Ensuring the development of Switzerland's international airports in line with demand

Together with the airlines, Switzerland's airports connect the country to the world's major cities. As it is heavily reliant on foreign trade, the Swiss economy will continue to depend on this extensive aviation network well into the future. If the capacity constraints that already exist at peak times at Zurich and Geneva airports are not to be further exacerbated, the airports must be permitted to develop in line with demand.

Swiss airports already face capacity constraints

While the demand for flights has been constantly rising, the runway systems of the airports have remained unchanged for the past 40 years. As a result, Zurich and Geneva airports are already reaching the limits of their capacity at peak times. The bottlenecks are set to be further exacerbated if the two airports are not able to develop to meet the forecast demand. In its current aviation policy report, the Federal Council clearly highlights that these bottlenecks could seriously impact Switzerland's air transport links. The Sectoral Aviation Infrastructure Plan (SAIP) – the Confederation's planning and coordination instrument for civil aviation – is therefore vitally important for the further development of Switzerland's international airports.

SAIP2 solves only current operational issues at Zurich Airport

SIAA welcomes the measures set out by the Federal Council in the SAIP detailed plan for Zurich Airport which reduce the complexity of flight operations and consequently improve punctuality and the safety margin. Other elements enable some of the capacity lost in recent years due to the tightening of security requirements to be regained. SIAA urges swift implementation of these measures.

Long-term demand for flights must be met

The current SAIP detailed plan for Zurich Airport focuses only on current operational challenges. The function of the SAIP, however, is to map out long-term spatial planning. SIAA therefore regrets that the opportunity has been missed to frame conditions in the plan that would also enable the long-term demand for flights and air freight transport to be met. This would require specification of a capacity of 80 flight movements an hour during the midday peak period.

Swiss airports must remain competitive

In its 2016 aviation policy report, the Federal Council notes that comparable European hub airports are gradually increasing their capacity by expanding their infrastructure, and in future will have a far higher hourly capacity than Switzerland's most important aviation hub if appropriate steps are not taken in good time. Airlines would switch to other airports in Europe where they were able to acquire attractive slots. The Swiss economy would therefore lose value added to other countries and Switzerland's accessibility would gradually decline.

The SAIP for Geneva airport must allow development to meet demand

Geneva Airport, the gateway from western Switzerland to the global aviation network, must be able to develop in line with demand too. SIAA recommends defining the noise contour in the SAIP detailed plan in a way that would permit Geneva Airport to expand its infrastructure to meet demand.

EuroAirport must be allowed to grow as set out in the existing SAIP

Since 2013, EuroAirport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg has had a SAIP detailed plan setting out the spatial planning requirements for its development in Switzerland. Switzerland's third-largest international airport still has the necessary capacity, so spatial planning measures to accommodate demand-led expansion are possible. As the fastest growing economic region in the country, northwestern Switzerland is dependent on a high-performing airport.

Conclusions

  • The already existing capacity constraints at peak times at Zurich and Geneva airports will be further exacerbated if these airports are not permitted to develop in line with demand.
  • To safeguard the air transport links that are vital for the Swiss economy in future, a capacity of 80 flights an hour during midday peak periods must be specified in the SAIP detailed plan for Zurich Airport.
  • In the SAIP detailed plan for Geneva Airport, the noise contour must be defined so that it allows demand-led expansion of its infrastructure.
  • EuroAirport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg must be allowed to develop within the framework set out in the SAIP detailed plan.
  • Comparable hub airports in Europe are gradually expanding their capacity. Switzerland's economy will lose out if it cannot keep pace with infrastructure expansion.