Bob Morrell, Reality Training MD, questions whether the Swiss experience offers a foretaste of Britain’s future
The last time I went skiing was 12 years ago, with the editor of this esteemed magazine and her family. It was an amusing disaster in many ways, which I will detail in future articles, but not least, it put me off skiing. So last week I tried again in Alpe D’Huez France, and I am happy to report that I took some instruction and am now an able skier. This was an excellent package through SkiBound.
My issue is with Geneva airport. Geneva is in Switzerland, which is an advanced, wealthy democracy, whose major businesses are money, watches of stunning accuracy and various Alpine delicacies. Of course, Switzerland is not in the EU. It doesn’t need to be. Geneva airport is large and modern. At least some of it is.
The thousands of skiers who land at Geneva for transfer to the Swiss and French alps are a major inconvenience for this airport and country. As we arrived to check-in for our homeward flight we entered a small, plastered aircraft hangar, populated by over two thousand swearing and stressed people. In that zone there are all the check-in desks, where you check in all your luggage, including skis and boards and boots, so you have all the people and all the luggage too.
Then to cram in more, once checked in – which takes forever, you then join a massive queue to go through one of 3 security checks. This queue goes out past where you came in and takes an hour to wind through the poor people who arrived after you to get to the place where they check you for metal. Once through, you walk down a corridor looking for a café – (there are no loos or cafes in the check-in zone) and then to your amazement you wait for a bus to shuttle you to the main terminal building… let me be clear – this place is rammed, with no thought for basics like thirst or the need to use a toilet.
The main terminal is 500 yards or so away. Once there you walk up into the beautiful shopping mall where they hope you’ll buy a watch – sorry no time – ironically – I am late! You then walk for 10 minutes back in the direction you just came from, underground. To then go through passport control – another queue, then a final queue where they check your passport for a 4th time and then you go through your gate to another bus to take you to the plane which was not far from the door we went through to get on the original bus to take us to the terminal. All this after a 3 hour transfer. So our flight was late, and we sat waiting for the next slot feeling totally exhausted – unnecessarily so.
The experience for the families with young children was unbearable, one of our party had a gastric problem and the distant toilets for him, felt inhuman.
So the top 3 tips that would have improved this experience?
1) If you have immense false nails then don’t be surprised if you can’t make the sticky bit on luggage labels work properly.
2) Two passport checks is enough – trust me. We’re skiers wanting to go home.
3) For long queues send someone along with some cups of tap water for the kids at least?
Having all this time standing around, gave me time to reflect on why the service offered at Geneva was so shocking, so uncaring, and so separate from the rest of humanity – and I immediately thought of Brexit. For Geneva, to have to process thousands of people who are ultimately going to spend money in France must be annoying – so why make it easy? For Geneva, the idea of having these people enter through the normal passenger terminal with non-packaged, higher spending travellers is a no-no so let’s make them all enter an inconvenient area that’s off-site.
For Geneva, there must be a motivation that if we can put these people off they may think twice about repeating the experience? For the travel brands reliant on this travel hub this must be the major source of holiday complaints – not the hotel, the food, the rep, the transfer – the airport and just how utterly inadequate that bit of it is.
Sadly, this will be Brexit. If the Swiss already feel this way about skiers, what will it be like when all European countries see us this way? We will be the inconvenient, high spending nation that sits just outside the main hub. We will be the problem that Europe creates separate rules for, different pathways, more inconvenient and annoying bureaucratic processes.
Not just in one airport but all airports, ports, bus terminals, train stations – wherever our nation touches the bloc. I don’t want to be an inconvenience. I want to be a valued traveller wherever I go to. As I arrived at Gatwick, I looked at the options at Passport control – All other Passports, or UK and EU. We will soon be in the group of ‘All Other Passports’ for everywhere we travel too. What a depressing thought.
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