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Swiss Covid travel restrictions allow skiers to transit from Geneva Airport to France

Switzerland imposes tighter travel restrictions amid Omicron fears, affecting French ski season

Featured in: | Chris Richard, Site Editor | Published

As of Friday 26th November 2021, Switzerland imposed tighter rules for travellers arriving from countries it's Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) considers to be high-risk, which at the time of writing includes the UK.

Can travellers transit via Geneva Airport in Switzerland to France for a ski holiday?

Yes, we believe you can still transit to France, despite high-risk countries being on Switzerland's risk list and with the emergence of new variants (as long as France has not imposed restrictions on you or your country!).

Obviously, circumstances are changing rapidly, so check the government website links below. Our advice on transiting is strongly based on you being fully vaccinated and having completed entry documents; anything else runs a strong risk of refused entry/travel...

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UPDATED 30 NOVEMBER 2021, 14:19:

We have noted the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office has updated it's (current) advise on travelling to and "transiting" through Switzerland providing clarity and definition of "transit", at least for UK passport holders, as follows:

Transit

Following the update of a Swiss ordinance on 30 November, there is no quarantine requirement for travellers arriving in Switzerland from the UK who wish to travel onward to another country, as long as travel through Switzerland is less than 24 hours and does not involve a stopover. More detail is available in the ordinance (in English) and in German. There is no quarantine requirement for those in transit airside at the airport.

If you are transiting Switzerland, you are strongly advised to have your onward travel booked in advance and to have confirmed you meet the entry requirements of your destination country (you may be asked to provide proof of your onward travel and accommodation). If you are transiting by air, you must complete an online form and provide contact details. You should also check the travel advice for any country that you will transit on the way back to the UK. Further information about travelling through Switzerland is available from the State Secretariat for Migration.

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The single biggest issue right now lies in the definition "transit". You are allowed to "transit" Switzerland. The problem is that no one has a concrete definition of "transit" as yet. We spent 2hrs on the phone to the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), whose call-centre team agree with us, in principle - "transit" means you can fly in to Geneva Airport, travel rapidly into France by any means and this be allowed. This issue is that the border control interpret "transit" as an airside passenger who is catching a connecting flight, without ever really entering on Swiss soil. We are hearing stories that Geneva Airport border control are currently not permitting red-list countries passengers to exit the airport (and even then it is depending on the nationality and country of residence of the passenger, so highly arbitrary).

We have asked for clarity of definition of "transit" and for this to be clearly published on the FOPH's website. Not least, that in context of staying in Switzerland itself, you would have some travel time to get from the airport to your place of quarantine (within reason and within a reasonable timeframe), so why not a short timeframe to pass through to an authorised stay in a neighbouring country?

We followed the steps on the Swiss Government's websites and in our opinion, transiting to France via Switzerland is currently allowed on arrival. This is even so in context of UK passport holders and Brexit.

If you don't want to read our detailed analysis, the Swiss government's Travelcheck Q&A widget is constantly updated. Although it says is for information purposes only, you should get a reasonable answer from it.

The main crux of the changes is that visitors arriving to Switzerland from a high-risk country, who intend to stay in Switzerland (including for holidays...) must prove themselves to be fully vaccinated, provide a negative test result and quarantine for 10 days on arrival.

For visitors staying in Switzerland, the situation is seemingly clear cut. Amidst all the on going confusion, passengers travelling to Switzerland with certain passports have been turned away, refused entry or been prevented from boarding flights to Switzerland.

However, our interest is how passengers are affected if transiting Geneva airport and travelling on to France, which currently has no restrictions from the UK (at least). And how the situation will settle, once the initial snowstorm has passed after the initial announcement?

In our view, transit from Geneva to French ski resorts is allowed (if you're fully vaccinated and not under 18, unaccompanied by a vaccinated adult, and normally allowed to enter Switzerland)

The following caveats all apply in vigour:

  • "Currently"
  • If these government sites are right up-to-date
  • If the border guards have read the fine print
  • If there's isn't another edict being passed round
  • If your airline allow you to board

Nonetheless, by our reckoning, transiting via Geneva Airport is allowed.... Please note, the UK in not a country in the Schengen Free Movement Area, but UK nationals are permitted to visit states in the EU for 90 days without a visa.

  • Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) reported a Tightening of Quarantine rules as of November 26th 2021
  • In the Tightening of Quarantine rules, the high alert panel provides a link to the List of countries with a variant of concern
  • The List of countries with a variant of concern has a specific panel for "Notice for foreign nationals" which states:
    • The list below is critical to Switzerland’s health-related measures at the border. However, the FOPH list does not state anything about whether or not you are allowed to enter. This is the responsibility of the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM)
  • In the Tightening of Quarantine rules there is also specific panel for "Notice for foreign nationals" which states
    • You may not be allowed to enter Switzerland. Before you travel, you should check the following: Am I even allowed to travel to Switzerland? You’ll find the answer to this question on the website of the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) as the SEM is responsible for Switzerland’s entry requirements.
  • The State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) has good levels of details about entry in each section
    • Notably, in the section "Entering Switzerland" it states with regards to "Who can enter Switzerland?": "Even if you are arriving from a high-risk country, you can still enter Switzerland if you meet at least one of the following requirements:... You are simply travelling directly through Switzerland with the intention and possibility of entering another country. (see ‘Travelling through Switzerland’)"
    • In the section "Travelling through Switzerland" is states with regards to "Transit from a third country considered by the SEM to be high-risk to a Schengen state" : "It is only possible to enter Switzerland from a high-risk country in order to travel on to another Schengen state for a short stay of up to 90 days if you can prove that you have been vaccinated (see “How can I prove that I am vaccinated?”). Persons under 18 may enter Switzerland if they are travelling with an adult who has been vaccinated."
  • In the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) page, at the very top of the page the high-alert panel states: "To see what rules apply to your own particular situation when entering Switzerland, consult the online Travelcheck"
  • The Travelcheck is constantly updated and says is for information purposes only
  • If you correctly follow the Travelcheck steps for your situation the widget will give you a good summary of the rules
    • When we checked for UK travellers in transit the conclusion is that this is allowed

Should I cancel my ski holiday to France because of travel restrictions?

No, don't cancel your ski holiday yet. Our advice is to leave cancelling your ski holiday until the very last moment. Most operators are offering generous cancellation policies until moments before travel. Some Covid cancellation terms only allow for cancellation due to travel restrictions occurring actually at the time of travelling.

With the situation changing so rapidly, not least the detection of variants, increasing vaccination rates in Western European countries, and seemingly reduced hospitalisation rates or reportedly milder symptoms of coronvirus infections, our advice is not to cancel or rebook your trip prematurely.

With the currently travel restrictions as they are, wait until at least mid-December, if you can, to make changes and give time for the authorities to assess the true risk of the Omicron variant.

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