Customs Withdrawn From Many French Airfields

The French government is withdrawing Customs from dozens of smaller airfields, which will have a major impact on GA flights from the UK because Britain has never signed up to the Schengen Agreement allowing free travel across European borders. Some Swiss pilots will also be affected.

A list of airfields from which Customs has been withdrawn has been confirmed by Emmanuel Davidson of AOPA France. They are Meaux-Esbly, Pontoise, Toussus Le Noble, Valenciennes-Denaine, Nancy-Essen, Pontarlier, Reims-Champagne, Saint-Yan, Vesoul-Frotey, Courcheval, Megeve, Roanne-Renaison, Valence-Chabeuil, Gap-Tallard, Albi-le-Sequestre, Cahors-Lalbenque, Castres-Mazamet, Bourges, Dieppe-St-Aubin, Granville, Morlaix-Ploujean and Quimper-Plughaffen. Customs will not be available even on 24 hours notice. Airfields which have been earmarked to have Customs facilities removed by summer 2012 include Amiens-Glisy, Abbeville, Calais, Montbeliard-Courcelles, Besancon-La-Veze, Colmar-Houssen, Nevers-Fourchambault, Epinal-Mirecourt, Auxerre-Branches, Vichy-Charmeil, Annemasse, Le Castellet, Agen-La Garenne, Lannion, Laval-Entrammes, Rouen-Vallee de Seine, Orleans-St Denis de Hotel.

Emmanuel Davidson says the decisions has been taken by the French finance ministry, which is responsible for customs. "Although we cannot understand the reasoning behind the decision, it makes things very difficult for many pilots either based in France or for foreign pilots coming or going to a country which has not signed the Schengen treaty," he says.

For pilots wishing to use Toussus le Noble (LFPN), for instance, it means that they cannot clear Customs if they are arriving or departing from the UK or the Channel Islands. Toussus is a business and general aviation airport. Many business jets are based there.

The only airports in the Paris area with Customs available are now Lognes (750 meters hard runway), not IFR, not usable at night; Charles De Gaulles International (not accessible to GA); Orly International (not accessible to GA); Paris le Bourget (not accessible VFR, €500 in landing and mandatory handling charges.

"A pilot coming back from Guernsey to Toussus needs to clear customs either in Dinard, Deauville or Cherbourg, where Customs closes at 1900 at the latest. Therefore it is impossible to spend the week-end in Guernsey without leaving early in order to clear Customs. Your week end is going to be cut short. The Finance Ministry is deaf to any argument presented by airfield management, AOPA, or even the DGAC."

While Switzerland has signed the Schengen Treaty it has no customs treaty with France. Therefore, the interpretation of French customs is that people may circulate freely, but in the case of general aviation, pilots, their passengers, luggage and goods transported are subject to customs inspection. The exception is Geneva, where a special treaty is in place because part of Geneva Airport is on French soil and inspection or non-inspection by Swiss customs is considered as a French customs inspection and vice versa.

*This article is taken from IAOPA. Further information on the association is available from