Your guide to Alpine Airports

Thursday, January 13, 2022

Getting you closer to the slopes 
We understand many of you are keen to get back on the slopes after a couple of years of disruption and with France confirming it will lift the ban to UK tourists from Friday there is expected to be a spike in demand for ski destinations. Our team of Account Managers is on hand and ready with the most up-to-date restrictions and requirements to help you plan for every eventuality.  We have learnt over the last six decades that factors such as slot restrictions, service levels and even weather can require last minute changes. By covering all of these bases early on in the booking process, we are able to ensure a smooth and calm experience so you can relax and enjoy your trip.  
As we delve into the Alpine region, we will explore the best airports that are usually recommended for each area or region to get you as close to the slopes as possible. We have selected our recommended airport for each area, as well as the airports we would consider as a back-up in the planning process.  
We hope this gives you an insight into the extensive planning that goes into every Air Partner flight you take to ensure a seamless journey to your final destinate on, regardless of any disruption. 
Chambery Airport 
By far the most popular request we receive every year, Chambery offers easy access to the popular resort of Courchevel. The airport itself is heavily slot restricted and many requests go ‘on request’ until nearer the date of flight. Although early booking places you closer to the front of the queue, it is sometimes not until a few weeks prior to flight when the airport authority can confirm our exact slot at this popular airport. As the facilities have to handle a mix of private and commercial traffic it can often be susceptible to Air Traffic Control delays and therefore arriving in good time for your flight is vital.  
Whilst the airport is open into the evening (around 9pm local time), only certain crew (with special training) can go there during the hours of darkness. We recommend early booking to secure one of these approved crew members.  
The airport has one usable runway and is always approached from the North. As with many Alpine airports, this airfield is heavily weather dependant, but the one directional approach adds further complication. Due to aircraft having to land ‘into’ the wind direction, even with a clear, sunny day should the tailwind be too strong this can mean crews are unable to land safely. As safety is always our priority, the Air Partner team will launch our back up plans to ensure you reach your destination with as little disruption as possible. 
Grenoble Airport 
Grenoble adds approximately 40 minutes to the usual drive time from Courchevel. However, given the airport is less slot restricted, less weather dependant and also widely available for night-time flying, it is often overlooked in favour of Chambery. For some clients the perceive inconvenience of a 40-minute drive on the map is outweighed by a far more operationally stable service and added peace of mind on the day. 
Lyon Bron Airport 
Lyon Bron is equidistant to Courchevel versus Grenoble. However, this smaller ‘sister’ airport to the main Lyon St Exupery is dedicated in its quest to be the main service offering for private aviation. Unlike Chambery and Grenoble, it offers a more exclusive service and is worthy of consideration. 
Sion Airport 
The airport of entry for both Zermatt and Verbier, Sion is our second most requested airport after Chambery. The airport is dedicated to private aviation and therefore offers exclusive service and the utmost convenience.  
Geographically, Sion Airport is located at the bottom of a deep valley surrounded by steep mountains either side. The airport is considered ‘VFR’ meaning visual flight rules apply and the crew have to fly by sight. Whilst it can appear a fine day from your chalet or even the terminal building the crew have to fly at low level along the valley to meet the required approach pattern. Any low cloud along this route can make it difficult to descend below the mountain tops and occasionally require us to use an alternative airport. In addition to this, the airport is available during daylight only and can often be busy during peak times, but it is not generally an issue with regards to securing a fixed slot for arrival or departure. 
Geneva Airport 
A good alternative to Sion and also an airport of entry for those wishing to access resorts such as Megeve with larger jets unable to land safely at Annecy. A major international hub, Geneva has one of the most restricted runways in terms of required slot permission that can only be granted by the airport authority. Like Chambery, slots are on request and are allocated five days in advance. The airport have invested in an online slot coordination tool which Air Partner has direct access to. This means that your Account Manager can view the available slots or short notice flights.  
Being a large airport it offers our jets full instrument landing capabilities, meaning bad weather rarely causes a closure. Private traffic is handled in a separate VIP facility known as the ‘C3 Terminal’. Please note that Geneva can be particularly busy on the weekends during the ski season so using Geneva as a diversion airport may not always be possible. 
Berne Airport 
Considering Geneva gets very busy on the weekend Berne offers a reliable alternative. Less congested than Geneva with significantly less slot restrictions the drive time to Berne is equidistant. Berne also has a dedicated terminal for private flights. Berne can be subject to good weather conditions but much less restrictive in comparison to other alpine airports. 
Samedan St Moritz Airport 
For decades, St Moritz has offered the glitz and glamour associated with the finest in Alpine adventures. Samedan airport is dedicated to the world of private aviation and offers quick access to St Moritz in under 10 minutes. Much like Sion its convenience is coupled with the understanding that all crew must make a visual approach and due to its proximity to mountainous terrain it is therefore very much weather dependant. In addition, the airport is only available for daylight flying. 
St Gallen Altenrhein Airport 
Unfortunately, Samedan (for St Moritz) is not well located in case of diversions. Altenrhein may offer a private service much like Samedan but with a drive time of over 2 hours to St Moritz we appreciate the inconvenience that this can have on your day.