|Owner||Flughafen Zürich AG|
|Location||Kloten, Rümlang, Oberglatt, Winkel and Opfikon|
|Focus city for|
|Elevation AMSL||1,416 ft / 432 m|
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.
In 2019, the airport received the World Travel Award in the category "Europe's leading airport" for the 17th time in a row. The Skytrax Award also ranks Zurich Airport among the top 10 airports in the world for millions of travellers each year.
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. The first international flight from Switzerland landed on July 21, 1921. In the early years of aviation, the Dübendorf Air Base, located some 8 km (5.0 mi) to the south-east of 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.
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.
In March 1943, the government of the canton of Zurich 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 armory situated between Kloten and Oberglatt. In August 1943, the Federal Military Department declared its agreement to abandon the armory as a matter of principal "in the higher national interest".
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 87 million CHF. 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 65 million CHF, but the government council demanded a further reduction. For "Project III" of 31 July 1944, 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.
In December 1944, the responsible Federal Councillor, Enrico Celio, explicitly spoke out in favour of Zurich-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.
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.
Initial plans for the airport, as laid out in the Federal government's scheme of 1945, were centered on facilities capable of handling international airline traffic. Aircraft of up to 80 tons were envisaged. The primary runway was to be designed for use in all weathers 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 (3,300 and 4,600 ft) in length, were also to be built.
First stage of construction: civil engineering
On 25 February 1946, the Zurich Cantonal Council approved a building loan of 36.8 million. The cantonal referendum of 5 May 1946 resulted in a clear approval with 105,705 votes in favour, 29,372 against. "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. 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.
Construction works finally began on 5 May 1946 with the diversion of the Altbach stream. The 1900 m 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 2600 m 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.
The 1535 m 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.
First stage of construction: structural engineering
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. 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 Zurich 22.5 %, city of Zurich 18 %, "Zürcher Kantonalbank" 5 %, city of Winterthur 3.6 % and municipality of Kloten 0.9 %). 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.
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. 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 200m length.
The first years of operation
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 Zurich-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 Zurich 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 %).
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. The first expansion of the airport was submitted in 1956; the Swiss government approved the budget for the expansion in 1958, and the expansion was completed in 1961.
The airport was again submitted and approved for renovation in 1970, and Terminal B was completed in 1971. 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.
The noise of aircraft became an issue at Zurich Airport; a noise charge was instituted in 1980, and in 1984 airport officials made an agreement regarding arrivals and departures to the airport via German airspace. 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.
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 Zürich 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.
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. Zurich Airport handled 25.5 million passengers in 2014, up 2.5 percent from 2013.
Etihad Regional ceased on 18 February 2015 to fly two-thirds of its scheduled routes without further notice, amongst them all its services from Zürich except the domestic service to Geneva. 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.
As a consequence of the bombings in Brussels on 22 March 2016, which caused the temporary closure of Brussels Airport, Brussels Airlines stationed three Airbus A330s at Zurich Airport to offer flights to several African countries for the duration of the closure.
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%. Flughafen Zürich AG used the brand name Unique from 2000 until 2010.
The company has stakes in various other airports around the world.
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 Center, built in 2003. Alongside the Airside Center, the ground-side terminal complex named Airport Center 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 Center, 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 Center and reach it by different routes, with non-Schengen passengers first passing through immigration controls. The three airside terminals are:
- Terminal A
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. Terminal A will be torn down and replaced by an entirely new facility from 2021.
- Terminal B
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.
- Terminal E
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 Center, and is situated between runways 16/34 and 14/32. It is entirely used by non-Schengen international flights and became operational and was opened on September 1, 2003. It is connected to the Airside Center by the Skymetro, an automated underground people mover.
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.
Airlines and destinations
The following airlines offer regular scheduled and charter flights at Zurich Airport:
Busiest European routes
|Rank||City||Total departing passengers|
Busiest intercontinental routes
|1||Dubai – International||529,722|
|2||New York – JFK||478,645|
|5||Bangkok – Suvarnabhumi||428,737|
|10||Chicago – O'Hare||208,142|
|Updated: 17 January 2019|
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, most other places in Switzerland can be reached in a few hours.
Bus and tram
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 Zurich Hauptbahnhof, albeit with a rather longer journey time than that of the railway.
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. 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.
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. The complex was designed by Japanese architect Riken Yamamoto and is planned for completion in 2019 with opening for the public in 2020.
Several companies have their headquarters on or about the airport. These include Swiss International Air Lines, Swiss World Cargo, Swiss AviationTraining, Edelweiss Air, gategroup, Helvetic Airways, Swissôtel, and Rega. Other companies that were formerly based on the airport include Swissair and Crossair.
Accidents and incidents
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 left wingtip and landing gear contacted the ground. Seven crew members and 38 passengers were killed.
- 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.
- 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.
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Media related to Zürich Airport at Wikimedia Commons