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Gearing up for winter
The upcoming ski season is the busiest time of year for Sion Airport, located in the Swiss Alps, says director Aline Bovier, but how is it luring business aviation?
So you’re preparing for your busiest season now ...
Yes, winter is slightly busier for us, especially at the weekends when people fly in for skiing. And then in January we have a lot of traffic when the World Economic Forum is held in Davos, Switzerland, which isn’t far away. But even the summer can be busy, as there are a lot of events and music festivals, and the mountains are good for walking, cycling and wine – there are many ski resorts here, but also the vineyards of the Rhone Valley.
But it isn’t all tourism, is it?
We’re an important destination for business too. It’s only an hour’s drive or less to places like Montreux, Vevey and Lausanne, where a lot of multinational companies are based, as well as big names in the fields of watchmaking, aluminium and pharmaceuticals.
There are organizations like the EPFL Valais Wallis technical university (Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne), which promotes scientific research in terms of energy, health and the environment, and also The Ark Foundation in Valais, which supports technology startups all over the region.
What services do you offer business aviation?
We have three full service FBOs, with maintenance and hangars to suit most types of business jet, and we are always striving to improve our facilities.
For example, we just added a new hangar, with offices, lounges and accommodation that operators can use to house their planes on an ad hoc basis. Our handling team will take care of every need, we have on-site immigration and customs, and runway slots are not required. The handling charge includes us organizing your transport once you’ve landed, and having it pull up to the aircraft if necessary. We also offer door-to-door helicopter transfers.
Is business aviation high on your list of priorities, then?
Our infrastructure has been developed around business aviation over the last few years. We’re always looking to build on that – we have special incentives for flight crews, landing fees loyalty cards, partnerships with different music and sports events, and we work closely with the luxury hotels here for crew and client accommodation.
Do you compete with Geneva Airport for business aviation?
The biggest challenge for us is convincing operators to land at Sion rather than Geneva, and spend two hours’ traveling to Valais. As well as Chambéry Savoie Airport and Innsbruck Airport, Sion needs a special B Qualification approach, and since summer 2016 this is available on CAE and FlightSafety simulators.
But especially during World Economic Forum week, we are a good alternative to Geneva – we have no parking saturation and our landing fees are very reasonable, plus you can enjoy the mountains before and after.
What else sets you apart?
We are small and flexible, so very service-orientated, and that means a personalized experience. The loyalty of our business aviation customers demonstrates this.
More info at www.sionairport.ch