Bern Airport faces large-scale competition from Basle, Geneva and Zurich, but its carefully managed VIP services, no-slot requirements and easy connections make it an optimal alternative
In the same way that London Oxford is a preferred alternative for London, Bern Airport is the ideal landing spot for access not only to the Swiss capital, but surrounding cities, business centres and the country’s spectacular mountains. And if mountains and skiing go together, then so too do mountains and adventure, making Switzerland every bit as attractive a summer destination as it is in winter.
The larger Basel, Geneva and Zurich airports are all within two hours of Bern by car or train, but Bern’s own airport is a small regional facility offering business and VIP travellers a number of important advantages over its competitors. Always a genuine alternative, Bern Airport is now even more attractive thanks to the dedicated business aviation lounge it opened in December 2018. VIP guests are personally greeted outside the main terminal or at the welcome desk, this personal service continuing to the business lounge, were privacy and discretion are guaranteed.
The full weight of the airport’s services is on offer, including those of its handling department, available to arrange limousine transfers and hotel bookings. The airport authorities also actively support VIP customers, trip support companies and operators with information on events in the region.
Removing any stress at all from the transfer process, Mountainflyers, Swiss Helicopter and Lions Air all have bases at Bern Airport, offering helicopter transfers throughout the area. Regular destinations include Interlaken, Gstaad and the Jungfrau Region. Providing suitable landing sites are available, helicopter transfers to passengers’ homes or hotels in the mountains are also common.
Bern takes care of visiting crews too, with a dedicated lounge in the main terminal offering complementary refreshments. There’s also a separate area to freshen up, a computer with internet access and free Wi-Fi. A new innovation, launched in March 2019, provides a Volvo V60 courtesy car for aircrew personal use at just CHF25 per day.
Slots and Services
Visiting aircraft span the full spectrum of business aviation types, with the exception of widebodies. Aircraft as large as the ACJ320 Family and 737 BBJ are easily accommodated. Again, thanks to the full availability of airport facilities, Bern offers its VIP clients a complete range of ramp services, including fuel, water and lavatory service, catering, cleaning and hangarage. Shell Aviation is Bern’s chosen fuel provider, while the airport itself supplies water and lavatory service. Henris delivers specialist business aviation catering.
Problems and delays are not uncommon when FBOs share airport facilities with commercial airlines and many FBOs choose to run their own service vehicles for fuel, towing and so on, helping minimise the issue of clients waiting for service from the main airport operators whose priority is the airlines. In the case of Bern, the airport authorities handle both the airlines and VIP traffic, potentially causing problems.
Again though, Bern’s status as a regional airport compared to its much larger competitors is to its advantage. The distances that need to be travelled across the facility are short for both service providers and customers, minimising delays. Indeed, processes and systems have been optimised, and staff trained to work efficiently together to reduce the time taken from arriving at the airport to entering the business aviation lounge to as little as five minutes. It might be apt to suggest that Swiss quality has been applied to the entire process.
The efficiency of Bern’s airport services may not be a cause of delay, but what of slot availability, a common issue for VIP and business travellers across Europe? Basel, Geneva and Zurich are all busy, with slots that may be inconvenient for VIP travellers and especially those with strict time constraints. Bern Airport in fact, has no slot constraints at all… And that fact, combined with the personalised service, welcoming atmosphere, privacy and discretion it offers, is perhaps its strongest selling point to the busy flyer. It effectively offers all the services of a large airport, without the stress, crowds and slot limitations.
Bern Airport makes flying into the region simple, but why do people visit? During the winter season, especially from mid-December to the end of February, the primary attractions for VIP travellers are skiing and other winter sports. The majority of the most famous Swiss ski resorts, including Adelboden, Grindelwald and Gstaad, are located within easy reach of Bern Airport.
Outside the skiing season, between March and November, most VIP travellers fly into Bern for business. The airport’s catchment area encompasses more than 70,000 companies, a remarkable 4,000 of them international or multinational. Nestlé’s Vevey head office is just 90km away, the Swatch Group is headquartered only 55km distant at Biel/Bienne and Cartier’s HQ is at Fribourg, 40km away. Furthermore, CSL Behring and eBay both have their European offices in Bern.
Business may be the primary reason for flying into Bern outside the ski season, but the region still offers much in the way of leisure and adventure during the summer months, with numerous events and festivals in and around the city. And it probably goes without saying that the mountain landscape skied in winter makes for spectacular summer walking.
Meanwhile, the Bernese Oberland provides more active, thrill-seeking visitors the option of multiple challenges year round, among them paragliding and hang-gliding, bungee jumping and skydiving from a helicopter.
Those looking for something a little slower paced will undoubtedly enjoy the region’s recovery, spa and health tourism, providing the opportunity to feel better and refresh in the clean air of the Alps.
With easy access by road and ready options for interlining via helicopter to regional tourist and business centres, Bern is an obvious choice for flying into Switzerland. Add in the airport’s optimised VIP travel experience and enhanced services, plus its lack of slot restrictions, and Bern Airport really ought to be the preferred choice.