Soccer traffic comes to Le Bourget

 - September 20, 2006, 6:09 AM

In the middle of last month downtown Paris was abuzz with soccer fever, as tens of thousands of fans relaxed at sidewalk cafes before the most important match of Europe’s soccer season. While they awaited the evening’s joust pitting England’s Arsenal and Spain’s Barcelona in the Champions League Final, operators at Le Bourget were trying to figure out how to accommodate the extra traffic and sending aircraft to other sites around the capital so they could depart, even after the airport’s 10 p.m. closing time.

The famous Stade de France stadium seats 77,000 spectators, and many ticket-less fans ventured to Paris to watch the game on giant screens installed for the occasion at the city’s bars.

Ben Paindavin, marketing and PR director of Antwerp, Belgium-based Flying Group, told AIN that there had been a major increase in traffic and that the operator’s four aircraft, which came from the Netherlands, Belgium and Cannes, France, had been diverted to Pontoise, some 10 miles from Le Bourget.

“Because of the ban on night flights, aircraft were not able to leave from Le Bourget after the match and [therefore] landed at Pontoise,” he said.

Euralair Airport Services manager Denis Bourgois said that on that day the company “handled 140 movements, compared with 40 to 50 on a normal day.”

Sandrine Jackson, manager of Universal Weather & Aviation, said that the company worked around the night closure rule by diverting aircraft to Pontoise, Paris Charles de Gaulle and Lille.

Michel de Ronne, head of operations for Aéroports de Paris, the Paris area airports authority that runs Le Bourget, did not know if private aircraft operators had requested that the French civil aviation authority lift the 10 p.m. limit but doubted that the agency would have granted such a request, noting that such exceptions to the rule are rare.