Using United’s extensive hub at Washington Dulles, Europe-based business and leisure travelers can fly virtually everywhere in the United States and Latin America, he says, while travelers from the United States can fly throughout Europe using Geneva as a hub. In addition, from the train station at Geneva International Airport, travelers can connect to cities all across Europe by means of the continent’s extensive rail network; and they can travel easily by car from the airport to cities in France such as Lyon (one hour) and the French Alps.
Unlike carriers in the U.S., airlines operating at Geneva International Airport have not been seeing any major drop in airline traffic, according to Meyer. However, business jet flights were down 30 per cent in the first four months of the year. He suggests the upscale passengers who had been traveling on business aircraft are using airlines’ first and business class services instead, many of which are full on international flights from Geneva.
The new Washington-Geneva service started strongly, with United’s first and business-class sections totally sold out throughout the first few weeks of service. Passenger traffic continued to build in all sections, and once the vacation period was in full swing, the 183-seat flights were almost full every day, according to Yves-Daniel Viredaz, head of marketing-communication at Geneva International Airport.
“From the beginning, sales have been excellent in business class, which confirms the initial analysis of the market,” he says. “This is driven by all the governmental traffic from the US administration, World Bank group, all the United Nations agencies in Geneva, NGOs and, of course, private corporations.”
Viredaz says it appears most of the summer leisure passengers from Geneva are traveling beyond Washington to destinations in California, Florida, Las Vegas and other cities.
Craig Jenks, who keeps track of the changes in international services as principal at New York-based consulting firm Airline/Aircraft Projects, says there are 31 fewer daily flights between the U.S. and Europe this summer than last, with 51 daily flights eliminated and 20 newly started, such as the Washington-Geneva service.
Geneva official Hirsig suggests that, besides the two cities having important financial and diplomatic centers, as well as tourist attractions, another similarity exists between them. “Geneva, like Washington, does not suffer as much in times of economic crisis,” he says.
Carole Shifrin has been a Washington-based freelance writer for 10 years. Her career includes 15 years at Aviation Week & Space Technology, where she served as Dallas Bureau Chief, London Bureau Chief and Senior Transport Editor, and 13 years as a staff writer at The Washington Post. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the prestigious Lauren D. Lyman Award for distinguished, career-long achievement in aviation journalism.