Surviving EBACE


The static display of aircraft at EBACE 2014 in Geneva

There is no escaping the fact that EBACE is going to feel like the most expensive business aviation show to visit – even if you are coming from Europe. It is. Buying (or claiming) everything, from your hotel room to a bottle of water, is going to hurt. This is why Switzerland tops the Economist’s Big Mac Index as the world’s most expensive country to get a burger.

But there are lots of reasons why EBACE attracts more than 10,000 attendees each year. All of the key players attend and if you are involved in European business aviation you should not miss it. It is one of the most convenient and fun business aviation expos you can hope to visit.
Getting to the show

The show takes place at PALEXPO, a huge exhibition centre (also used for the Geneva Car Show). PALEXPO is at Geneva Airport, so flying in for the one day is a popular option for people who live in Europe. A free shuttle bus runs between the airport/airport train station and the show. Delegates who have not attended for a few years may remember walking from the airport, but a new layout means that you should now take the bus.

As you walk out of arrivals walk left, past the station and outside. There are lots of signs for PALEXPO so just keep walking.

Expert tip: If you are heading into town, collect a free train ticket before you leave the airport baggage hall. There is a ticket vending machine on the right by the exit. It gives you a free ticket into the city centre as long as you use it within 80 minutes. You will usually get a free transport pass from your hotel.

If you are not staying overnight and have luggage that you do not want to take into the show, you have a few options. There is a cloakroom at EBACE where you can store your bag or coat. However you’ll need to keep an eye on the time as it closes at about 7pm. If you are flying back later, your best bet is to use the lockers at the railway station which is located between the airport and the EBACE site, so you will walk past it.

At the show

Registration is always super-efficient (as at all NBAA shows) and you can still buy passes on the day. You do not need to be reminded to bring business cards.

EBACE is big. Not as big as NBAA BACE but still big. You will be walking a lot, so comfortable shoes are essential (you have been warned). Most delegates wear business dress (ties not essential) but you will not stand out in a polo shirt. Anyone heading to the static should carry both sunglasses and a coat/umbrella. The weather can be great, but it can also be cold and wet.

One huge advantage of EBACE is that the static display is very close to the exhibition. In the past, attendees have walked to it, but because of building work they will need to get a bus. The organisers say that the trip will take two minutes.

Where to stay

Geneva is not that big a city and accommodation options dry up the later you book. If you are trying to book in the days immediately before EBACE you may struggle to find anywhere.

You effectively have three options when looking: near the airport; in the city or in France (Geneva Airport is on the border between France and Switzerland so it is possible to avoid paying Swiss prices and stay in France). There are arguments for each.

Near the airport

Pros: Most convenient for the show – so it’s popular with exhibitors; good networking in the lift and hotel bars. There are shuttle buses.

Cons: Limited availability (you are probably too late for 2019); most of the social events take place in the city and it can be hard to get back if you miss the last train at 00:51. There are limited numbers of taxis and the shuttle bus to your hotel may have stopped.

In the city

Pros: More options (hotels and AirBnB); good for nightlife; getting to EBACE is actually very simple by train – especially if you are near Gare Geneva Cornavin, the main station – or on a shuttle-bus route. Some of the areas are really lovely (although Geneva also has places you should probably avoid).

Cons: Some hotels are super-expensive (particularly the ones near Lake Geneva), getting to the show takes longer in the morning and a taxi will cost at least CHF70 ($70) each way.

In France

Pros: Can be much cheaper; more availability for last-minute bookers; border checks not really an issue
Cons: Getting to and from the show can be more of a hassle (many companies which choose France hire their own drivers); getting back from the town can be very expensive; some places that claim to be close are actually a long way away (do not stay in Chamonix).

Expert tip: If you have left booking too late it is worth asking your network. Many OEMs and large companies overbook and it is possible to get last-minute rooms if you know the right people.

Where to head out

There are lots of formal and informal gatherings in the evenings (with cocktails starting on the stands in the evening). Attendees looking for nice food and atmosphere should visit the Geneva Old Town.

Many attendees gather in the bars and beer houses near the station. In town The Grand Duke Pub is always packed during EBACE. Late at night, attendees who want to talk end up in the (not cheap) Leopard Lounge. More active ones head to The Java Club

Expert tip: Find someone who works for a company with a relaxed expenses policy.