The new East Wing building, which is dedicated to long-haul flights, will come into operation on 14 December 2021. In order to ensure that it is operational, a passenger experience test was organised on Thursday 11 November. Around 300 people volunteered to participate in this operation.
« Today I have a boarding pass for Dubai, but also for Toronto, Abu Dabi, London and Tunis! A dream come true! » A long journey awaits Randy Moser. This fictitious passenger will board five times during the day, like nearly 300 people who are taking part in the passenger experience test, better known as the ORAT (Operational Readiness Airport) test, organised by Genève Aéroport before the entry into service of the East Wing. The purpose being to verify that all the airport entities present on the site (ground assistance, check-in, customs, etc.) are operational by 14 December, the date of the first flight. Work on the East Wing began in 2016 with the aim of improving the reception of passengers on continental and intercontinental flights, while meeting current standards. It replaces the wide-body pavilion, built on a provisional basis in 1975.
« The main purpose of this full-scale test is to carry out a whole series of operational checks. We want to test passenger flows and make sure that all the procedures are working correctly », explains Jean-Luc Portier, Head of the Passenger Department. Boarding, disembarkation, bus transfer, passport control, the roadmap given to participants at 08:00 is long, but does not frighten Claude Barras, 61 years old. « Tonight, the East Wing will have no more secrets from me! I know the airport well, my dad worked on the tarmac when I was a kid. The old terminal was my playground. » Carmen, 18, has not often had the opportunity to come to Genève Aéroport. But she plans to become familiar with it later, as she is training in tourism at the Tunon International School. « I want to be a flight attendant, so my teachers have allowed me to skip class today. In return, I will have to make a presentation and share my experience with the other students in the class », she explains.
Between two boarding exercises, the participants stroll in the East Wing, admire the breathtaking view of the runway and the Jura, take photos, etc. This life-size test is an opportunity for them to discover the interior of the new building dedicated to wide-body aircraft. It must be said that its dimensions are impressive: with an inclination of 26 degrees towards the tarmac, it measures 520 metres long and 20 metres wide.
It is 15:00, the participants have completed their mission, the operation is over. The findings of the day « There can be no faultless ORAT test and this is desirable, because the imperfections which are raised are therefore corrected for the D-day », explains Jean-Luc Portier. « The work carried out by the Genève Aéroport teams, the airlines and the assistance companies has been enormous and luckily the end result is there », he says. A second similar test will be organised on 2 December, to conduct a final round of operational checks and a major evacuation exercise.