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EuroAirport Basel Mulhouse Freiburg
EuroAirport Basel Mulhouse Freiburg

EuroAirport Basel Mulhouse Freiburg (IATA: MLH, BSL, EAP, ICAO: LFSB, LSZM)[1][2] is an international airport 3.5 km (2.2 mi) northwest of the city of Basel, Switzerland, 20 km (12 mi) southeast of Mulhouse in France, and 46 km (29 mi) south-southwest of Freiburg im Breisgau in Germany. The Franco-Swiss administered airport is geographically located within the French Alsace region, in the administrative commune of Saint-Louis near the border tripoint between France, Germany, and Switzerland. The airport serves as a base for easyJet Switzerland and features mainly flights to European metropolitan and leisure destinations.

History


Plans for the construction of a joint Swiss–French airport started in the 1930s, but were halted by the Second World War. Swiss planners identified Basel as one of the four cities for which a main urban airport would be developed, but recognized that the existing airfield at Sternenfeld in Birsfelden was too small and, due development of the adjacent river port facilities, unsuitable for expansion. The suburb of Allschwil was proposed for a new airport, but this would require being constructed across the Franco-Swiss border, leading to talks with French authorities centered developing a single airport that would serve both countries, enhancing its international airport status.[6]

In 1946 talks resumed and it was agreed that an airport would be built 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) north of Blotzheim, France. France would provide the land and the Swiss canton of Basel-Stadt would cover the construction costs. Basel-Stadt's Grand Council agreed to pay the costs for a provisional airport even before an international treaty was signed (which was not until 1949). Construction began on 8 March 1946 and a provisional airport with a 1,200-metre (3,900 ft) runway was officially opened on 8 May.

Between autumn 1951 and spring 1953, the east–west runway was extended to 1,600 metres (5,200 ft) and the "Zollfreistrasse" (customs-free road) was constructed, allowing access from Basel to the departure terminal without passing through French border controls.

The first enlargement project was approved by referendum in Basel in 1960 and, over the following decades, the terminals and runways were continually extended. The north–south runway was extended further to 3,900 metres (12,800 ft) in 1972. In 1984, an annual total of 1 million passengers was reached. In 1987, the trademark name EuroAirport Basel–Mulhouse–Freiburg was introduced.[7]

In 1992 a total of 2 million passengers used the airport. By 1998, this number rose up to 3 million.

A decision was made to enlarge the terminals again with a new "Y-finger" dock. The first phase was completed in 2002 and the second phase in 2005.

Crossair was based at Basel and was its largest airline. Following the Swissair liquidation in 2001, the subsequent ending of services in early 2002, and the transformation of Crossair into Swiss International Air Lines, the number of flights from Basel fell and the new terminal was initially underused. In 2004 the low-cost carrier easyJet opened a base at Basel and the passenger totals rose again, reaching 4 million in 2006.

From 2007 until 2009, Ryanair also flew to the airport for the first time. However, as result of a dispute over landing fees, the airline closed all eight routes.[8] More recently Ryanair announced it would return in April 2014, with the resumption of Basel–Dublin route as well as the new route Basel – London–Stansted. Since then, Ryanair has hinted at the possibility of adding new routes in the foreseeable future.

In December 2014, Swiss International Air Lines announced it would cease all operations at Basel by 31 May 2015 due to heavy competition from low-cost carriers.[9] Swiss faced direct competition on five out of its six Basel routes, all of which were operated by Swiss Global Air Lines. The Lufthansa Group announced it would set up Eurowings' first base outside Germany at the EuroAirport as a replacement. However these plans were later cancelled in favour of Vienna International Airport.[10]

In January 2017, the removal of Basel/Mulhouse from Air Berlin and its Swiss subsidiary Belair's route networks was announced.[11]

International status


EuroAirport is one of the few airports in the world operated jointly by two countries[12], in this case France and Switzerland. It is governed by a 1949 international convention. The headquarters of the airport's operations are located in Blotzheim, France.[13] The airport is located completely on French soil; however, it has a Swiss customs area connected to Basel by a 2.5 km (1.6 mi) long customs road, thus allowing air travelers access into Switzerland bypassing French customs clearance. The airport is operated via a state treaty established in 1946 wherein the two countries (Switzerland and France) are granted access to the airport without any customs or other border restrictions. The airport's board has 8 members each from France and Switzerland and two advisers from Germany.[14]

The airport building is split into two separate sections – Swiss and French. Though the whole airport is on French soil and under French jurisdiction, the Swiss authorities have the authority to apply Swiss laws regarding customs, medical services and police work in the Swiss section, including the customs road connecting Basel with the airport. However, French police are allowed to execute random checks in the Swiss section as well.[14] With Switzerland joining the Schengen Treaty in March 2009, the air side was rearranged to include a Schengen and non-Schengen zone.[15] As border control is staffed by both Swiss and French border officers, passengers departing to or arriving from non-Schengen countries may receive either a Swiss or French passport stamp, depending on which officer they happen to approach.

Due to its international status, EuroAirport has three IATA airport codes: BSL (Basel) is the Swiss code, MLH (Mulhouse) is the French code and EAP (EuroAirport) is the neutral code.[2] The ICAO airport code is: LFSB, sometimes LSZM is used to designate the Swiss airport.[3]

Terminal


The EuroAirport consists of a single terminal building, a brick-style main area with four levels and the Y-shaped gate area attached to it. The basement (Level 1) contains the access to the car park, the ground level (Level 2) features the arrivals facilities. Level 3 is the check-in area divided into halls 1-4 while the departure gates are located at Level 4. The gate area features gates 1-2, 20-46, 60-61 and 78-87 of which gates 22-32 are used for non-Schengen flights.[16] Six of the boarding gates feature jet bridges, the others are used for walk- or bus-boarding. As described above, the landside areas are uniquely divided into a French and a Swiss part.

Airlines and destinations


The following airlines offer regular scheduled and charter flights at the EuroAirport:[17]

Statistics


Other facilities


  • The headquarters of Swiss International Air Lines and Swiss Global Air Lines are on the grounds at EuroAirport Basel–Mulhouse–Freiburg in the Swiss section of the airport; even though the airport is within France, the Swiss head office is only accessible from Switzerland.[36][37] The Swiss division Swiss Aviation Software has its head office there as well.[38]
  • Farnair Switzerland formerly had its head office at EuroAirport. As in the case of the Swiss head office, the area with the former Farnair head office may only be accessed from Switzerland.[39] The head office moved to its current location, the Villa Guggenheim in Allschwil, in proximity to EuroAirport, on 1 October 2011.[40]
  • Hello, a now defunct Swiss airline, had its head office in the General Aviation area of EuroAirport.[41]
  • Prior to the formation of Swiss International Air Lines, the regional airline Crossair was headquartered on the grounds of EuroAirport.[42] Prior to its dissolution, Crossair Europe was headquartered on the grounds of EuroAirport as well.[43]

Ground transportation


The airport is connected to motorway A3 which leads from Basel to the southeast of Switzerland passing Zürich.

There are several bus connections to and from the EuroAirport to all three countries around it:

  • On the Swiss exit Basel's BVB bus No. 50[44] connects the airport to Bahnhof SBB, which is the main Swiss and French railway station in Basel. During weekdays, there is a service every 7–8 minutes and on weekends, every 10 minutes during daytime. The duration of the trip is about 20 minutes. On the day of a visitor's arrival to Basel, a reservation confirmation from a local hotel guarantees a free transfer by public transport from the station or the EuroAirport to the hotel.[45]
  • On the French exit Saint-Louis' distribus bus No. 11[46] connects the airport to the gare SNCF, Saint-Louis's railway station in 10 minutes.
  • The German private bus company Flixbus calls Zürich, Basel and Freiburg i.Br. up to five times a day. FlixBus however only serves the French exit of the airport. Serving Swiss destinations from the French part of the airport is a questionable legal trick, as people transport by foreign companies inside of Switzerland is illegal without official authorization due to cabotage regulations, which will not be granted by Swiss authorities on routes already supported by tax-financed public services. It's illegal to travel between Swiss destinations only. Police started to do random checks and to fine failing travelers. Serving Swiss destinations from abroad however is compliant.[47][48]

See also


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