Amending a quote from Forrest Gump, one could say: "Geneva Airport is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get... But there will always be a sweet surprise!". Apart from being a base for Swiss and Easyjet, the city hosts several world-famous events, is home to some important international organisations, and serves as a gateway to the Ski-Resorts of the Alps. This translates into myriads of Biz-Jets in all shapes and sizes, making Switzerland's second largest airport a great destination to visit.
Scheduled airline traffic offers the standard central European mix of airlines, dominated by Easyjet, which operate a large base here; and Swiss, for whom the airport serves as a focus city. Notable "specials" standing out from this mix are the connections by many airlines from Northern Africa and the Middle East, including (as of Feb 2012): Air Algérie, Egypt Air, Emirates, Etihad, Kuwait Airways, MEA Middle East Airlines, Qatar Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Royal Jordanian, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Tunisair.
Seasonal holiday traffic is a second integral part to the airport's success. In summer, the usual suspects from the Mediterranean pop up to take Swiss tourists to sunnier places. In winter however, there are lots of Ski-Charters (mostly on weekends), taking tourists mostly from the UK, but also from the Netherlands, Scandinavia and Russia, to the ski resorts in the Alps.
What makes Geneva really stand out though, is its amazing number of Biz-Jet traffic. This has multiple causes: First, there are lots of shows and exhibitions held in the city, most notably the EBACE (European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition), one of the largest exhibitions of the Business Aviation sector; as well as the world-renowned Geneva Motor Show - both taking place annually. Second, Geneva is the seat of the European headquarers of the United Nations, and home to many of its well-known affilliates like the WHO or the WTO. Third, Geneva's role as a gateway to the Alps and as a popular shopping destination attracts lots of visitors, too. Of course, these movements are very hard to predict. What can be said is that they peak around the most popular events. But there'll be plenty of movements on any given day, most of the time including something rare or special, too.
In preparation for an upcoming visit, make sure to check the excellent "Expected Visitors" section on DPTS.org, Geneva's planespotter society.
Since heavy planes are always a special attraction, here's the list of scheduled heavies for the winter timetable 2011/12:
|Airline||Flight||Airport||Aircraft||GVA Arr||GVA Dep||Mo||Tu||We||Th||Fr||Sa||Su||Remarks|
|Swiss||LX22/23||New York JFK||A333||0935||1220||x||x||x||x||x||x||x|
|Uzbekistan||HY260/1||Tashkent||A313||0625||0745||x||inbd via MAD|
The use of ATC scanners is allowed and popular in Switzerland, and problems are unheard of.
Geneva's airport layout is simple and spotter-friendly. With the predominant westerly winds, Runway 23 will be in use: so spots 2 (morning) and 3 (afternoon) will be your best choice. During the periods of northeasterly winds (beware: they're really cold most of the time!), Rwy 05 is in use and you can get shots at positions 1A, 1B and 1C.
Click on the map below to get to a bigger version.
Spot 1: Rwy 05 area
The area at the southwestern end of the airport is your best choice when Rwy 05 is in use, as you will see all traffic there.
- Spot 1A, the main spot, is located at a parking lot; where some holes in the fence allow great views of planes taxiing for line-up as well as a good view of approaching aircraft. It also offers opportunities to log many biz-jets parked nearby.
- Spot 1B, located on an overpass over the main road, gives you a nice opportunity for approach shots with the Jura mountains in the background.
- Spot 1C, the parking lots for a car dealer and an electronics supermarket, allow views of aircraft on final in the evening.
|Get to the "Vernier, Blandonnet" stop of the public transport network, using Tram 14 from the city center, or busses 23, 28, 57 or Y from the airport terminal. From the stop, head to the eastern side of the main road (Route du Meyrin, the one with the tram tracks). Follow the main road towards the northwest. After 100 meters you'll get to an overpass (Spot 1B). Continuing on past three buildings of business aviation companies, you'll get to the parking area at the fence on your right (Spot 1A). Continuing along the bike-path all the way behind the runway will get you to the evening side (Spot 1C).|
|There is a small restaurant and hotel ("de l'Avion") located on the opposite side of the main road from Spot 1B. In the area of Spot 1C there are department stores that should offer toilets and snacks, too.|
|Under 150mm for line-ups at Spot 1A, up to 400mm needed for approach shots at Spot 1B.|
|Planes landing and departing on Rwy 05 at Spot 1A, landings only at Spots 1B and 1C.|
|Whole day in winter at Spot 1A. Spot 1B is best in the first half of the day. Spot 1C can be used on summer evenings.|
|Spot 1A gets very popular at busy days/on weekends, and there may not be enough holes for everyone. Bring a ladder instead.|
View of the queue at Spot 1A
Line-up and landing at Spot 1A (135mm)
Approach shot at Spot 1A (100mm)
Approach shot from Spot 1B (320mm)
Approach shot from Spot 1B (180mm)
Spot 2: Taxiway A
This spot is located on a bank next to the road running along Taxiway Alpha, the main taxiway serving Rwy 23.
|Get to the "Tunnel Routier" stop by taking bus F from the city center or busses 28 or Y from the airport terminal. From the bus stop, follow the road running alongside the runway to the southwest for a mere 50 meters around the first curve, and climb up on the bank on your left.|
|Nothing nearby. The terminal is a 25 minute walk away, and there's a supermarket behind the border near Spot 3 on the French side.|
|Planes taxiing to, taking off on, and landing on Rwy 23. Heavies taking off on Rwy 05.|
|Whole day in winter, until mid-afternoon in summer.|
|Prone to heat haze in summer. Possibility for high grass obstructing view.|
Landing Rwy 23
Takeoff Rwy 23 (© Joseph Pochobradsky)
Taxiing to Rwy 05 on A
Taxiing on A (note the high grass)
Heavy departure off Rwy 05.
Spot 3: Line-up Rwy 23
On the French side, there's a nice little park overlooking the threshold of Rwy 23. This is the most suitable place to take pictures from in the late afternoon during westerly winds.
|Take the bus Y (from the terminal) or F (from Geneva city center) to the "Grande Saconnex, Douane" stop, getting out at the Swiss/French border. Continue walking and turn right at the first side-street (Chemin de Colovrex). Walk on that side-street for 300 meters until you get to a "Lidl" supermarket. Enter the supermarket's car park, and follow the path at its far end taking you to a small park with a hill. From there you have a nice view down on the runway.|
|Lidl supermarket right next to the spot.|
|Planes lining up on, taking off on, and landing on Rwy 23.|
|From late afternoon in summer|
|No ladder needed - the fence only gets in the way on wide-angle shots. Prone to heat haze.|
View from the Spot
Note the fence
Line-up Rwy 23
Thanks to Geneva Airport's role as a major venue for congresses and exhibitions, there's plenty of airport hotels to choose from, and some of them are fairly close to the spotting points. Beware though: During those events, it might be harder to get a room at all, and rates will skyrocket. In general, properties on the French side tend to offer lower rates.
Hotels on the Swiss side
|H1||NH Geneva Airport||****||Link||3.5/5|
|H2||Hotel de l'Aviation||*||Link|
|H3||Holiday Inn Express||***||Link||3.5/5|
|H4||Mövenpick Hotel & Casino||*****||Link||4/5|
|H5||Nash Airport Hotel||***||Link||3/5|
|H6||Ibis Geneva Airport||***||Link||4/5|
|H9||Crowne Plaza Geneva Airport||****||Link||3/5|
Hotels on the French side
|F1||Novotel Geneva Airport France||***||Link||4/5|
|F2||Formule 1 Geneva Airport||*||Link||2.5/5|
|F5||Résidence la Réserve||****||Link||4/5|