Swiss covid rules cause chaos at Geneva airport

29th November 2021, by Abi Butcher

Skiers arriving at Geneva bound for another country may have to quarantine

Skiers arriving at Geneva bound for another country may have to quarantine

British skiers are frantically finding alternative ways to travel to the Alps this winter following chaos at Geneva after Switzerland imposed a 10-day quarantine on travellers from the UK.

While skiers are unphased by the new UK requirement to isolate until they take a day two PCR test on arrival from their holiday, new rules for entry to Switzerland have thrown the travel industry. From yesterday, any traveller entering Switzerland from one of 19 different countries where the omicron variant of Covid-19 has been identified (which includes the UK) must present a negative antigen or PCR test on arrival, quarantine for 10 days and take a PCR or rapid antigen test between four and seven days after entry.

While this of course impacts travellers from the UK visiting Switzerland for holiday and business, it has also caused chaos at Geneva Airport, which is used as a transit route by skiers heading to France, Italy and any other ski nation. Officials in Switzerland are offering different advice as to whether travellers bound for neighbouring European countries need to quarantine for 10 days when they are simply passing through.

Today Where to Ski & Snowboard has heard reports of total confusion in Geneva yesterday, when some travellers were permitted to travel through Geneva uninterrupted, and others were turned back onto planes or banned altogether from boarding in the UK.

Rob McIntosh, managing director of Interski told us: “We had clients flying out yesterday from different UK airports to Cervinia — all had a different result. Some were going from Edinburgh and were refused boarding onto the plane with easyJet. Other clients travelling from Manchester (also with easyJet) were initially denied boarding, but after discussion they were allowed to travel, arrived into Geneva only to be told they were not eligible to enter Switzerland and sent back home on the same plane. They had done their lateral flow to get into Italy as required.

“We then had clients going from Gatwick with easyJet. They arrived and were eventually allowed Geneva through after some discussion and have made it to Cervinia.”

Mr McIntosh continues: “All were going on to Cervinia for our annual November performance course. It’s very frustrating and incredibly challenging as a tour operator trying to organise these things as the rules are ever changing, these are very challenging circumstances to operate in — to further add to the disappointment, the course is continuing so some people are there skiing and others have been turned away by authorities or airlines.”

SkiWorld marketing director Diane Palumbo told Where to Ski & Snowboard: “FCDO advice is that if you are coming out at the airport for any reason, you must quarantine. We’re asking the Swiss authorities for clarification as quite a few members of staff went through Geneva yesterday with French visas and paperwork that clearly showed they were going to be resident in France, and that they were coming from the UK, and they were allowed out through.”

Elsewhere, skiers have told us that they are determined to go on their ski holidays unless banned from travel — with many looking at driving, taking the train or changing flights to travel within France to Lyon, Grenoble or Chambery.

Crystal Ski Holidays has updated its advice to travellers to Switzerland, reiterating that clients have the option to change their holiday without incurring fees no later than 10 days before their departure date.

Oxford Ski Company’s Felix Hemsley told us: “We’re on standby for any formal announcement or confirmation of the nuances which Switzerland has (as they are uniquely positioned for transit into France from Geneva), and once that is known, we will speak to clients about their options and work with them to decide on a course of action – even if it is simply encouraging clients to find flights which land within France and transfer from there into resort for those with bookings in France…

“We will initially focus on those travelling between now and January and continue to monitor the situation as it changes for those booked for escapes in Switzerland itself. We have already seen three updates to the restrictions in the past 24 hours. And 48 hours ago, it was plain sailing.

“We have all become accustomed to change, so we are all working together to find the best options and resolutions for clients.”

The UK’s foreign travel advice to Switzerland can be accessed here.

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