After reading an article on the TV teletext yesterday, 27 December 2010, repeated in part in this newspaper today, you might think that there were very few flight cancellations and delays. You might also believe that de-icing of aircraft is purely the responsibility of the airlines. Would you be right?
The teletext article on the TV yesterday was, in my opinion, typical of the self-adulatory press releases handed out by the Geneva airport authorities, which I liken to the "Tout va très bien, Madame la Marquise" citation. Sometimes they are phrased in such a manner as to lead the reader to false conclusions. In this case, the casual reader might think that only one departure was cancelled, that the maximum delay was only 45 minutes and that these delays in any case were the responsibility of the airlines concerned, not Geneva airport.
This last point is perhaps the most important, rather unlikely, statement. I have great difficulty in believing that every airline, from the mighty easyJet down to the twice a week noisy Air Mauritius flight, the charter companies operating irregularly in Winter and the operators of business jets are all fully equipped for de-icing their own aircraft! Do they all have ground staff available, tall ladders, spraying equipment and stocks of Glycol de-icing liquid? I doubt it! Even Heathrow airport has not tried to blame airlines for the chaos there recently.
Cancelled flights? The airport Web site actually indicated, at the end of the day, that seven outgoing flights had been cancelled. As well as New York (understandable) and Moscow (also snow-bound) there were all (three) flights by the airline Twinjet, one of Swiss to Zurich and one of easyJet Switzerland to Berlin.
The Twinjet cancellations were actually explained on their Web site by a statement that none of their scheduled flights are operating between 23 December 2010 and 2 January 2011 inclusive: I don't recall seeing any information on the Geneva airport Web site!
The Swiss flight to Zurich is actually one from Moscow to Zurich via Geneva, so was a Moscow cancellation.
The easyJet cancellation was the early morning flight to Berlin (a notoriously problematic destination!). This cancellation is curious, because yesterday morning, for the first time, there were 12 scheduled early departures of easyJet Switzerland flights (previously, the maximum has been 11). They include a new early flight to Nantes (EZS1361) which did not figure in the published winter schedules. However, there was actually an aircraft in Geneva overnight which perhaps could have done this flight: the Airbus A319 with registration HB-JZI (watch out for the next installment of the secret diary of HB-JZI, coming on this blog real soon now!). Since Berlin was open for flights, why was this aircraft not used?
The other Monday easyJet flight to Berlin is the one which, after leaving Geneva in the afternoon, tries to fit in a round trip from Berlin to Amsterdam and back, before returning to Geneva, but which yesterday was unable to make this round trip in time to return to Geneva. I have already commented on this scheduling curiosity, which (in my opinion) is an aberration looking for bad luck: yesterday it got it again.
And the delays: none more than 45 minutes? Unsurprisingly, there were many which largely exceeded 45 minutes. However, it is quite probable that they were all generated by that stock explanatory phrase "late arrival of the incoming aircraft", and not have been affected by any de-icing delay. Not surprising (to me) was the fact that the greatest delay of the day was the departure of easyJet UK flight EZY7284 to Liverpool, scheduled for 3.05pm but leaving exactly 5 hours late because the incoming flight (from Manchester) was already nearly 5 hours late. Don't ask me why, but any fans of Liverpool football club (currently managed by Roy Hodgson, who was a great success when he managed the Swiss national side) who want to go there and see a game might be advised to look for an early weekend deparure!
I actually looked on the Web site of the airport to see if there was a relevant press release there, but found nothing matching. What I did find was the extremely useful statement that more than 30,000 passengers are foreseen to pass through Geneva airport on the holiday departure day of Thursday ...
... 23 December!