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.
The first flight abroad 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. 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.
The first flights from the west runway were not until 1948. 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.
In March 2017, Flughafen Zürich AG announced it had acquired 100% of Brazil's Hercílio Luz International Airport, and will operate it under a concession until 2047. The company also has stakes in the operation of airports in Belo Horizonte, Bogotá, Curaçao, Antofagasta, Iquique, and Bangalore.
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 the Airport Center by different routes, with non-Schengen passengers first passing through immigration controls. The three airside terminals are:
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 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 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
- ^1 Royal Jordanian's flights to Amman make a stop in Geneva. The airline, however, does not have eighth freedom rights to transport passengers solely from Zürich to Geneva.
Zürich Flughafen, Zurich Airport's 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, Zürich's main city centre station, with a journey time of between 9 and 13 minutes. By changing trains at Hauptbahnhof (HB), most other places in Switzerland can be reached in a few hours.
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 airports 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.
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.