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Zurich Airport

Coordinates: 47°27′53″N 008°32′57″E / 47.46472°N 8.54917°E / 47.46472; 8.54917
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Zurich Airport

Flughafen Zürich
Airport typePublic
Owner/OperatorFlughafen Zürich AG
ServesZürich Metropolitan Area
LocationKloten, Rümlang, Oberglatt, Winkel and Opfikon[1]
Opened14 June 1948; 76 years ago (1948-06-14)
Hub for
Operating base for
Elevation AMSL432 m / 1,416 ft
Coordinates47°27′53″N 008°32′57″E / 47.46472°N 8.54917°E / 47.46472; 8.54917
ZRH/LSZH is located in Switzerland
Location of airport in Switzerland
ZRH/LSZH is located in Europe
ZRH/LSZH (Europe)
Direction Length Surface
m ft
10/28 2,500 8,202 Concrete
14/32 3,300 10,827 Concrete
16/34 3,700 12,139 Concrete
Statistics (2023)
Passengers28,885,506 [3]
Passengers change 2022–23Increase 28%
Aircraft movements247,456
Movements change 2022–23Increase 14%

Zurich Airport (German: Flughafen Zürich) (IATA: ZRH, ICAO: LSZH) is the largest international airport of Switzerland and the principal hub of Swiss International Air Lines. It serves Zürich, Switzerland's largest city, and, with its surface transport links, much of the rest of the country. The airport is located 13 kilometres (8 mi) north of central Zürich, in the municipalities of Kloten, Rümlang, Oberglatt, Winkel, and Opfikon, all of which are within the canton of Zürich.[4][1]


Early years[edit]

In the Zurich area, mixed civil and military air traffic developed from 1909 onwards at Dübendorf airfield, northeast of the city. From 1919, the airport was home to Swissair's predecessor Ad Astra Aero, and from 1932 also to Swissair.[5] The first flight crossing the alps was on 21 July 1921.[citation needed] [where?] The first regular international flight service began on 1 June 1922 with an Ad Astra route to Fürth near Nürnberg in Germany.[6] In the early years of aviation, the Dübendorf Air Base, located some 8 km (5.0 mi) to the Zurich Airport, also served as the city's commercial airfield. The need for a dedicated commercial facility led to the search for a location at which to build a replacement airport.[7]

In 1939, civil air traffic had to be suspended at the outbreak of the Second World War for military strategic reasons. Although Swissair was allowed to resume scheduled air traffic in September 1940, this remained on a modest scale during the war.[5]

In March 1943, the government of the canton of Zürich commissioned a study to identify possible locations for the construction of a major airport. In its report, a consortium of engineers and architects led by Locher & Cie company advised against the previously discussed expansion options at Dübendorf airport and instead recommended a separate civil airport in the partially forested moorland area of the armoury situated between Kloten and Oberglatt. In August 1943, the Federal Military Department declared its agreement to abandon the armoury as a matter of principal "in the higher national interest".[8]

Locher & Cie submitted "Project I" to the Government on 31 December 1943. Four runways were planned and together with the buildings the required area was 472 hectares. Without the purchase of land, the project would have cost CHF 87 million. The government found the costs too high and ordered a revision. The "Project II" of 29 April 1944 still provided for an area of 290 hectares and costs of CHF 65 million, but the government council demanded a further reduction. For "Project III" of 31 July 1944, CHF 54.4 million and 215 hectares were required. The project nevertheless met the requirements of an intercontinental airport. The Government formally approved it and submitted it to the Federal Government, strongly emphasizing that the Zurich project was "far superior" to the also planned (and ultimately abandoned) Swiss Central Airport Utzenstorf near Bern.[9][10]

In December 1944, the responsible Federal Councillor, Enrico Celio, explicitly spoke out in favour of Zürich-Kloten, in a letter to his counterparts, as did the governments of the cantons of Eastern and Central Switzerland and Ticino a month later. The National Council and Council of States followed this view and on 22 June 1945 approved the "Federal Decree on the Expansion of Civil Airports". Basel, Bern and Geneva were to receive smaller continental airports and be supported with a 30 percent share of the costs. The Zurich project was granted the status of an intercontinental airport and the highest possible subsidy rate of 35 percent.[11]

Switzerland's federal parliament decided in 1945 that Zürich was to be the site of a major airport, and sold 655 hectares (1,620 acres) of the Kloten-Bülach Artillery Garrison (German: Artillerie-Waffenplatz Kloten-Bülach) to the canton of Zürich, giving the canton control of the new airfield. Construction of the airport began the following year.[12][13]

Initial plans for the airport, as laid out in the Federal government's scheme of 1945, were centred on facilities capable of handling international airline traffic. Aircraft of up to 80 tonnes were envisaged. The primary runway was to be designed for use in all weather conditions and at night, with a 400-metre (1,300 ft)-wide hard surface running to 3,000 metres (9,800 ft) in length. Additional 100-metre (330 ft) areas were to be provided on the shoulders for lateral protection in case of runway excursions. Additional domestic runways, between 1,000 and 1,400 metres (3,281 and 4,593 ft) in length, were also to be built.[7]

First stage of construction: civil engineering[edit]

On 25 February 1946, the Cantonal Council of Zürich approved a building loan of CHF 36.8 million. The cantonal referendum of 5 May 1946 resulted in a clear approval with 105,705 votes in favour, 29,372 against.[14] "Project IV" never came to fruition, as it was further developed by adapting it to the ICAO standards which were changing rapidly at the time. Instead of four runways, the new "Project V" of 20 May 1946 provided only three. Project VI" of 9 October 1946 increased the dimensions of all three runways. Finally, the slightly modified "Project VII" of 20 December 1947 was realised.[15] Within three years, the design on the drawing board had completely changed from a purely grass airfield with a four-runway system without taxiways to a three-runway system with paved taxiways. The staggered design meant that it was possible to react to changes without having to impose a complete halt to construction.[16]

Construction works finally began on 5 May 1946 with the diversion of the Altbach stream. The 1,900 m (6,234 ft) long West Runway 10/28 was the first runway which was opened on 14 June 1948, and on which the first Swissair Douglas DC-4 took off for London. On behalf of the canton as airport owner, Cantonal Councillor Jakob Kägi gave a speech to mark the inauguration of the new runway and the start of provisional flight operations. Shortly after, on 17 November 1948, the 2,600 m (8,530 ft) long blind runway 16/34 (runway with instrument landing system) was opened for operation, which was attended by the seven members of the cantonal government. In the presence of invited guests from politics and the media as well as representatives of the construction companies and airlines, the new airport was inaugurated, which meant that the relocation of the entire civil flight operations from Dübendorf to Kloten had already been completed and full operation could begin at the new Zurich Airport.[5]

The 1,535 m (5,036 ft) long Bisen runway 02/20, which belonged to the three-runway system of 1948, was of little importance. Due to the applicable crosswind regulations at that time, the runway was designed to face the Bise in order to guarantee the airport's all-weather capability. However, the ICAO increased the crosswind tolerances for aircraft in subsequent revisions to such an extent that the runway was decommissioned after just over ten years.[citation needed]

First stage of construction: structural engineering[edit]

Zurich Airport in 1956

The character of a provisional solution was supported – despite full operation – by the lack of buildings, especially the "Flughof", which had been planned since 1946. Instead, a growing shanty town stood to the east of the reserved building site.[17] On 27 October 1948, the canton outsourced the development, construction and operation of the buildings to the newly founded "Flughafen-Immobilien-Gesellschaft" (FIG), a mixed-economy public limited company in which the public sector held half of the shares (canton of Zürich 22.5%, city of Zürich 18%, "Zürcher Kantonalbank" 5%, city of Winterthur 3.6% and municipality of Kloten 0.9%).[18] The FIG took over projects that had been started and was thus able to hand over the completed "shipyard I" to Swissair for use as early as late autumn 1948, followed by offices for Swissair's technical departments, which were finally able to leave Dübendorf by the end of April 1949. Further workshops, the striking arched hangar and the "Heating Centre I" for the heat supply were completed by the end of 1949.[17]

Based on "Project V", the terminal building had already been designed as a convex building at the airport head in mid-1946. In the following four years, a total of 24 feasible airport project designs were submitted, before the FIG commissioned the construction of the airport according to plans by Alfred and Heinrich Oeschger in November 1950. At the beginning of 1951, the piling work for the terminal building began, the construction work took about two years. With the opening on 9 April 1953, the shanty town could be abandoned.[19] The new building consisted of a central passenger wing, flanked by a restaurant and an office wing. In addition there was a spectator terrace of 200 m (656 ft) length.[18]

The first years of operation[edit]

As had been expected the construction costs had been significantly exceeded. Several metres of raised bog were removed and backfilled with material from the Holberg; the concrete area had also increased from the originally planned 420,000 m2 to a good 611,000 m2. In addition, the former weapons range area had to be searched for unexploded bombs, of which a total of 157 were found. The costs for "Project IV", estimated at CHF 59.5 million in 1946, had risen to CHF 106 million by the time the civil engineering works under "Project VII" were completed in July 1949. Both chambers of the Federal Assembly concluded the political review with the "Federal Decree on the Payment of Additional Federal Contributions to the Construction of Zürich-Kloten Airport" of 29 September 1949. The Federation contributed CHF 27.1 million and doubled its contribution to the air traffic control facilities. For its part, the Cantonal Council granted a supplementary credit on 13 February 1950. This was accepted by the voters on 7 May 1950 with 73,551 votes to 59,088 (yes share of 55.45%).[20]

The new terminal opened in 1953 with a large air show that ran three days. In 1947, the airport handled 133,638 passengers on 12,766 airline flights; in 1952, 372,832 passengers on 24,728 airline flights.[12][21]

Second stage of construction[edit]

Locher & Cie was commissioned in 1954 to design various project options for the second construction phase. In March 1956, the canton submitted an extended project to the Federal Council. In addition to mandatory runway extensions for the incipient "jet age", the project also provided for the extension of the public facilities, which were already overused and dominated by various provisional arrangements; two finger docks were to defuse the situation. On 12 October 1956, the Federal Council recommended that parliament approve the bill. On 19 December 1956, the Council of States approved the federal contribution of CHF 54.8 million (at a total cost of 181.8 million), the National Council followed suit on 7 March 1957. The contribution of the canton of Zürich of CHF 74.3 million was still outstanding, the rest was to be raised by FIG and Swissair.[22] The concrete expansion project included the extension of the blind runway to 4000 m and the western runway to 3150 m, as well as the extension of the buildings. Opponents described the "super airport Kloten" as a "luxury" and criticised that the canton had "lost every measure". Another issue that planners had completely neglected until then was the aircraft noise. With a high turnout of 72.3%, the expansion project failed in the cantonal referendum of 23 June 1957 with 97,603 votes to 83,196 (no vote of 54.0%).[23]

Just four days later, the Zürich's cantonal government commissioned a redimensioned expansion project. The blind runway was to be only 3700 m long, the western runway 2500 m; the construction of the finger docks was abandoned. Thus the canton's share of the project to be approved was only CHF 49.1 million. The government gave far more attention to the aircraft noise. On 6 July 1958, voters approved the project by 107,050 votes to 56,872 (yes share 65.3%), with a 65.6% share. Due to time pressure - the landing of the first jet aircraft was planned for the following year - construction work began without waiting for approval of the federal funding. In December 1958 and March 1959 respectively, the National Council and the Council of States granted subsidies of 55.6 million.[24] In 1959, BOAC started regular flight connections to Zurich with the revised "Comet IV", while the airport was still a construction site.

The first buildings were completed in 1960, and the terminal building, which had been considered an attractive design, lost its symmetrical appearance. To the east, towards the former shanty town, office wing A1, office wing B and the air traffic control building were added with a connecting structure. The "Fracht West" building, which had been extended at short notice during construction to provide additional office space, was located somewhat off the main building. In the hangar area in the southwest, Heating Station II was put into operation and the Hangar II, which was designed for jet aircraft, was handed over to Swissair, shortly after the arrival of the Sud Aviation "Caravelle III" and the Douglas DC-8-32 in May 1960. Finally, in the summer of 1961, Swissair's in-flight catering service was given a new building between the head of the airport and the hangar area.

The canton of Zürich acquired a further 135 hectares of land for the expansion of the civil engineering works, which lasted until the beginning of 1961 in parallel with the construction of the buildings. The apron areas were enlarged, particularly at the airport head and in the hangar area; the pier was also extended from 16 to 28 aircraft parking spaces, and buses were purchased to provide access to them. The west runway 10/28 was extended by 600 metres (2,000 ft) to the west, towards Rümlang, and opened on 1 January 1961 with its new operating length of 2,500 metres (8,200 ft). Blind runway 16/34 was extended 400 metres (1,312 ft) to the south in the direction of Opfikon and 700 metres (2,300 ft) to the north in the direction of Oberglatt. At its new operating length of 3,700 metres (12,100 ft), it was released on 15 March 1961. By the time work was completed, the paved area at the airport covered 1,013,000 m2.[17]

Extension of the Terminal Building[edit]

Although virtually all the buildings of the second phase had been completed by the end of 1961, the extension of the terminal building was still at the design stage. After the passenger terminal with two finger docks had failed in the cantonal referendum, the FIG had worked out a new project until 1958. This envisaged a two-storey transverse hall on the landside of the airport, on the two main floors of which arriving and departing passengers were functionally separated. For cost reasons, the federal government demanded a considerable redimensioning, which led to an open dispute about the preferred design. When the conflict, described by the media as a "war of experts", threatened to escalate, President Willy Spühler invited representatives of the Federation and the cantons to a conference on 9 December 1963.[25]

During the conference, FIG's airport planners and the canton of Zürich prevailed against the federal government. The canton only had to make concessions for the commercial parts of the project, such as the restaurant wing. The dispatch of the Federal Council, submitted on 1 March 1965, requested a federal contribution of 23.1 million to the total costs of 129.4 million. Of this, 2.1 million was earmarked for the connection of the airport to the national road network and for the preparation of a connection to the planned (but never built) Zürich underground railway. The National Council and Council of States adopted the bill in October 1965, allowing construction work to begin the following year. The motorway loop was in operation from 1968. Finally, with the opening of the last new hall wing on 1 April 1971, the extension of the terminal building was completed.[26]

The first signs of noise mitigation for the airport were in 1972, when a night-time curfew was enacted, as well as in 1974 when new approach routes were introduced. Runway 14/32 was opened in 1976, and 16/34 began renovation.[12]

Attacks on El Al aircraft[edit]

On 18 February 1969, four armed members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) attacked El Al flight 432, firing Kalashnikov assault rifles at the Boeing 720B whilst it prepared for takeoff. The Shin Bet employee Mordechai Rachamim fired back with his pistol and killed the terrorist Abdel Mohsen Hassan. The three remaining assassins were each sentenced to twelve years in prison. The aircraft's co-pilot subsequently died of his injuries.[27][28][29]

The attack marked the beginning of a discussion about airport security that had never been raised until then in Switzerland. On 21 February 1970, a parcel bomb exploded in Swissair's Convair CV-990 on flight SR330 (Zurich–Tel Aviv). In the crash near Würenlingen all 47 people on board were killed. Investigations revealed that a PFLP terrorist group had carried out the bomb attack. The actual target, however, had been an El Al flight from Munich to Tel Aviv, whose mail had been sent with Swissair to Zurich due to long delays. In 1970, the PFLP obtained the release of the three terrorists convicted in Switzerland and other comrades-in-arms imprisoned abroad through coordinated hijackings. Flights affected were SR 100 (Zurich–New York), TWA flight TW741, Pan Am flight PA93 and BOAC flight BA775.[30][31]

Third stage of construction[edit]

In January 1969, the Zürich's Cantonal Council approved a loan for preparatory work for the third stage of expansion. The project that was subsequently drawn up clearly exceeded the previous dimensions. The plans included the extension of the existing runways, a 3,300 metres (10,800 ft) long runway, additional taxiways, the enlargement of the pier to 47 stands, a new terminal with finger dock, two multi-storey car parks, additional technical buildings, an airport railway station and a new hangar. In addition, there were various extensions and conversions of existing buildings. The costs were estimated at CHF 777.6 million (not including the air traffic control building and railway station). Since this project was hardly different from the "super airport" rejected in 1957, criticism was immediately voiced again by the "Protection Association of the Population around Zurich Airport" (SBFZ) and the community of Höri, which was located directly in the approach corridor. The SBFZ even demanded the resumption of the central airport concept that was dropped in 1945 – instead of Utzenstorf this time in the "Grosse Moos", with two runways jutting into Lake Neuchâtel.[32]

The supporters of the Zurich airport expansion argued primarily with the economic benefit. In order to take the wind out of the sails of aircraft noise criticism, the government and cantonal council are drafting an aircraft noise law (including a ban on night flights), which should be submitted to a referendum at the same time as the expansion bill. After the Cantonal Council had approved both bills in July 1970, the referendum was held on 27 September 1970. The proposal for expansion was approved by 103,867 votes to 64,192 (61.8% yes), the Aircraft Noise Act by 134,501 votes to 32,590 (80.5% yes). The following year, the Federal Assembly approved a federal contribution of 240.3 million. Construction work on the third stage also began in 1971. In 1973, Hangar III, Cargo Hall East, Car Park F and the General Aviation Centre were completed. In 1974 the "Werkhof" (work yard), an office building and multistorey car park E were added, in 1975 the apron, multi-storey car park B and Terminal B with finger dock, and in 1976 the Airport Plaza shopping and service centre located in multi-storey car park B.[33]

Additional costs were incurred due to numerous adjustments to the construction project. The additional credit of 25.8 million was accepted by Zurich voters on 7 December 1975 with 178,723 to 87,303 votes (67.2% yes).[34] The canton supplemented this credit with ordinary and extraordinary budget credits from the building department. In March 1976 the Federal Assembly approved an additional federal contribution of 39.7 million.[35] As the centrepiece of the third stage, runway 14/32 was opened on 1 April 1976, increasing capacity by a third. In the early days, the new runway served exclusively for landing traffic. The rail link, which had been approved by parliament in 1975 in a separate federal decree, was still outstanding. As this was a project of the Swiss Federal Railways (SBB), the cost allocation differed greatly. Of the total costs of 285 million, the SBB contributed 60%, the Federation 33% and the canton of Zürich 7%. The project comprised the Zürich Flughafen railway station under Terminal B (on which construction had been underway since 1971) and a new line between Bassersdorf and Glattbrugg. After nine years of construction, the ceremonial opening of the airport line took place on 29 May 1980.[36]

Fourth stage of construction[edit]

In the second half of the 1970s, the volume of traffic continued to rise sharply, so the canton of Zürich, the FIG and Swissair worked out a project for the fourth construction phase. On 28 September 1980, with 142,240 to 104,775 votes (57.6%), Zürich voters accepted a loan of CHF 48 million for civil engineering works, which were part of the forthcoming construction work.[17]

Control tower in 2012

Also in 1980, the Federal Office of Civil Aviation published a new airport concept, which replaced that of 1945. The focus was now on qualitative expansion, taking into account spatial planning and environmental protection considerations.[37]

Based on this concept, the Federal Assembly approved the "Building Programme 1981–1985". This programme provided for investments of CHF 393.3 million in Zürich-Kloten, but the subsidy contribution of 10.3% was significantly lower than for the Geneva and Basel-Mulhouse airports. This was justified by the catch-up demand of the two other major Swiss airports.[38] The central element of the fourth stage was the finger dock in Terminal A with 13 docking positions. Also planned were a new control tower, a baggage sorting system, an additional multi-storey car park, waiting rooms and an operations centre for aircraft crews. Later, Zürich's cantonal government also decided to renew the damaged western runway, which had to be closed for two and a half months in the summer of 1985 for this purpose. Fingerdock A was put into operation on 1 November 1985, the new 41 m high control tower on 29 April 1986.[39][17] There were also plans to expand the airport's cargo facilities. However, a corresponding loan of CHF 57 million was narrowly rejected in the referendum of 6 September 1987 by 106,722 to 98,663 votes (52.0% against).[34] The project, which was subsequently revised and approved by Zürich's Cantonal Council in 1989, focused on more efficient use of the existing facilities, thereby enabling the handling of an additional 100,000 tonnes of freight annually.[17]

Fifth stage of construction ("Airport 2000")[edit]

Zurich airport in May 1992
Zurich airport, construction site in 1998

The cantonal popular initiative "for moderate air traffic" submitted in January 1991 intended to limit the airport to its then status, i.e. neither to allow more aircraft movements nor to expand the infrastructure. In the vote of 26 September 1993, however, it did not stand a chance and was clearly rejected by 235,531 votes to 112,476 (67.6%).[34] Nine months later, Zürich's cantonal government submitted a proposal for a loan of CHF 873 million to the cantonal council. The fifth construction phase, known as "Airport 2000" and costing a total of CHF 2.4 billion, was intended to replace outdated systems and further expand existing facilities. At the heart of the project was the construction of a third terminal, Dock E "Midfield", located between the three runways. The Skymetro aerial tramway, a road tunnel and underground baggage conveyors were necessary for its development. Also part of the fifth stage was the construction of the new passenger hub "Airside Center". The Cantonal Council approved the project at the end of February 1995.[17] It cleared the last hurdle in the referendum of 25 June 1995, when it was approved by 224,668 votes to 105,859 (68.0% Yes).[34] After almost nine years of construction, the project was completed in 2004.

"Zürich 2010" project[edit]

The next major event for the airport was in 1999, when the Parliament of the canton of Zürich approved privatization of Zurich Airport. The following year, Flughafen Zürich AG, trading under the brand Unique, became the new airport operator. The company dropped the brand Unique in favour of Zurich Airport and Flughafen Zürich in 2010.[12][40]

On 2 October 2001, a major cash-flow crisis at Swissair, exacerbated by the global downturn in air travel caused by the September 11 attacks, caused the airline to ground all its flights. Although a government rescue plan permitted some flights to restart a few days later, and the airline's assets were subsequently sold to become Swiss International Air Lines, the airport lost a large volume of traffic. After Lufthansa took control of Swiss International Air Lines in 2005, traffic began to grow again.

On 18 October 2001, Germany and Switzerland signed a treaty regarding the limitation of flights over Germany. Under the terms of this treaty, any incoming aircraft after 22:00 had to approach Zurich from the east to land on runway 28, which, unlike the airport's other runways, was not equipped with an instrument landing system. A month later, at 22:06 on 24 November, an inbound Crossair Avro RJ100 using this approach in conditions of poor visibility crashed into a range of hills near Bassersdorf and exploded, killing 24 of the 33 people on board. The flight had originally been scheduled to land on runway 14 before 22:00, but it was subject to delay and was therefore diverted to runway 28.[12][41]

Zurich Airport completed a major expansion project in 2003, in which it built a new parking garage, a new midfield terminal, and an automated underground people mover to link the midfield terminal to the main terminal. In November 2008 a complete renovation and rebuild of the old terminal B structure was announced. The new terminal B opened in November 2011, and provides segregated access to and from aircraft for Schengen and non-Schengen passengers.[42] Zurich Airport handled 25.5 million passengers in 2014, up 2.5 percent from 2013.[43]

Etihad Regional ceased on 18 February 2015 to fly two-thirds of its scheduled routes without further notice, amongst them all its services from Zurich except the domestic service to Geneva.[44][45][46] Etihad Regional blamed the failure of its expansion on the behavior of competitors, especially Swiss International Air Lines, as well as the Swiss aviation authorities.[45]

Following the demolition of some office buildings the construction of the new baggage sorting facilities between the Operations Center and Terminal 1 began in spring 2018 with a total investment of CHF 500 million.

As of 2020, the marketing of all advertising space at the airport was transferred from Clear Channel to APG.[47]

The main Terminal 1 will be completely rebuilt – including the tower of the Skyguide Air Traffic Control. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2021, with completion expected in 2030. In addition to the old building fabric, the expected growth in passenger numbers is the main reason for the pending construction work. "The forecasts suggest that the number of passengers arriving, departing or transferring at Zurich Airport each year today will grow from 29 million today to 50 million by 2030," says the airport operator's personnel booklet.[48]

Corporate affairs[edit]

The airport is owned by Flughafen Zürich AG, a company quoted on the SIX Swiss Exchange. Major shareholders include the canton of Zürich, with 33.33% plus one of the shares, and the city of Zürich, with 5% of the shares. No other shareholder has a holding exceeding 3%.[49] Flughafen Zürich AG used the brand name Unique from 2000 until 2010.[50]

The company has stakes in various other airports around the world.


Terminal A for domestic and Schengen destinations
The Airside Centre by night
Terminal E

Terminal complex[edit]

The airport has three airside piers, which are known as terminals A, B, and E (also signposted as Gates A, B/D, and E). These are linked to a central air-side building called Airside Centre, built in 2003. Alongside the Airside Centre, the ground-side terminal complex named Airport Centre comprises several buildings, and includes airline check-in areas, a shopping mall, a railway station, car parks, and a bus and tram terminal. All departing passengers access the same departure level of the Airside Centre, which includes duty-free shopping and various bars and restaurants, via airport security. They are then segregated between passengers for Schengen and non-Schengen destinations on the way to the gate lounges, with the latter first passing through emigration controls. Arriving Schengen and non-Schengen passengers are handled in separate areas of the Airside Centre and reach it by different routes, with non-Schengen passengers first passing through immigration controls. The three airside terminals are:

Terminal A[edit]

Terminal A contains gates prefixed A. It opened in 1971, and it is used exclusively by flights to and from destinations inside the Schengen Area, including domestic flights within Switzerland. Since its expansion in 1982–1985, it takes the form of a finger pier, directly connected at one end to the Airside Centre.[12][51]

Terminal A was scheduled to be torn down and replaced by an entirely new facility from 2021.[52] However, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic the start of the project has been postponed for at least three years.[53]

Terminal B[edit]

Terminal B contains gates prefixed B and D. It opened in 1975 and reopened in November 2011 after an extensive three-year reconstruction. Like terminal A, it takes the form of a finger pier directly connected at one end to the Airside Centre. Since reconstruction, it can accommodate both Schengen and non-Schengen flights at the same gates. Each gate has two numbers, one prefixed B and the other D, but with different passenger routes to and from the gates to separate the flows of Schengen and non-Schengen passengers.[12][51][54]

Terminal E[edit]

Terminal E contains gates prefixed E, and is also known as the midfield terminal or Dock E. It is a stand-alone satellite terminal located on the opposite side of runway 10/28 from the Airside Centre, and is situated between runways 16/34 and 14/32. It is entirely used by non-Schengen international flights and became operational on 1 September 2003. It is connected to the Airside Centre by the Skymetro, an automated underground people mover.[12][51]


Zurich Airport has three runways: 16/34 of 3,700 m (12,100 ft) in length, 14/32 of 3,300 m (10,800 ft) in length, and 10/28 of 2,500 m (8,200 ft) in length. For most of the day and in most conditions, runway 14 is used for landings and runways 16 and 28 are used for takeoffs, although different patterns are used early morning and in the evenings.[55] Zurich voters approved the extension of two runways at Zurich Airport on March 3, 2024. The extension of runway 28 by 400 metres (1,300 ft) to the west and runway 32 by 280 metres (920 ft) to the north is expected to increase safety and reduce noise pollution. The project is supported by the government of Zurich and the majority of political parties.[56]

Airlines and destinations[edit]


The following airlines offer regular scheduled and charter flights at Zurich Airport:[57]

Aegean Airlines Athens,[58] Thessaloniki
Seasonal: Heraklion[59]
Aer Lingus Dublin
Air Cairo Seasonal: Hurghada,[60] Marsa Alam[61]
Air Canada Toronto–Pearson
Air Corsica Seasonal: Ajaccio[62]
Air Europa Madrid
Air France Paris–Charles de Gaulle
Air India Delhi[63]
Air Serbia Belgrade
Seasonal: Niš[64]
airBaltic Riga
AJet Antalya,[65] Istanbul–Sabiha Gökçen[65]
American Airlines Philadelphia
Austrian Airlines Vienna
BeOnd Malé, Dubai Al Maktoum[66]
British Airways London–City, London–Heathrow
Brussels Airlines Brussels[67]
Bulgaria Air Sofia
Cathay Pacific Hong Kong[68]
Chair Airlines Gran Canaria, Hurghada, Marsa Alam, Ohrid, Palma de Mallorca, Pristina, Sharm El Sheikh,[69] Skopje, Tenerife–South
Seasonal: Fuerteventura,[70] Heraklion, Ibiza, Kos, Larnaca, Rhodes
Condor Seasonal: Heraklion,[71] Ibiza,[72] Kos,[71] Larnaca,[71] Palma de Mallorca,[71] Rhodes[71]
Corendon Airlines Seasonal: Antalya
Croatia Airlines Zagreb
Seasonal: Dubrovnik, Pula,[73] Split[73]
Cyprus Airways Larnaca[74]
Delta Air Lines New York–JFK
Seasonal: Atlanta[75]
easyJet Berlin, Lisbon,[76] Bordeaux (begins 7 November 2024),[77] London–Gatwick, London–Luton, Manchester (begins 4 November 2024),[78] Porto
Seasonal: Alicante,[79] Catania, London–Stansted,[80] Naples[81]
Edelweiss Air[82] Amman–Queen Alia (resumes 9 February 2025),[83][84] Aqaba (resumes 9 February 2025),[83][85] Bergen, Bogotá,[86] Cancún, Cartagena,[86] Catania, Edinburgh, Fuerteventura, Funchal, Giza (begins 2 November 2024),[87] Gran Canaria, Havana, Hurghada, Lamezia Terme, Lanzarote, Marsa Alam, Mauritius, Palma de Mallorca, Pristina, Punta Cana, San José (CR), Skopje, Split, Tampa,[88] Tenerife–South
Seasonal: Agadir, Akureyri,[89] Antalya, Bari,[89] Biarritz,[89] Bilbao,[90] Boa Vista,[91] Bodrum, Cagliari, Calgary, Cape Town, Chania, Colombo–Bandaranaike, Corfu, Cork,[92] Dalaman, Denver, Djerba, Dubrovnik, Faro, Figari, Harstad/Narvik,[93] Heraklion, Ho Chi Minh City, Ibiza, Ivalo,[94] Jerez de la Frontera, Kalamata, Kilimanjaro, Kos, Kuusamo,[94] La Palma, Larnaca, Las Vegas, Liberia (CR), Luxor, Mahé, Malé, Marrakesh, Menorca, Montego Bay, Muscat,[95] Mykonos, Newquay, Ohrid, Olbia, Phuket, Ponta Delgada,[96] Preveza, Puerto Plata, Pula, Reykjavík–Keflavík, Rhodes, Sal, Salalah (begins 25 February 2025),[97] Samos, Santiago de Compostela, Santorini, Seville, Sharm El Sheikh, Skiathos, Tivat, Tromsø, Tunis (begins 19 December 2024),[98] Vancouver,[88] Varadero, Varna, Zakynthos
Seasonal charter: Kittilä, Longyearbyen,[99] Rovaniemi[100]
Egyptair Cairo (resumes 8 July 2024)[101]
El Al[102] Tel Aviv
Emirates Dubai–International
Ethiopian Airlines Addis Ababa,[103] Milan–Malpensa[104]
Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi
Eurowings Berlin,[105] Cologne/Bonn, Düsseldorf, Hamburg
Seasonal: Palma de Mallorca
Finnair Helsinki
Helvetic Airways Seasonal: Antalya,[106] Harstad/Narvik,[107] Heraklion, Hurghada, Kittilä, Kos, Larnaca, Palma de Mallorca
Iberia Madrid
Icelandair Reykjavík–Keflavík
Israir Airlines Seasonal: Tel Aviv
ITA Airways Rome–Fiumicino[108]
KLM Amsterdam
KM Malta Airlines Malta[109]
Korean Air Seasonal: Seoul–Incheon[110]
LOT Polish Airlines Warsaw–Chopin
Lufthansa Frankfurt, Munich
Nile Air Charter: Hurghada[111]
Oman Air Seasonal: Muscat[112]
Pegasus Airlines Istanbul–Sabiha Gökçen
Qatar Airways Doha
Royal Jordanian Amman–Queen Alia
Saudia Riyadh[113]
Seasonal: Jeddah[114]
Scandinavian Airlines Copenhagen, Oslo, Stockholm–Arlanda
Singapore Airlines Singapore
SunExpress Ankara, Antalya, Gaziantep, İzmir
Seasonal: Dalaman[115]
Swiss International Air Lines[116] Alicante, Amsterdam, Athens, Bangkok–Suvarnabhumi, Barcelona, Beirut,[117] Belgrade, Berlin, Birmingham, Bologna,[117] Bordeaux, Boston, Bremen,[118] Brindisi, Bristol,[119] Brussels, Bucharest–Otopeni, Budapest, Buenos Aires–Ezeiza, Cairo, Chicago–O'Hare, Cluj-Napoca,[120] Copenhagen, Delhi, Dresden, Dubai–International, Dublin, Düsseldorf, Florence, Frankfurt, Gdańsk, Geneva, Gothenburg, Graz, Hamburg, Hanover, Hong Kong, Johannesburg–O. R. Tambo, Košice,[121] Kraków, Lisbon, Ljubljana,[122] London–City, London–Heathrow, Los Angeles, Luxembourg, Madrid, Málaga, Manchester, Marseille, Miami, Milan–Malpensa, Montreal–Trudeau, Mumbai, Munich, Nantes,[117] Naples, Newark, New York–JFK, Nice, Oslo, Palermo,[123] Palma de Mallorca, Paris–Charles de Gaulle, Porto, Prague, Rome–Fiumicino, San Francisco, São Paulo–Guarulhos, Sarajevo, Shanghai–Pudong,[124] Singapore, Sofia,[117] Stockholm–Arlanda, Stuttgart, Tallinn, Tel Aviv,[125] Thessaloniki, Tirana, Tokyo–Narita, Valencia, Venice, Vienna,[126] Vilnius,[117] Warsaw–Chopin, Washington–Dulles,[127] Wrocław
Seasonal: Billund, London–Gatwick,[128] Malta, Seoul–Incheon,[129] Sylt, Toronto–Pearson[130]
Tailwind Airlines Seasonal charter: Antalya
TAP Air Portugal Lisbon, Porto
Thai Airways International Bangkok–Suvarnabhumi
Travelcoup Seasonal: Ibiza,[131] Munich,[131] Palma de Mallorca[131]
Tunisair Tunis[132]
Seasonal: Djerba[132]
Turkish Airlines Istanbul
Seasonal: Gaziantep
United Airlines Chicago–O'Hare, Newark, Washington–Dulles
Seasonal: San Francisco
Vueling Barcelona
Seasonal: Bilbao[133]


Korean Air Cargo[134] Seoul–Incheon, Vienna
Turkish Cargo[135] Istanbul


Busiest routes[edit]

Zurich Airport statistics from 1982 to 2014, including passengers, transfer passengers, flights handled and freight in metric tons
Zurich Airport with the Swiss Alps visible in the background
Interior view of the landside area
View of runway 14
Swiss International Air Lines maintains its hub at Zurich Airport.
Busiest European routes from Zurich Airport (2023)[136]
Rank City Departing
1 London–Heathrow 559,958 1,112,182
2 Berlin–Brandenburg 378,421 755,895
3 Amsterdam 375,074 739,354
4 Palma de Mallorca 344,555 694,605
5 Barcelona 340,585 673,870
6 Vienna 339,646 669,532
7 Lisbon 323,767 647,110
8 Madrid 323,480 647,814
9 Frankfurt 296,801 590,186
10 Paris–Charles de Gaulle 280,592 557,948
Busiest intercontinental routes from Zurich Airport (2023)[136]
Rank City Departing
1 Dubai–International 322,074 660,115
2 Bangkok–Suvarnabhumi 221,359 435,113
3 New York–JFK 207,974 417,868
4 Singapore–Changi 186,353 378,037
5 Chicago–O'Hare 166,016 331,263

Top airlines[edit]

Zurich Airport airlines (2021)[137]
Rank Airlines Percentage
1 SWISS 51.7%
2 Edelweiss Air 9.7%
3 Lufthansa 3.0%
4 Chair Airlines 2.7%

Passenger development[edit]

Annual passenger traffic at ZRH airport. See Wikidata query.
Annual passenger traffic[138]
Year Passengers Flight Movements Freight (Tonnes)
2001 21,012,871 309,230 492,872
2002 17,948,058 282,154 421,811
2003 17,024,937 269,392 389,843
2004 17,252,906 266,660 363,537
2005 17,884,652 267,363 372,415
2006 19,237,216 260,786 363,325
2007 20,739,113 268,476 374,264
2008 22,099,233 274,991 387,671
2009 21,926,872 262,121 344,415
2010 22,878,251 268,765 411,037
2011 24,337,954 279,001 415,035
2012 24,802,400 270,027 418,751
2013 24,865,138 262,227 415,362
2014 25,477,622 264,970 429,830
2015 26,281,228 265,095 411,780
2016 27,666,428 269,160 433,577
2017 29,396,094 270,453 490,452
2018 31,113,488 278,458 493,222
2019 31,507,692 275,330 451,827
2020 8,341,047 111,328 291,163
2021 10,234,428 132,600 393,062
2022 22,561,132 216,585 422,153
2023 28,885,506 247,456 377,998

Ground transportation[edit]

Zürich Flughafen, the airport's railway station
ZRH Bus Terminal


Zürich Flughafen railway station is located underneath the Airport Centre. The station has frequent Zürich S-Bahn services, plus direct InterRegio, InterCity, and Eurocity services, to many places including Basel, Bern, Biel/Bienne, Brig, Geneva, Konstanz, Lausanne, Lucerne, Munich, Romanshorn, St. Gallen, and Winterthur. There are some 13 trains per hour to Zürich HB (Hauptbahnhof), Zürich's main city centre station, with a journey time of between 9 and 13 minutes. By changing trains there, virtually all other places in Switzerland can be reached in a few hours.[139][140][141][142][143]

Bus and tram[edit]

In front of the Airport Centre is the airport stop of the Stadtbahn Glattal, a light rail system that interworks with the Zürich tram system, together with a regional bus station. Both the bus station and light rail stop provide service to destinations throughout the Glattal region that surrounds the airport, with the light rail stop being served by tram routes 10 and 12. Tram route 10 also provides a link to Zürich Hauptbahnhof, albeit with a rather longer journey time than that of the railway.[144]


The airport is served by the A51 motorway and other main roads, which link to the airport's own road network. Drop-off areas are available by the Airport Centre whilst a total of over 14000 spaces are available in six car parks for short and long term parking. A car hire centre is located in the terminal complex.[145][146][147] The airport is served by a fleet of dedicated airport taxis, which operate from taxi ranks in front of the arrival areas. Alternative chauffeur driven airport limousines can be arranged.[148] The airport can legally be reached by bicycle on a regional highway (Flughafenstrasse and Birchstrasse) that branches off national highway 4 (Schaffhausen - Bülach - Zürich - Luzern) just east of the airport and reaches Northwestern Zürich.

Other facilities[edit]

The Circle[edit]

Underpass between Terminal and The Circle at Zurich Airport

The Circle, a complex intended to include a medical center, a conference center, shops, restaurants, offices, and hotels, is under construction opposite the Airport Centre.[149][150][151] In February 2009, Flughafen Zürich AG (FZAG) launched a three-stage architectural competition for "The Circle at Zurich Airport" development. Around 180,000 square metres (1,937,504 sq ft) of usable space for services were to be built close to the terminals on a 37,000-square-metre (398,265 sq ft) site. Two hotels and the congress area will occupy around 45,000 square metres (484,376 sq ft), which will be operated by the Hyatt Corporation. At the end of October 2011, FZAG submitted the building application to the town of Kloten, which granted the building permit on 6 March 2012. The groundbreaking ceremony for the superstructure, scheduled for the end of 2013, was postponed until the beginning of 2015. The Circle" is expected to create around 5,000 new jobs, with an investment volume of around CHF 1 billion. The foundation stone was laid on 24 March 2017[152] and the opening is expected to take place in the first half of 2020; however, even then not all six parts of the building will be ready.[153] In the meantime, it has been announced that the opening will take place in September 2020.[154]

Company headquarters[edit]

Several companies have their headquarters on or about the airport. These include Swiss International Air Lines,[155] Swiss World Cargo,[156] Swiss AviationTraining,[157] Edelweiss Air,[158] gategroup,[159] Helvetic Airways,[160] Swissôtel,[161] and Rega.[162] Swissair[163] and Crossair were formerly based at the airport.[164]

Safety and environment[edit]

Airport fire department[edit]

The airport fire brigade is responsible for fire-fighting at Zurich Airport and is on standby around the clock. In the event of an emergency, the brigade must be able to reach any location on the airport grounds, an area of 880 hectares, in no more than three minutes in accordance with international standards. Their vehicles have extremely powerful engines and large-capacity tanks.[165]

The fire service also includes an operations control centre. This not only coordinates the airport's rescue services, but also alerts the fire brigades in the northern part of the canton. A total of 77 fire brigades are deployed from the Operations Control Centre, including 2 professional and 13 base fire brigades. Likewise, the rescue service Schutz und Rettung Zürich Nord, the rescue service Spital Bülach, the rescue service Winterthur[166] and since April 1, 2008, the rescue service of the canton of Schaffhausen are also dispatched. Other tasks of the Operations Control Centre include alerting a large animal rescue service, a personal emergency call and location system and the coordination of the emergency medical service for several municipalities.

Until 31 December 2007, the airport fire brigade was officially called the Berufsfeuerwehr Flughafen Zürich (Professional Fire Brigade), and it was constituted as the company fire brigade of Flughafen Zürich AG. On 1 January 2008, the airport fire brigade, together with the rescue service and the operations control centre, was for organizational reasons transferred to the Schutz und Rettung (Protection and Rescue) department of the city of Zürich.[167]

Refuelling dispenser, Ramp Safety, Airport Authority and Follow Me[edit]

Vehicles that not only cross taxiways and runways reserved for aircraft on the designated roads, but also use them for business purposes, must be equipped with a transponder and radio and can thus be tracked on tracking websites (e.g. Flightradar24). The transponder sign or radio name for the Follow-Me vehicles is Zebra.[citation needed]

In 2014, five companies were licensed for aircraft refuelling at the airport, operating 16 tankers and 28 dispensers.[168]

Rescue service Zurich Airport[edit]

The rescue service at Zurich Airport was established around 1982 as the original "fire-fighting ambulance". Its primary purpose was to protect fire-fighting personnel during fire-fighting operations, and secondarily to provide medical care for injured passengers. It was quickly recognised that there was also a steadily growing need for rescue services for the population outside the airport, and often neighbouring hospitals that were able to provide this service could not cope due to capacity bottlenecks, or the corresponding structures were not available in the Zürcher Unterland at the time. When the airport was privatized in 2000 to form the public limited company Unique (Flughafen Zürich AG), the rescue service was then separated from the fire service as a separate division within the Safety&Security department.[citation needed]

In the last year of its existence in 2007, the Rescue Service at Zurich Airport carried out around 5800 missions with 36 paramedics and three trainees. The majority of the operations were carried out in the region around the airport, which at that time comprised 28 contractual communities. There were three ambulances on standby during the day and two ambulances at night, which was carried out in two shifts of twelve hours each. The teams were on duty four times a day (twice a day and twice at night). As a novelty, Zurich Airport Emergency Medical Services consistently applied the amended labor law, i.e. it was one of the few employers to fully credit the working time of twelve hours without deductions ("attendance time"/effective working time).[citation needed]

There was no permanently installed emergency medical system at the airport site. The paramedics are equipped with extended skills that allow the administration of medication according to algorithms. As part of a quality control of the measures carried out, all operations were checked by the medical director. At the same time, an annual review of medication and algorithmic knowledge took place. Only after passing the written and practical test was the paramedic authorized to administer medication for another year. If an emergency physician was needed, the resources of the partner organisations REGA (helicopters) or the NEF of "Schutz und Rettung Zürich" could be called upon.[citation needed]

Project SUS After two project studies, Unique (Flughafen Zürich AG) decided in the summer of 2007 to outsource the rescue service together with the operations centre and the professional fire brigade and to sell it to the Schutz und Rettung (Protection and Rescue) department of the city of Zürich for an amount of CHF 22 million. This was also due to the needs of the city of Zürich, as its professional fire brigade in particular had problems meeting the required arrival times with long journeys to the north of the city of Zürich. At the same time, it was possible to avoid the cost-intensive construction of a new base for rescue services and fire brigades in the rapidly growing north. A comprehensive contract was drawn up for the takeover of the entire department, which will be reassessed after ten years. The outsourcing resulted in massive internal restructuring, which replaced the previous organisational form. Since January 1, 2008, the base at the airport has been known as the "Wache Nord". With a strong positive operating result in 2007 and a reduced staffing level as of January 1, 2008, the catchment area of the rescue service expanded to include the northern districts of Zürich Schwamendingen, Seebach and Oerlikon.[citation needed]

Accidents and incidents[edit]

  • On November 24, 1951, a Douglas DC-4 of the Israeli El Al (aircraft registration 4X-ADN) on a cargo flight from Rome with textiles on board crashed into a forest three kilometers northeast of Zurich Airport shortly before landing. Six of the seven crew members were killed.[169]
  • On 24 November 1956, an Ilyushin Il-12B of the Czechoslovak airline ČSA (OK-DBP) crashed into an agricultural area 13 kilometres after take-off from Zürich-Kloten airport, only 500 metres from the southern outskirts of Wasterkingen, probably due to engine problems. All 23 passengers and crew members died there.[170][171]
  • On 4 September 1963, Swissair Flight 306 experienced an in-flight fire shortly after take-off and crashed, killing all 80 people on board.
  • On 18 February 1969, four armed members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine attacked El Al flight 432 whilst it prepared for takeoff. The aircraft's security guard repelled the attack, resulting in the death of one of the terrorists, whilst the Boeing 720's co-pilot subsequently died of his injuries.[29]
  • On 21 February 1970, a barometrically triggered bomb exploded on Swissair Flight 330 some nine minutes after takeoff from Zurich en route to Tel Aviv and Hong Kong. All 47 occupants were killed. The bombing was attributed to the PFLP-GC.[172]
  • On 18 January 1971, an inbound Balkan Bulgarian Airlines Il-18D approached Zurich Airport in fog below the glideslope. It crashed and burst into flames, 0.7 kilometres (0.43 mi) north of the airport, when both the left wingtip and landing gear contacted the ground. Seven crew members and 38 passengers were killed.[173]
  • On 24 November 1990, an Alitalia Douglas DC-9 operating Flight 404 crashed on approach to Zurich, killing all 46 passengers and crew on board.
  • On 10 January 2000, a Crossair Saab 340 operating Flight 498 crashed shortly after takeoff, killing all 10 occupants. The cause of the crash was determined to have been the result of spatial disorientation and pilot errors.[174]
  • On 24 November 2001, a Crossair Avro RJ100 operating Flight 3597 crashed into hills near Bassersdorf while on approach to Zurich. Twenty-four of the 33 people on board were killed.[12][41]
  • On 15 March 2011, two Swiss A320s received almost simultaneous take-off clearance on the intersecting runways 16 and 28.[175] In response to this serious incident, the Federal Office of Civil Aviation commissioned a comprehensive analysis of the operating procedures.[176]
  • On 27 September 2013 the nose landing gear of a De Havilland DHC-8-400 of Croatia Airlines could not be extended. The aircraft had taken off in Zagreb and was scheduled to land in Zurich. During the landing approach to Zurich Airport the pilots noticed that the nose gear of the aircraft was not extended. They tried for 40 minutes to extend the landing gear completely, but failed. The pilots decided to make an emergency landing in Zurich on runway 14, and none of the 60 passengers were injured in the subsequent landing at 8:17 pm. Runway 14 was then closed until the end of operations. After 15 minutes, air traffic on the two other runways could be resumed as usual.[177]

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External links[edit]

Media related to Zurich Airport at Wikimedia Commons