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Member Name: liquidio
Geneva Cointrin International Airport (GVA)
Disadvantages: Crowds, Poor Organisation.
Hell on earth.
Geneva airport is the most miserable experience I have ever had in my life. Where to start? Probably best to give a chronology of chronic cataclysms!
The first problem was the drop-off point at departures. Disorganised parking, with ski tour buses reversing in and out, blocking traffic and preventing smooth flow past the outside of the terminal building. Signage was poor, but it wasn't hard to find the desks as there is one long check-in hall so it was a matter of walking down it until I found the correct desk. This wasn't as easy as it sounds though - the passenger backlog was so bad that queues stretched out across the hall, so sometimes it was a process of negotiation to step through.
The check-in process was a disgrace. There were huge queues and yet quite a few empty desks and the odd staff member milling about doing no work. This seemed to be worse for the charter airlines but endemic across the entire hall. Our particular check-in agent was clearly a trainee who didn't know what he was doing, and took 12 minutes per individual/group on average (I was so frustrated I started timing!) so although we were at the back of a 10-15m queue it took us over an hour to be processed. Families with kids were in near-tears, old people were looking weak on the their feet. Staff did nothing to help, did not attempt to help organise queues or anything like it.
But it didn't get any better after that. After (finally) getting checked-in, you proceed via the escalators to the first floor level, which is a small shopping area before security. Being so late, I didn't get a chance to check it out but it seemed to be a fairly motley collection of tourist tat and swiss chocolate and watches.
Proceeding through this area you arrive at security. It's a very odd queueing system where some tape and bollards have been strung out in a semi-random fashion to sort of guide people into the doorway, almost superfluous to requirements really and a bit messy, but it proved not to be too much of a problem because the queue here was at least moving.
Entering departures itself was like being plunged into Dante's vision of hell. Every available surface was covered with people with expressions of pain on their face. But this was not because of eternal damnation, but because it is the most inadequate departures hall in the history of mankind. Firstly the capacity is just not big enough. People were sitting on the floor all over the place because there is barely any seating anywhere. And it's not the normal airport trick of putting the seating in cafes - the one sizeable café they did have has been demolished so there is very little seating at all.
There's plenty of places to buy a luxury watch, but the allure of a luxury boutique is kind of taken away when there are people sprawled over the exterior walls and doorway. I have no idea how the rich people who buy these things travel here, because if I had any money I would do my best to avoid this airport altogether! There is also a lot of chocolate and alcohol for sale, and some coffee. But few places to get any decent food. The toilets were overly busy and messy as a result.
But the most frustrating thing is the system they seem to employ at this airport. There is a big glass wall along the far side, through which can be seen the departure gates. These look neat, clean, spacious, with the odd vending machine and coffee stall and seats for all - from the other side of the wall it looks like the promised land! But the twist is that you don't get to go there. You get to stay in the luxury boutique/cattle wagon hall until a few minutes before departure, because they don't display the flights until the last moment and the staff (who do a further boarding pass check) are slow and unhelpful. When our flight did come up (Along with a number of others), a queue formed that was so long it stretched the entire length of the departures area, snaking around shops. People were cheating, pushing in, but I can barely blame them because if you had one of the earlier fights, I have no idea how you would make it through the gate in time.
The security staff were letting through a few people at a time, totally oblivious to the mass of gathering humanity that felt like it was reaching boiling point. This continued for a few minutes until the guard seemed to realise the whole situation was hopeless and just started letting people through uncontrolled.
So, we thought we were free, but no. We weren't on our way to the promised land, we were on our way down a long, long corridor, presumably under the main terminal. We were held up at various points by various guards who seemed to interpret crowd control as stopping people from progressing. Eventually we arrived in a chamber where another security scan took place, which had two queues that conflicted with each other in the area where you were supposed to pick up trays for the scanner. I managed to get through the scan, turned around to see one of the women scanning get up, burst into tears and flee from the machine. There then followed an utterly bizarre scene where the head security guard stood up to say 'she's just feeling a bit ill', then shut what appeared to be perspex security doors, cutting the crowd in two (including one family) and it was only a few minutes before they were opened again.
So then finally, finally we arrived at the gate. Which was spacious and had seating, and we had time to enjoy it because the flight was late as a result of all the disruption inside the airport.
Summary: A disgusting airport
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