levels. What would your predictions be?

16:14 Posted in Potpourri | Permalink | Comments (0) | |  del.icio.us | | Digg! Digg |  Facebook

04/17/2012

How a Virgin Atlantic problem affected Geneva

Most Geneva-Gatwick flights yesterday were delayed because of an emergency on a Virgin Atlantic flight from Gatwick to Orlando, Florida. Details are hard to establish.

20120417_Virgin.JPGThere have been quite a few emergencies, often involving an aircraft turning around shortly after takeoff and returning to the departure airport. I recently blogged about two of these which occurred on Friday 13 April, and there have been several since then, as reported on the tweets page of flightradar24.com. Of these, the most recent one has made headlines on the newspapers because it resulted in Gatwick airport having to close down for 90 minutes. Apparently, it then reopened using a back-up runway: one which is seldom used because it is only 1.8 km long, as against the 2.5 km runway normally used.

One report on this comes from the well-known site "huffingtonpost.com" (for which DSK's wife, Anne Sinclair, is now running the french language edition), and even includes a short video of the aircraft after landing and with the emergency exit slides down.

On Tuesdays, as is generally the case on other weekdays, the only flights between Geneva and Gatwick are run by easyJet, so it was no surprise to see that most of their flights had been subject to delays between 1 and 4 hours, though none was cancelled. Incidentally, this is one of those occurrences where I feel that the Geneva airport web site should have a daily bulletin board announcing this sort of problem!

What happened to thes Virgin Atlantic flight from Gatwick to Orlando, Florida, is actually somewhat of a mystery still. The first reports talked of a small fire in the aircraft, but these reports were later contradicted when, according to press articles, "a spokeswoman for Virgin Atlantic told The Associated Press the flight crew had been debriefed and said they did not see or smell smoke on board". However, these same press articles state that "The airline declined to provide details of what exactly caused the emergency". Of course, that is hardly a surprise, is it?

The incident was apparently serious enough to cause the aircraft to be evacuated in an emergency manner: passengers being pushed down the emergency slides. This resulted in injuries to 15 of them, with some having to go to hospital with suspected fractures.

20120417_path2.JPGVia the list of tweets on the flightradar24.com site, a quick click shows the path taken by the aircraft. This raises some interesting issues. A normal great circle route to Florida would require the aircraft to fly slightly north of due west, passing over parts of Wales: this path would be used from Heathrow. However, flights from Gatwick follow a path slightly south of due west, so that is how the flight started. Then, when over Southampton, the pilot turned south-west in order to do a wide loop over the English Channel. I assume that this was when the problem occurred, and the aircraft needed to dump fuel (over the sea) before being able to land again.

By a curious coincidence, just over 10 years ago, on January 19 2002,  the very same Virgin Atlantic VS27 flight from Gatwick to Orlando had to make an emergency landing in Keflavik airport, Iceland, because of a bomb threat!

Perhaps I will not book that flight in 10 years time!

 

15:10 Posted in Special days and notable incidents | Permalink | Comments (0) | |  del.icio.us | | Digg! Digg |  Facebook

04/16/2012

Hot air balloon disrupts flights

The poor weather prevented any balloon flying during the 6th Montgolfiades weekend here in Geneva. Somewhere near London Gatwick airport one did fly and cause trouble.

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17:09 Posted in Special days and notable incidents | Permalink | Comments (0) | |  del.icio.us | | Digg! Digg |  Facebook

04/15/2012

Palestinien militants to Tel Aviv this weekend

Today, Sunday 15 April, the web site of this newspaper says pro-palestinien militants refused boarding on EZS1525 to Tel Aviv. How about  other flights to Tel Aviv this weekend?

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04/13/2012

Air France emergency near Geneva

An Air France flight from Paris to Madagascar, when passing West of Geneva, issued an emergency transmission detected here today, Friday 13 April (!) , then turned back to Paris.

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16:28 Posted in Special days and notable incidents | Permalink | Comments (0) | |  del.icio.us | | Digg! Digg |  Facebook

04/10/2012

Night flights to nowhere

A rich person wishing, for tax reasons, not to be considered resident in Britain regularly slept overnight in his private jet. Each flight reduced his residence by 2 days!

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16:57 Posted in Potpourri | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: jet, night flight, tory, donor, osborne, ashcroft, southern | |  del.icio.us | | Digg! Digg |  Facebook

04/05/2012

Jetman Rossy and Wingman Connery

When Swiss Jetman Yves Rossy flies, his flying suit is jet-powered. The Brit, Gary Connery, has been training in Switzerland to fly without power and land without a parachute.

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11:59 Posted in Potpourri | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: connery, rossy, jet, wingsuit | |  del.icio.us | | Digg! Digg |  Facebook

04/03/2012

Delayed and cancelled flights: why?

Yesterday, 2 April, many flights to and from Geneva were cancelled and many others delayed by hours, and today looks bad also. So far I have seen no reasons given.

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17:58 Posted in Special days and notable incidents | Permalink | Comments (0) | |  del.icio.us | | Digg! Digg |  Facebook