• Geneva's own Boeing Business Jet?

    Boeing Business Jets (BBJs) are first-class only luxury aircraft. PrivatAir, A Geneva-based company, has one that goes to the in-places: Nice last week. This Summer?

    The aircraft, registered as HB-IEE (assigned to Switzerland), is (according to Wikipedia) one of two Boeing 757-200 aircraft owned by PrivatAir, the other one being marked as stored). The information on it states that it is first-class only, configured for 49 passengers (plenty of leg room!), which is a typical BBJ configuration

    In these days when aircraft spotters are everywhere, and although its flights to and from Geneva never appear on the airport flights list, it is not difficult to find out where it is flying to and from. Finding who are the affluent passengers, however, is another matter.

    Last week the aircraft flew a few times to and from Nice. Now, Nice is actually well served by air transport from Geneva, but not so well by rail transport: there is a direct TGV train once a day, which gets to Marseille pretty quickly but then takes 2h30 to get from there to Nice. By air there is the choice of Darwin, easyJet and Swiss (maybe Swiss have Business or First Class). However, there were obviously enough people willing to pay the extra money for a real luxury flight.

    If you have not yet worked things out, I should remind you that Nice is right next door to Cannes, where there was a film festival last week!

    So who will be the next affluent clients for PrivatAir, and to where will they go? How about the European Nations Football in Poland and Ukraine? Roland Garros and Wimbledon tennis and then the Olympic Games in London? Time, and the planespotters, will make everything clear.

    Can you afford it? Not me.



    Permalink Categories: Unusual aircraft 0 comments
  • Twice a BBJ : Boeing Business Jet

    In aviation circles, BBJ stands for Boeing Business Jet. One of several that come to Geneva is even registered as VP-BBJ, a Bahamas registration, and it has a connection with Geneva.

    Read more ...

    Permalink Categories: Unusual aircraft 0 comments
  • Is Swiss suppressing some Zurich flights?

    For the last two days the first morning flight of Swiss to Zurich has been suppressed. Yesterday the last Swiss flight from Zurich to Geneva was half-suppressed. Signs of the hard times?

    For years the first flight out in the mornings has always been the Swiss flight LX2801 to Zurich, scheduled to depart at 6am (usually over my head at Versoix!), whilst the last flight back at night has been LX2818 from Zurich, scheduled to arrive at 11h20 pm. However, for the last two days (Thursday 24 May and Friday 25 May) the morning flight has been cancelled. Since the next Swiss flight to Zurich is not too much later (LX2805 at 7h40 am) it seems likely that there have not been enough passengers for the early flight, so these passengers booked on the early flight have to wait for the next one.This in turn implies that these early passengers would not be able to transit to early Swiss flights from Zurich!

    Yesterday, the last evening flight was also cancelled. However, the one before that (LX2816, due to leave Zurich at 8h35 pm) was actually delayed until about the same time as LX2818 would actually have left. In other words, effectively the two flights were coalesced into one, which left more or less when LX2818 should have left. Thus, the flight would have been available for passengers returning to Geneva via Zurich (if it had not then those passengers would NOT have been pleased!).

    Will this continue? I don't know: what I do know is that on the flight departures list of the airport the first morning flight LX2801 was simply not mentioned, which tends to suggest that it was not simply cancelled today.

    Of course, for those of us in Versoix who want our early morning wake-up call, I can say that between 6am and 7h30am this morning (my radio alarm time) I had the doubtful pleasure of hearing 18 jets taking off. Unsurprisingly, the majority of these (10) were easyJet Switzerland. Tonight, unless the wind changes direction, it will be the people living in Vernier who will hear the aircraft (again, mostly easyJet) returning over their heads (although if there is not too much wind we in Versoix may nonetheless have some of these late arrivals be allowed to come in over our heads).

    Clearly, of course, this is not a problem to people who have had their dwellings soundproofed at the airport's expense: they simply have to close the windows of their bedroom (and hope for a cool summer!).

    TP942.JPGps: don't forget that as from tomorrow, Saturday 26 May, the last scheduled flight every day will be that from Lisbon to Geneva, operated by TAP and scheduled to arrive at 10 minutes before midnight, so don't necessarily open your bedroom windows once the last Swiss flight is in!

    Permalink Categories: Potpourri 0 comments
  • The poor, the rich and the ultra-rich

    The EBACE aircraft exhibition highlights a reverse North-South divide, with the rich to the South. However, that is not the whole story: the rich are also divided.

    On the South side of the Geneva airport runway we have the exhibition of private jets that the manufacturers are trying to sell to the (sometimes) rich visitors. On the North side, especially on the terrace of the Aéro Bistro café, we have the hordes of aircraft spotters, complete with their binoculars, telephoto lens cameras and well-thumbed notebooks for jotting down all the business jets that they see. What unites the two communities, who we would once have described as the rich and the poor (or, less PC, as the nobs and the yobs!), is certainly the commonality of  English as the lingua franca. However, even there the peoples' accents would mostly indicate the difference: solid regional accents, with the occasional Dutch inflection, to the North, refined ones, often with an indication of country of origin, to the South.

    There have been various comments on the health of the business aviation market at the moment. An article in this paper, with the headline that a private jet is no longer a rich person's toy, was relatively optimistic (although, regrettably, this article was next to one indicating that Lufthansa would be firing about 60 Swiss employees!). However, articles in other sources suggest that the state of the business jet industry in Europe is mostly fairly morose as the emphasis moves towards clients in the middle and far East.

    The one ray of light in the private jet business appears to be in the high end market, aimed at the super-rich: aircraft which will cost upwards of 50 million dollars and be capable of long distance inter-continental flights. In contrast, in the low end market there is very little happening. According to a report in Le Temps, in Europe 20% of the existing fleet of private jets are up for sale, yet in the last year only 2% have actually found a buyer.

    So what are the aircraft which are selling, and who is buying them (either directly or to lease out to clients)? The clue is perhaps to be found in an interview printed in Le Temps, in which the founder of VistaJet, Thomas Flohr, talks about their prospective clients as being often the directors of mining conglomerate companies (des dirigeants dans les matières premières!). It does not take too much imagination to realise that he might be thinking of people like Ivan Glasenberg of Glencore, a company based (for tax purposes) in the same Swiss canton (Zug) as Vista.

    The negative side of this, for residents living around Geneva airport, is that when people who can afford to buy or hire a private jet want to depart from Geneva airport late at night they are simply allowed to do so: the departure at 11h22 pm last night of a private jet operated by the Geneva-based company Sonnig is yet another example. However, don't expect anyone to tell you why it was so late, where it went to or what make of champagne was served: such information is highly classified.

    Meanwhile, to the north of the airport the Aéro Bistro spotters will enjoy their three days of beer plus steak and chips lunches and their nights in a low-cost hotel (often in nearby France) or a camper bus, before heading home, after EBACE finishes, by road or low-cost air travel. Some of them (virtually always male and with no females in close attendance) have even told me that this is their holiday for the year.

    Cheers, guys!

  • Geneva airport: head in the sand again!

    Yet again we have delayed and cancelled flights, this time to Portugal, due to strikes. Yet again the Geneva Airport Web site fails to give any warnings: why?

    We could all know that there would be trouble for flights to and from Portugal today, Friday 11 May, as it had been announced that the Portuguese Air Traffic Controllers would be striking today (and in all probability will do likewise on Thursday and Friday for the next two weeks. For Geneva this affects easyJet and TAP flights to Lisbon and Porto. The easytravelreport.com site confirms this, saying

    Portuguese air traffic controllers strike
    Expect flight delays or even cancellations.
    11, 17, 18, 24 and May 25 2 hours per shift from 07:00 to 09: 00, from 2-4 PM and from 9-11PM on the continent and Madeira). Here's what TAP has to say for the 11th.

    The Web sites of both easyJet and TAP confirm this, though you have to look for the information (on easyjet.com as "Latest Travel Info"), as these sites are not just for Geneva flights.

    I have said it before, and I will say it again: why on earth cannot the Geneva Airport web site also have an equivalent information on events which could affect flights in the next few days or weeks? The only likely reason that I can think of (apart from them never wanting to mention problems!) is that the best place to put it (on the initial Web page) is already taken up by advertising-style alternating images (which might bring in more money!).

    I suppose that I am still whistling in the dark!

  • Geneva rush hour traffic

    When there was an accident at the Vernier tunnel the resulting tailback went right through the airport. Maybe this is partly why the area around the airport is a pollution centre.

    This experience shows how on a knife edge is the morning and evening rush hour traffic situation around Geneva: one accident in an awkward spot and road traffic grinds to a halt. Drivers fume in their minds, whilst almost all of the cars fume from the exhaust pipe as the engine ticks over. Needless to say, most of the cars have a single occupant.

    I experienced this when driving from Versoix to Petit Lancy yesterday evening, Tuesday 5 May, at around 6pm. I hit a traffic jam even before Palexpo (which was when my car radio told me that there was an accident at the Vernier tunnel, blocking one lane of traffic!).

    Like many other motorists (mostly ones in cars with French plates), I chose to get off the motorway by taking the next possible exit: the turning to the airport. This then meant that I got into another traffic jam going through the airport. This was made worse by some motorists, obviously having already experienced this situation, who went on a side road leading to the World Trade Centre underground parking, but then went past the parking entrance and back onto the main road.

    Eventually, I got onto the Avenue Louis Casai going towards Balexert, then turned right to go over the Pont Butin. Of course, this was also in a jam situation (though less bad than the motorway to France via the Vernier tunnel). End result: about an hour sitting in my car. In mitigation, I can say that because it is a hybrid, it was not pollutiing when at rest or moving very slowly since this was battery-driven.

    That same evening there was a report in the main RTS 19h30 news, repeated in this newspaper today, saying that the Swiss, in particular in the German-speaking areas, are increasingly using public transport, but yet the amount of car traffic is not decreasing. The explanation might be that they are progressively living further away from the workplace, for a variety of reasons (including, of course, the inability to find affordable housing near the workplace).

    Is there any solution? Maybe the railway improvements, including the new CEVA rail project and the extra capacity with the double-decker regional trains from Lausanne, will help. However, a pessimist might perhaps think that these will, at best, stop the car traffic from growing. Pessimists, of course, are rarely disappointed!

    My solution: I will buy a senior yearly rail pass then go to Petit Lancy (and elsewhere) by train and tram/bus (a lot easier and faster than yesterday).

    Permalink Categories: Potpourri 0 comments
  • 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.


    Permalink Categories: easyJet anecdotes 0 comments
  • 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!


    Permalink Categories: Unusual aircraft 0 comments
  • 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.

    Read more ...

    Permalink Categories: Potpourri 0 comments