Traffic trends and summer flight timetable
Between January and June 2023 a total of 13.1 million passengers used Zurich Airport as a departure, transfer or destination airport. This represents a year-on-year increase of 44 % and is equivalent to approximately 88 % of passenger levels over the same period in 2019. In the first half of 2023 the number of flight movements climbed 20 % year-on-year to 116,633 take-offs and landings.
The volume of freight handled was 187,403 tonnes (–13 %). The reason for the decline is the increase in sea freight with much lower freight rates.
The opening up of Far Eastern markets continues apace. Starting with the summer flight timetable, SWISS is again providing a service to Shanghai, and Korean Air is operating flights to Seoul. Cathay Pacific increased the frequency of its offering to Hong Kong from June onwards. In addition, Qatar Airways, Ethiopian Airlines and Saudia are expanding their services in the long-haul segment.
In the European route network, Edelweiss added new destinations Akureyri and Biarritz. The summer timetable also sees the return of some destinations such as Fuerteventura served by Chair, while SWISS took over the Vienna route from Austrian Airlines.
Overall, 60 airlines offer flights from Zurich to 187 destinations in 71 countries in the 2023 summer timetable. Compared with the 2019 summer timetable, a total of 95 % of destinations are being served again by around 90 % of airlines. Looking ahead to the winter timetable, Edelweiss has already announced the launch of a new twice-weekly Zurich–Bogotá–Cartagena triangular service from November.
In a year marked by recovery and rapid ramping up of operations, Zurich Airport once again succeeded in winning the ASQ Award for “Best airport in Europe in the 25 to 40 million passengers category”. Following its previous successes in 2006, 2008, 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021, this is the seventh time Zurich Airport has been placed first in the ASQ Award.
The two airports in Florianópolis and Vitória were again recognised as the best airports in Brazil.
Commercial centers and real estate
The upturn in passenger numbers during the first half of 2023 had a positive impact on our commercial business. Various new openings and remodelling of units in Airport Shopping and the Airside Center boosted the attractiveness and the breadth of the retail offering. Prestige brands such as Jimmy Choo and Boss opened in the Airside Center, and the duty-free shop on Level 1 was extensively refurbished.
Our real estate business continues to contribute to the financial stability of the company. Now in its third year of operation, 49 enterprises employing upwards of 5,000 people have taken up residence in the Circle. Occupancy is running at approximately 90 %. The Circle’s lanes and adjacent park offer a unique experience, while its hotels and restaurants are also operating very successfully. There is still some scope for improvement in certain areas, however, and some consideration is being given to the positioning of the complex and to the lane level concept.
The purchase of property in the southside hangar area in 2019 and the new rental contracts concluded at the end of 2022 form the basis for the strategic development of the site. Our airport partner company SR Technics, an important tenant on this part of the site, is planning to expand its capacity for servicing jet engines at Zurich Airport in the coming years. To this end, infrastructure and operating facilities are being extended, with additional jobs being created. The half-year under review saw the launch of a second aircraft engine test cell featuring low energy consumption and innovative technologies such as thermal waste heat recovery. It is due to enter service in 2024.
Development projects and infrastructure at Zurich Airport
Development of the main airport complex, Dock A and tower
The next ten years will see the construction of a replacement for the old Dock A, tower and dock base at Zurich Airport. The new Dock A will make a major contribution to meeting our sustainability goals. Thanks to photovoltaic solar panels on the roof, the building itself will generate around two-thirds of the energy required to run it. The winning project was selected following an architecture competition, the contract with the lead planner has been signed, and project planning is currently underway. As this construction project involves renewing essential core infrastructure, complex preparatory work is required over many years in advance to ensure airport operations can be seamlessly maintained. Preliminary work is set to begin already at the end of this year on the apron to the north of Dock A.
Baggage sorting system
Installation of the new baggage sorting system has largely been completed. Various trials are currently underway, and preparations will be made over the coming months for the complex replacement of the existing baggage system without any interruption to normal operations. The system will be phased in step by step from 2024.
Development of landside passenger zones
Owing to an appeal raised in relation to the construction works tendering process, further building work on the underground link between the Circle and Airport Shopping and the development of the landside commercial areas have been delayed. Plans and tenders not affected by the appeal are going ahead.
Two projects on the western side of the airport are currently at various stages: work to extend the existing apron to add new aircraft stands has been underway since March 2020. The follow-up project to build a new business aviation terminal along with an apron and associated landside road access is still at the approval stage. After its temporary suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic, construction work resumed at the beginning of 2023. The existing popular viewing platform known as plane spotters’ hill near the Heli-Grill snack bar will be dismantled during the late autumn 2023 and will likely be installed at another location with an even better view of the airfield action.
The runway extensions were identified in the 2012 Zurich Airport Safety Review as key safety measures, and the federal government incorporated them in the Sectoral Aviation Infrastructure Plan (SAIP). These runway extensions are an important measure to further improve the margin of safety at Zurich Airport and stabilise operations. More stable flight operations and better adherence to the prescribed operating concepts lead to fewer delays, and consequently less noise in the evenings. Runway extensions also reduce the number of people affected by aircraft noise. According to the Airport Act, any changes to the position and length of runways must be approved by the Cantonal Parliament. Following its deliberations in the spring, the Cantonal Parliament’s Commission for Energy, Transport and the Environment (KEVU) has recommended approval. Irrespective of the Cantonal Parliament’s decision, a referendum is likely.
Energy & decarbonisation
The route to sustainable aviation lies in reducing CO2 emissions. As a company we strive to minimise fossil fuel consumption in order to lower the associated greenhouse gas emissions. It is our ambition to achieve net-zero greenhouse gases by 2040, without offsetting, and across all our sites. Along with upgrading the energy systems in our property holdings, ensuring a cost-effective, environmentally friendly and future-fit energy supply for the airport will make a significant contribution to achieving this ambition.
International airport business
Zurich Airport Ltd.’s biggest international project in Noida to the south of the Delhi metropolitan area in India is proceeding on schedule. Work on the terminal, the runway system, the control tower and other infrastructure is on track. Contracts for freight handling and catering have also been awarded. Further agreements, for ground handling and refuelling for example, will be signed shortly, and cooperation with commercial partners is making good progress. The airport is scheduled to open at the end of 2024. The investment for developing and building the airport totals around CHF 750 million, which is within the budgeted cost estimates.
Following a public tendering process, in May Zurich Airport Ltd. was awarded the contract to operate Natal Airport in northeastern Brazil. This newly acquired airport optimally complements the existing portfolio of Zurich Airport Ltd. in Brazil – consisting, amongst others, of the airports in Florianópolis, Vitória and Macaé – and will allow synergies to be leveraged. The concession agreement is set to be signed in the second half of the year, and the handover of operations is planned for early 2024. In addition, our airports in Florianópolis and Macaé were presented with the “Sustainable Airports Award” by Brazil’s National Civil Aviation Authority ANAC.
Our Iquique Airport in Chile has had to grapple with unexpected challenges as the firm contracted to build the new terminal was forced to declare bankruptcy in November 2022. To ensure the project will still be completed, our operating company took on some 150 employees of the bankrupt construction company temporarily. Since then the building work is again making good progress, and parts of the new terminal already commenced operation during the first half of 2023. Commissioning of the facility is planned for the beginning of 2024.