Current risk situation

The current risk situation at Flughafen Zürich AG is characterised primarily by the following risks:

1. Legal uncertainties

Various domestic or foreign restrictions might prevent Flughafen Zürich AG from fully utilising its infrastructure or cause it to incur additional capital expenditures and costs or generate less revenue. These restrictions include the following:


Flughafen Zürich AG is regulated with regard to the charges it levies for the use of the monopolised infrastructure. In a normal year, the regulated charges amount to around 60% of revenue. The Swiss airport charges regulation is based on EU-wide regulation but also stipulates specific requirements for airport charges at Swiss airports. In this respect, there is a risk that regulatory requirements may be tightened and the related revenues jeopardised. At the current time, however, there is no indication that regulation at European or national level could change over the medium term.


The use of south German airspace is presently regulated by an implementing regulation (DVO) issued unilaterally by Germany. On 4 September 2012, Switzerland and Germany signed an aviation treaty. This treaty must be ratified by both countries. The two chambers of Switzerlandʼs Parliament have already approved the treaty, but in Germany ratification was halted, and no date has yet been set for ratification there. Germany could also unilaterally change the implementing regulation (DVO), which could lead to additional capacity restrictions at Zurich Airport.


The complexity of the runway and taxiway layout, the departure and approach routes and various operational regulations at Zurich Airport is considerable. Following the near-collision of two aircraft at the runway intersection in 2011, Flughafen Zürich AG, Skyguide, Swiss and the Swiss Air Force in 2012 prepared a comprehensive risk report with the assistance of the Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA) and the Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications (DETEC). In addition, various measures aimed at improving safety were implemented or are in the process of being implemented. However, there is still a risk that capacity may be restricted due to safety considerations and that business performance may be negatively impacted as a result.


Current flight operations after 10 p.m. exceed the night-time noise level approved by the authorities. As a result, the maximum number of slots to be allocated for landings from 9 p.m. onwards and take-offs after 10.20 p.m. must not be increased. In summer 2019, the slots were fully booked, especially at weekends. Flughafen Zürich AG can apply to the responsible authority to have the slot limit lifted once it is able to comply with the approved noise level. If it does not manage to significantly improve compliance, for example through measures to prevent delays or through the changes to the approved noise level for which it has already sought approval, it faces the threat of further operational restrictions, especially from 22 p.m. onwards, and a corresponding loss of revenue. Flughafen Zürich AG is actively working to improve the situation in talks with authorities, in ongoing approval and court proceedings, and in an operational respect together with airport partners Skyguide and Swiss. Nevertheless, authorities are examining the possibility of bringing slots forward. If the permitted noise emissions were maintained or even tightened, this would pose a substantial threat to the airportʼs hub operations and to intercontinental connections. As a consequence, numerous feeder connections on European routes would disappear.


Experience over the past few years has shown that the air transport sector is sensitive to external events such as economic crises, acts of terrorism or pandemics. In addition, other external factors such as the political and macro-economic environment could have a negative impact on demand in both the aviation and non-aviation segments at Zurich Airport.


A pandemic could have severe company-wide effects, starting with a significant reduction in air traffic due to border closures, quarantine requirements and a lack of internationally coordinated action to tackle the pandemic. In addition, authorities could order businesses to close, which could have an appreciable impact on retail partners and therefore on the related revenue of Flughafen Zürich AG. In the event of large-scale employee absences due to illness or quarantine, it cannot be guaranteed that labour-intensive activities on site will be carried out to the usual standard of quality. As the companies at Zurich Airport are highly specialised, Flughafen Zürich AG is very much dependent on the home carrier and major ground-handling companies. If one of these partners were to get into difficulties or fail completely, this could have severe consequences for Flughafen Zürich AG in addition to the reduction in operations as a result of the health situation.


The airport infrastructure is exposed to natural hazards, in particular earthquakes and flooding following heavy precipitation. To minimise the risk, infrastructure and operations are designed to be robust. Where possible, cost-effective property and business interruption insurance is also taken out to cover such risks.


The home carrier at Zurich Airport flies over half of the passengers who travel via Zurich Airport. Swiss, in turn, is integrated into the Lufthansa Group along with airlines that offer hub systems at various locations. If the home carrier were to get into financial difficulty, a number of long-, medium- and short-haul connections would cease to exist. The fact that Swiss is integrated into the parent, Lufthansa, increases the risk in that it is dependent on the position of other group companies. In the event of difficulties at other group companies, or if political, economic and/or social circumstances change, the parent could shift capacity between airports.

Flughafen Zürich AG passes parts of its licence to operate the airport on to ground handling companies via licences for ground handling operations. Flughafen Zürich AG does not perform any ground handling activities itself. Swissport, the largest ground handler at Zurich Airport, commands around 80% of market volumes in the main ground handling activities (passenger and ramp handling). If the market leader were to discontinue operations, Flughafen Zürich AG would have to ensure that airport operations, including ground handling, continue in the proper manner. As Flughafen Zürich AG does not have any expertise in this regard, there is a risk that flight operations would at least be temporarily interrupted in such a case.


The complex and tightly interconnected airport operations could be severely disrupted by operational events such as accidents or the failure of critical systems. Depending on the scale of the disruption, operations would have to be curtailed or even suspended altogether in order to maintain the safety of passengers and airport employees.

The majority of Flughafen Zürich AGʼs workflows and processes can no longer be carried out properly without the aid of IT systems. A serious system failure could lead to the loss of personal, business-critical and/or confidential data. Such a scenario could result in major problems in operations or even accidents. There is also the threat of severe interruptions to business that could conceivably last several weeks, the related loss of revenue and the related cost of restoring operations.


Projects abroad and international holdings inherently pose commercial and industry-specific risks comparable with those associated with operating Zurich Airport. Along with political risks, location-specific risks typically include country, market and currency risks that could severely impact future revenue prospects or even lead to the total failure of a venture.

Given the greater risks involved, when considering any project, both the financial risks and the political and economic risks are analysed in detail against the backdrop of the prevailing social and economic conditions. They are also continually monitored in the case of existing activities. The same standards as practised at Zurich Airport apply.