OPINION: Geneva seeks to rebuild network

Yves-Daniel Viredaz, head of marketing and business development at Geneva Airport (GVA), explains how the Swiss airport is working to rebuild traffic and restore confidence.

YVIBy Yves-Daniel Viredaz, head of marketing and business development at Geneva Airport (GVA)

Our focus in recent weeks has mainly been on our cargo operations but passenger services will begin to resume this month. We think passenger traffic will increase in July—to about 15-20% of the normal activity—rising to 30% in August. If everything goes well, traffic could be up to 75% by the end of the year. 

However, over the course of the year we will have lost about 50% of our normal activity and that obviously means there will be a significant financial impact. Like all other organizations, we have to make savings and postpone some investments.

At the same time, we want to incentivize airlines to come back to Geneva as soon as possible. We are designing a new incentive scheme to help them, especially during the early stages of the recovery. 

For carriers to offer capacity at this time represents a risk, so we hope our incentives will share the risk and help to make sure the capacity is in the market when demand returns. We are also going to offer support on long-haul services; not just for the summer season but over a longer period of time. 

Our first priority is to recover as much of our route network as possible. We are quite confident about the European short-haul network returning—although we might lose some leisure destinations that are served seasonally—but the long-haul network is more concerning.

We have built quite a strong long-haul network in recent years, attracting new carriers like Air China, Ethiopian Airlines and Kenya Airways. We want to make sure these airlines come back and so there will be incentives to support them. 

We expect VFR traffic to be the first segment to return as Geneva’s catchment area has a very high population of civil servants and expatriates. For example, the UK accounts for 25% of our market because there are so many British people living here.

The second segment will be leisure although this will very much depend on how quickly borders reopen. Greece is a large market for us, and it is encouraging to see it pushing to get its tourism sector back on track. 

However, the whole industry has been severely damaged, and it will take a lot of effort to convince people it is safe to fly again.

We therefore have teams that are working intensively to make sure our airport is ready to receive passengers. There are a lot of measures being put in place—such as queueing systems and ways to ensure social distancing—to make sure people feel confident and safe when they fly from our airport. 

In the long-term, we are confident that Geneva’s market will recover. We have a large number of international organizations, a good standard of living and a strong economy. That means our catchment area may not be affected as badly as some other destinations. It’s an interesting message and one that we’ll be communicating—particularly with airlines in Asia—over the coming months.

Photo credit: Genève Aéroport