France’s third airport: Don’t tell the French


France is in a bit of “state” these days. There is hardly a day that goes by without some sort of mention, threat or actual strike action that affects travel and tourism. It is a sad state of affairs, but unfortunately it is business as usual.

Having just recently moved back to France after a long stint in Southeast Asia, where the mere thought of a strike would bring about a robust and stern response from the government, making it a virtual impossibility, I tend to find this French attitude disconcerting. It is echoed in the French media broadcasts of train drivers walking out on the job, air traffic controllers grumbling moans of discontent over too many aircraft in the sky, or students unhappy with a much-needed job reform that the Hollande government is gingerly trying to pass.

That’s the background which, by virtue of my proximity to Italy (I live in the Nice area only 30 minutes to the Italian border) made me seek more secure travel options as my work depends on them. Come in Milan, a mere three-hour drive from Monaco, Nice, and this part of the Riviera. Milan offers direct flights to most of Europe, the US, and the Middle East. In fact, being Italy’s de facto capital and home to the industrial north, most business travelers want or need to be there.

Emirates Airlines flies both east and west from Milan to New York and Dubai, and they do it in style with their Airbus 380 aircraft. From there, the world is your oyster; you can fly to virtually every destination on Earth from “World Central,” the term often used to describe Dubai International Airport.

Qatar Airways, will fly you east from Milan to Doha and unto their world which is also a fairly extensive network. For the budget traveler, EasyJet has taken over terminal two and made that its low-cost terminal for most of Europe.

Backtracking a little, let’s head back to Nice Cote D’Azur Airport, which itself is probably one of the prettiest airports in the world. It happens to be only 20 minutes from my doorstep, with dozens of flights to all of Europe, a daily to New York and Dubai – fine in itself, yet strike prone, industrial action prone, and yes, it is in France. When the Nice taxi drivers decided they weren’t happy with the likes of Uber, they blocked the roads to the airport. Passengers were seen lugging their bags from up to two kilometers away. Similar scenes were witnessed at Paris Charles de Gaulle and Orly.

It was scenes like that that made me look further afield.

This is precisely why I chose the nearby alternative, Milan Malpensa.

Yes, it is still three hours away, but offers a vast array of destinations and is more reliable than its French counterparts.

Taking the new Thello train service from Nice to Milan’s Central Station takes a little over four hours, but is a picture-postcard ride along the French and Italian Rivieras. Bus service from the Milan Station is frequent and costs only eight euros.

The nearby town of Bergamo is also close enough to Milan to be considered as an alternative airport for the region and is a hub to Ryanair and other budget carriers offering cost-effective solutions for the frugal traveler.

Parking is cheap at all of Milan’s airports, and offsite garages offer competitive pricing for long-term stays, and lodging is readily available and caters to all budgets.