The horror schedule of night flights

In my opinion, dialogue with the Swiss Federal Office of Civil Aviation (OFAC) is one of the best reasons to support the Geneva CARPE initiative for a more democratic control of Geneva airport by the elected members of the local government of Geneva

According to Annex 4 of the Co-ordination Process of the Aeronautical Infrastructure Sector Plan (PSIA), it is stated that by 2030 our airport should accommodate 7 additional long-haul daily connections (5,110 movements / year) Most likely destinations will be in the Middle East, Asia, South America and North America and according to the corresponding schedules observed at other European airports comparable to that of Geneva.

In December 2016 I asked the OFAC to explain which European airports are comparable in Geneva. Answer received 14 December 2016:

‘As part of the traffic forecast to be established by 2030 in the PSIA coordination process, including long-haul flights, the operator conducted market research to identify potential destinations 2030, with the margin of uncertainty that this entails (which companies will actually operate in 2030? Will the trading system in Europe be in force?).

Concretely, these potential destinations fall within the business secrets of the operator. However, Annex 4 to the coordination protocol indicates the potential continents (i.e. Middle East, Asia, South America and North America). In addition, the business model of the companies likely to operate these long-haul flights was considered, as were their constraints on their respective hubs and flight schedules to destinations on other platforms serving these destinations, such as Zurich and Vienna.‘

A simple answer, but that had worried me. We could perhaps accept to be treated like Zurich, which is closed between 23:30 and 6:00, but it is very unlikely that our airport would accept to close at 23:30. However, Vienna Airport is open 24 hours a day: the last departures at 23:20 (Bangkok) and 00:15 (Moscow), the first arrivals 5:25 (Bangkok) and 5:50 (Moscow).

In order to express my dissatisfaction with the limited information contained in this reply, I replied:

‘A request that is of paramount importance, and that you have not commented on, is the criteria that will be used to decide which other European airports are comparable to the one in Geneva. At first glance, there are not many that handle more than 15 million passengers and are situated inside such a densely-populated area.‘

The answer received on 22 December

‘First of all, I would like to clarify that the airports comparable to those in Geneva mentioned in my previous message, Zurich and Vienna, are similar in terms of timetables and constraints for long-haul flights likely to serve Geneva airport. In practice, these airports are therefore comparable with those of Geneva in terms of the criterion of their inclusion in the air traffic network and not in terms of their geographical situation or location.‘

Great disappointment: OFAC does not care about our demographical situation, but I do not give up. I ask more questions, especially on the choice of Vienna airport:

‘You cite the airport in Vienna as an airport comparable to Geneva’ in terms of schedules and constraints for long-haul flights that could also serve Geneva airport. Concretely, you saythat the Vienna airport is therefore comparable to that of Geneva in terms of the criterion of its inclusion in the air traffic network and not that of its geographical location or population density.‘

The residents of our airport would undoubtedly be very interested to understand the reasons for your refusal to take into consideration ‘their sitation or geographical location’! Maybe you have an explanation I could give them! ‘

The reply, received on January 12, 2017, can only increase our fears:

‘As already mentioned, the analysis made at the beginning of the process and shared with all the coordination partners to estimate in the most realistic manner the predictable schedules in the medium to long term must be based on all European airports.The airports of Zurich and Vienna are mentioned merely as examples. Depending on distant destinations, aircraft departing from Europe are usually scheduled at comparable times of the day.

Finally, ‘the insertion in the network of air traffic’ corresponds to the level of integration of an airport in the air traffic system, not to be confused with the geographical location and situation of an airport. At the geographical location, each airport is in a specific context.
These last elements of understanding make it necessary to put an end to our exchanges. As mentioned in my previous message, FOCA has no further information to provide.‘

Is there an aviation expert who can explain to us ‘the level of integration of an airport in the air traffic system’?

Mike Gerard
Vice-president and Webmaster for

Author of Geneva Aircraft Movement Enquiries