Disembarking from a plane you can normally be sure of a couple of things; unless you were flying in first or business class, you probably had an awful nights sleep; you wish that the baby sitting two seats further up the aisle would at the very least suddenly loose its voice; you know what country your landing in. In fact, the last of these points should be pretty much written in stone, unless you are landing in either Basel or Geneva (the only airport in the world that I know of that happen to be in two countries).
Quite why Switzerland decided to build two major airports on the border with France is something that I’ve never worked out. Looking at there history, there seems to be no specific reason for this, simply that as planes got larger, they needed longer runways and the only space available was across the border. Luckily, given that Switzerland is normally thought of as a peaceful country and not the most dangerous country in the world, the expansion has never been a problem.
When you land at either of these two Swiss cities, you leave Switzerland, or you enter Switzerland, or in some cases you never make it into Switzerland. I was never quite sure what country I was in, because by the time I left either airport, I’d gone over the border so many times I’d started to loose track. The only way you’ll know for sure is if you’re flying with Air France, in which case you’ll never officially have entered Switzerland.
There are some important things at you need to think about when you land at either of these airports. For instance if you are thinking of buying or renting anything then you should definitely head to the French side because everything is cheaper. Renting a car for instance is far cheaper on the French side than the Swiss side, even though the stalls are just metres apart. Although ironically even if you rent a French car in Geneva, you still have to enter Switzerland to leave the airport.
Although Geneva and Bern happen to have airports in two countries, there are some other strange airports that I’ve heard of. For instance Coolangatta Airport in Australia actually has two time zones, which I’m sure has resulted in a generation of terrible jokes by the flight attendants.
The two countries thing is so weird in Geneva, I do airport transfers and have groups where half of them come in my minibus and the other half get a hire car, so we have to meet them at the car hire place… The look on clients faces when you ask them if they’re picking the car up on the French or the Swiss side is priceless, unfortunately it wastes too much of my time for me to find it funny any more!!
I can imagine the joke is wearing thin.