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Gateway to the Alps
Geneva Cointrin International Airport (GVA)
Member Name: grahamt
Geneva Cointrin International Airport (GVA)
Date: 31/01/10, updated on 31/01/10 (106 review reads)
Advantages: It's not Chambery
Disadvantages: Communications within the airport are poor ; still a fair distance from many Alpine resorts
We've flown to and from Geneva Airport several times and every time the experience has been different. I'm not sure that that means that it has been better but it certainly changes and so it makes it difficult to be sure what you have to do to make the visit as painless as possible. After all, when did you ever enjoy using an airport? This time we were travelling with Crystal, en route to the French Alps, as were hundreds of other Brits, and other nationalities as well, no doubt.
Arriving you are carried even the very short distances to the terminal, from the plane, by bus. It seems that you aren't trusted to walk even a few yards, unlike at other airports. The airport seems to have no air-bridges, or at least, certainly not for charter passengers, and this is not the only difference for us package holiday travellers. Once in the terminal the normal passport checks precede the luggage retrieval; Switzerland is not, as you will undoubtedly realise, a part of the EU and so no special provisions are made.
Luggage is delivered from the plane on the usual travelling belts, with the exception of ski-bags, which are delivered on trolleys, and not necessarily close to the belt on which the rest of your luggage is delivered, so keep your eyes open. From there to the exit where you take your onwards transport is quite a short distance and no one seems to pay any attention when you walk through the Nothing to Declare channel.
When returning from Geneva however, the situation is quite different.
Our coach from our resort, initially delivered us to the normal scheduled flight check-in terminal but it appears that for charter passengers a separate terminal has been set aside. Not before a couple of passengers had already got off; they were called back aboard the coach to travel another couple of hundred meters to our correct destination. The charter terminal appears to have seen better days so, no surprise to discover that the airport authorities appear simply to be trying to extract maximum profit from the not inconsiderable trade. At least there are a decent number of check-in desks; for all of the flights checking in when we were as well, there seemed to be at least three desks set aside for each flight.
The hall was packed and it was just as well that the arrival of the coaches from the resorts was staggered otherwise we might have been queuing out of the door! In our case the check-in process wasn't helped by the fact that the Crystal courier thought that all of the passengers on the coach who were flying to Gatwick were all going on one flight. It turned out that we were on a different flight from everyone else and were queuing in the wrong lane, all Crystal's fault though; it pays to check your flight number and not simply trust that the courier knows what they're doing!
From there you go through the normal security checks, but not passport checks at this stage. After that you congregate in a little room at the end of the building as you do not depart from here but from the main building, and there is no direct access from one building to the other: you have to be transported there by bus!
The main terminal has changed a lot over the years I have been using this airport. It has grown substantially in size. The one thing you notice immediately is that the place seems to be dedicated to shopping; you might hardly know you were in an airport except that everything is marked "Duty Free"! Having said that, prices are not exceptional but then this has a lot to do with the abysmal exchange rate that the Pound Sterling has against virtually every other currency. Why, oh why didn't we adopt the Euro when we had the chance?
If you want to shop though, without fighting your way around the other travellers using the airport then you will find lots of other Duty Frees around the airport, all of which seemed to be virtually deserted, so don't just go for the first one you see. The same goes for refreshment outlets.
One last thing to beware of: most of the UK tour operators seem to board from the area "D" gates. These gates are a long hike from the main terminal area so don't leave it to the last minute before your flight departs. It will take you a good ten to fifteen minutes walk, including passing through passport control. I suggest you head there as soon as you arrive and buy your snacks and duty free right outside your departure gate.
I wouldn't say that Geneva is a great airport but it does have one thing very much in it's favour - it's not Chambery! However, there's far too much being bussed around when modern airports all have moving walkways to get you around with minimum fuss and effort. You would think that a country as rich as Switzerland would have taken note!
Summary: An airport that you would have expected to have been better than it is