A group of experts appointed by the Zurich Cantonal Government in the Spring of 1943 concludes that an airport of the planned size cannot be realised at the present location, the military and civil airfield of Dübendorf-Wangen. They propose the area between Kloten and Rümlang. Due to the Second World War, international exchange regarding the the construction of airports has become more difficult. In 1944, the planners present a project which was to be modified several times afterwards.
The federal decree on civil aerodromes designates Zurich as the location for an intercontinental airport. The federal government sells a 655-hectare segment of the military grounds to the Canton of Zurich for CHF 10 m.
A significant majority of the Zurich electorate votes in favour of a CHF 36.8 million building loan for the construction of Zurich Airport, with 105'703 yes votes to 29'373 no votes.
In just two years, Switzerland's largest airport is built on the swampy wasteland that was once the artillery training ground. Taking the wind direction into account, a runway is built from east to west, with a second crossing it from north to south for blind landings.
Up to 1'200 construction workers were deployed, digging out a million cubic metres of soil and using 1.23 million cubic metres of gravel from nearby Holberg.
1948 - 1949
Swissair hangar 1 is constructed and put into operation. In addition, steel construction work is carried out for the vaulted hangar, which was built in 1949.
On the day the airport opens, a Swissair Douglas DC-4 from Cairo lands on the west runway 10/28. The first take-off is a DC-4 flight to London. Regular operations commence. Old barrack buildings are temporarily used for passenger handling.
The Airport Real Estate Company (FIG) is responsible for buildings construction and operation. It is the successor to Flugplatzgenossenschaft Zürich (FG), which ran the airport at Dübendorf-Wangen.
The Zurich Government Council attends the runway for blind landings 16/34 opening. Swissair moves into Hangar I built by FIG. All civil flights are moved from Dübendorf and scheduled flights operate in full with around 20 take-offs and landings daily.
Passenger operations are moved from the barrack buildings to the new passenger terminal. The opening event is a big public celebration held from 29 to 31 August 1953 and attended by around 150'000 guests.
Line maintenance and take-offs and landings at Zurich Airport excite employees, passengers and visitors at the airport fence.
Propeller aircraft dominate the 1950s. The DC-6, based on the DC-4 used by the US Air Force, becomes popular with aircraft operators worldwide. Its successor, the DC-7, is the largest propeller aircraft built by Douglas.
The King of Jazz is welcomed to Zurich with flowers and music. The 20th century icon joins in with Zurich jazz ensemble Tremble Kids, improvising on a borrowed Alpine horn.
A CSA (Czechoslovak State Airlines) Ilyushin Il-12 has an accident near Wasterkingen while on approach to Zurich Airport, probably due to engine problems. All 23 people on board die.
A Swissair Caravelle III has an accident near Dürrenäsch during a flight from Zurich to Geneva. All 80 passengers and crew die. 43 people came from Humlikon near Winterthur – the village lost one fifth of its population.
The Beatles stop over at Zurich to promote their new film. Global stars John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Jimmie Nicol are greeted with exuberant cheers as they pass through the transit area.
Zurich Airport will be connected to the national road network with the N1b national road and the complete landside access will be newly built. Previously, there was only a country road from Kloten and Opfikon to the airport.
Zurich Airport sets up the first permanent measuring facility with four external measuring points in the municipalities of Kloten, Glattbrugg, Rümlang and Oberglatt.
This decade is primarily dominated by the Boeing 727, Convair CV-990 and various Caravelle aircraft.
Insights into the handling of arriving and departing aircraft and passengers.
Fans eagerly await the arrival of rock musicians Mick Jagger, Bill Wyman, Brian Jones, Charlie Watts and Keith Richards. Their concert at the Hallenstadion is hailed as the start of the 1968 protest movement in Switzerland.
A large group of Swiss athletes gather at the airport to travel to the Summer Olympics in Mexico City. Bernard Dunand, Louis Noverraz and Marcel Stern win a silver medal in sailing.
For the first time, Zurich is the stage for an armed attack on a commercial airliner. Four members of a Palestinian militant organisation open fire on an EL AL Boeing 720 taxiing into position for take-off.
The first jumbo jet lands in Zurich, a Boeing 747 operated by Trans World Airlines (TWA).
Following a bomb explosion, a Swissair Convair CV-990 crashes near Würenlingen. All 47 people are killed. Investigations point to a terror attack by a Palestinian resistance movement actually aimed at Israeli airline EL-AL.
A Swissair DC-8 is hijacked by terrorists from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, who force the pilots to fly to a disused airfield in Zerqa. 155 people on board are taken hostage and released after negotiations.
The federal aviation authority brings in a curfew on night-time landings between midnight and 5 a.m. and on take-offs between midnight and 6 a.m.
The multi-storey car park with 1,810 spaces on nine floors can be handed over to the public. The construction costs amount to around 20 million Swiss francs.
Swissair's palletising facility could be released as early as November 1972. In February 1973, the first two thirds of Cargo East were put into operation and the previous import, export and sorting halls were relocated from Cargo West. Customs, Swissair Customer Service and Cargo Handling as well as Watch Control were also housed in the new premises. The last third of the hall is opened in November 1973.
The Freight Office Building houses the freight offices of 21 airlines. Between Cargo West and Cargo East, they are thus located at the centre of cargo handling. Swissair's canteen is located on the ground floor.
Douglas aircraft (DC-10-30) and the Swissair Boeing 747 dominate in the 1970s. The Boeing 747, also known as the jumbo jet, ushers in a new era of air travel: the age of wide-body aircraft.
The construction acceptance for the General Aviation Centre (GAC), then called the Private Aviation Centre, takes place. This includes hangars and maintenance workshops for private and business aviation aircraft.
After three years of construction, the new building of the depot is handed over to the company. Among other things, it contains various workshops, a winter service hall and waste management.
Terminal B is opened. It includes a car park, shopping level, conference center and finger dock. Electronic handling and baggage sorting equipment are introduced.
Zurich Airport's third runway is completed. Runway 14/32 is 3'300 metres long.
The first official landing of a commercial airliner on the new runway 14/32 is a Swissair Boeing 747 from New York. This V runway forms part of a new three-runway system which includes blind landing runway 16/34 after its renovation.
A month before the airport railway line opens, Britain's Queen Elizabeth II inaugurates the SBB railway station at the Airport Center.
All express trains on the West-East transversal from Geneva to St. Gallen now stop at the airport. Some express trains to and from Chur, Lugano, Lucerne, Interlaken and Brig also have direct airport connections. Thus SBB (Swiss Federal Railways) now operate some 100 trains daily between Zurich central station and the airport. The airport line is unique, not just in Switzerland, but in the whole of Europe.
Zurich Airport implements noise charges for aircraft that exceed specific noise limits.
1981 - 1985
The 4th expansion stage is underway to meet increased demand. The core is Terminal A with 13 docks and a new control tower. A baggage sorting system, car park A and the Operations Center for flight crews are being built.
The British crown prince and his wife are welcomed at the airport. They are on their way to their winter holidays.
The 1980s are primarily dominated by the Airbus A310, the McDonnell Douglas MD-81 and the Saab 340.
Pope John Paul II arrives in Switzerland for a six-day pastoral visit. Upon his arrival in Zurich, he kissed Swiss soil – unlike his arrival in Geneva two years ago.
In summer 1985, west runway 10/28 is closed for two and a half months and practically renovated from scratch after around 40 years of operation.
Exactly 10 years to the day after the inauguration of Terminal B, finger dock A is opened. The 450-metre long, 21-metre wide dock is integrated into the new control tower and has 27 aircraft stands with passenger bridges.
The control tower at the new Dock A is inaugurated. It is operated by the control service for airport, arrivals and departures traffic from 29 April.
80s and 90s
The 1980s and 1990s were characterised by the emergence of jumbo jets. In 1985, the new finger dock A with its tower, which was once operated by Radio-Schweiz AG, was put into operation at Zurich Airport.
Zurich Airport’s 1st environmental report involved reviewing the 1985 masterplan and predicted traffic volume. Expected pollution for key environmental parameters (air, noise and water) was determined, and future goals set. The airport thus established the subject of environmental protection.
From the tower to the hangar, to check-in. Insights into previous airport operations.
The Airbus A319, A320 and A321, the Boeing 737, the Fokker 100 and the McDonnell Douglas MD-11 dominate the 1990s.
Zurich Airport celebrates its 50th anniversary with a funfair and an aircraft exhibition on closed runway 16, with Concorde a big attraction for visitors.
A memorial for the Halifax victims is held in a hangar. The Swissair Douglas MD-11 crashed into the Atlantic near Halifax during a flight to Geneva: a fire destroyed the electrical systems and instruments. All 215 passengers and 14 crew members lost their lives.
61.2 % of the Zurich electorate vote Yes to the privatisation of Zurich Airport. The airport is divested by the canton's administration and run as a diversified joint stock company.
A model of a Crossair Saab 340 has an accident near Nassenwil two minutes after take-off from Zurich airport, after the captain became disoriented. All 10 people on board die.
The Freight East facility is inaugurated. It consists of a container stacker, a cargo hall, a consignment warehouse and a shelter. In total, the converted space covers 629'000m3. The main tenant is the cargo handling company Cargologic AG.
The Federal Council grants initial approval for the Sectoral Aviation Infrastructure Plan, affirming the role of Zurich as an intercontinental hub for Switzerland and creating a long-term development framework for Swiss airports.
1.3 million registered shares in Flughafen Zürich AG forming part of the share capital held by the Canton of Zurich are offered publicly.
The last day of Swissair. Aircraft stop taking off shortly after noon. All flight operations cease permanently as there is no money for fuel. Thousands of passengers and some 260 aircraft remain on the ground.
A Crossair aircraft of the type Avro RJ100 had an accident near Bassersdorf during a flight from Berlin to Zurich because the aircraft flew below the minimum descent altitude. Of the 33 passengers and crew, 24 died, while 5 were injured.
1995 - 2004
In the 5th expansion stage, Dock E will be built between the three runways. The underground hovertrain Skymetro baggage conveyor belts and a road tunnel will be built to connect to the new Airside Center. Construction takes about nine years.
The 500-metre-long and 24-metre-wide Finger Dock E, which offers 27 stands for wide-body aircraft, is inaugurated. Passengers can reach the dock from the Airside Center within a few minutes using the Skymetro aerial tramway.
Car park 3 is built as part of the fifth expansion stage, providing 2'700 parking spaces.
Bangalore International Airport Ltd. is granted a 60-year concession to build and operate an international airport in the Indian city of Bangalore. Flughafen Zürich AG has a 17% stake in the airport.
The airport gets a new landmark, with a 20-metre glass façade, shops, restaurants, bars and lounges. Thanks to the Airside Center, Zurich becomes a one-terminal airport.
The new bus station becomes operational.
The 2000s in Zurich are dominated by the Boeing B767, B777 and B787, the Airbus A220, A330, A340, A350, and A380, and the Embraer ERJ-190 and ERJ-195.
With its expertise, a subsidiary of Flughafen Zürich AG supports the concessionaire of Bogotá Airport under a service contract. In doing so, it holds the position of Chief Operation Officer and four other management positions.
2007 - 2009
After more than thirty years in use, the longst runway – with the 3,700 metres in length is being comprehensively renovated in 102 night stages from mid 2007 to Spring of 2009. The concrete structure of the 23 metres wide central strip is replaced by a three-layered asphalt surface.
Passengers use the new infrastructure of the fifth expansion stage: the Airside Center, which is linked underground by Skymetro to Dock E, and the expanded Airport Shopping offering.
The implementation of the Schengen Agreement necessitates new infrastructure: a new arrivals hall, renovation of the "Grüezi B" bus arrival area and the connecting corridor, and new bus gates B01 to B10.
After a two-year build, the Glattalbahn tram line now runs to the airport. The tram stop was built as part of the fifth construction phase.
Flughafen Zürich AG adopts a climate-change policy aimed at gradually reducing CO2 emissions until 2030.
The FOCA certifies Zurich Airport for the Airbus A380, the world's largest passenger aeroplane. Singapore Airlines starts daily flights from Zurich to Singapore on 28 March 2010.
17 - 20 April
Swiss air space remains closed for three days due to ash clouds from a volcano eruption in Iceland. Some passengers are unable to continue their journeys.
With the Swiss Federal Supreme Court ruling, Zurich Airport's operating regulations are enshrined in law. The Federal Court's decision places current flight operations on a solid legal foundation with established approach and departure routes.
Zurich is the first Swiss airport to offer GPS-based landing. Suitably equipped aircraft can now use the technology to land on runway 14.
CEO Thomas E. Kern welcomes the first passengers to the new Dock B, which permits flexible handling of Schengen and non-Schengen flights. The new observation deck also opens.
The new security check building (SCB) with 26 check lines over four floors links check-in with the Airside Center.
Through its subsidiary Aport S.A. in Santiago de Chile, Flughafen Zürich AG indirectly acquires the concession for regional airport Antofagasta (ANF) in Chile.
Around 70% of aircraft now have to pay a noise charge, in comparison to 10% previously. The aim is to encourage airlines to operate the quietest possible aircraft on their Zurich routes.
The main runway at Zurich Airport is undergoing a complete restoration between March and October. The 22.5 metres wide central strip of the 3,300 metres long and 60 metres wide concrete runway will be replaced by an asphalt surface.
The new noise protection hangar for conducting engine tests is an important milestone in improving the noise situation.
Work begins on one of the biggest construction sites in Switzerland. "The Circle" is a new service facility covering 161'500 square metres.
The Flughafen Zürich AG Board of Directors approves a further CHF 100 m in provisions for sound insulation and resident protection on top of the CHF 240 m already approved.
For the first time ever, over 100'000 passengers pass through Zurich Airport in one day.
To protect residents from noise generated by inbound morning flights from the south, 1'100 window drives and 900 sound-absorbing ventilators have been installed in the bedrooms of homes in the affected areas.
A new four-metre high viewing platform is opened to the west of the airport, with the "Heligrill" offering refreshments in a converted helicopter.
Flughafen Zürich AG is granted the concession for the expansion and operation of international airport Hercílio Luz in southern Brazil.
Through its subsidiary Aport S.A., Flughafen Zürich AG is granted a further concession, for the operation of Aracena airport in Iquique in northern Chile.
After a 16-month build, the new terminal in Florianópolis is opened and becomes operational. It is equipped with modern airport infrastructure facilities and ten dock stands.
Flughafen Zürich AG wins the concessions to operate the Vitória and Macaé airports in an open-bid process.
As part of a 40-year concession, Flughafen Zürich AG wins the contract to build and operate the new Noida airport in Jewar (India).
The “extraordinary situation” in accordance with the Epidemics Act results in the temporary closure of shops, restaurants and services at Zurich Airport. Air traffic declines dramatically.
Following a decision by the Federal Council, all shops (except grocery stores) and restaurants at the airport must close for several weeks, as must the observation deck. This situation recurs several times throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
The dramatic reduction in aircraft flying leads to a lack of space at Zurich Airport. Swiss and Edelweiss temporarily move many of their aircraft to Dübendorf Airport.
A sad record is set: on this day only 262 passengers pass through Zurich Airport due to the coronavirus pandemic. But the airport remains open (Video in German only).
The Helvetic flight from Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso) ends Switzerland's largest ever repatriation effort. 35 flights repatriate a total of 4'200 Swiss citizens and 2'500 foreign nationals.
Shops and restaurants as well as borders within the Schengen area open again. There are quarantine restrictions for travellers from high-risk countries, which are subject to change at short notice.
After over five years of construction, the Circle and surrounding park are opened. The new site houses numerous shops and restaurants, two hotels, a conference center, the University Hospital Zurich and various businesses.
For the first time at Zurich, a scheduled flight uses sustainable aviation fuel. This is a milestone in reducing CO2 produced by air traffic.
Flughafen Zürich AG joins the “United Nations Global Compact” By doing so, it undertakes to uphold the ten principles in the areas of human rights, labour standards, environmental protection and anti-corruption.
Zurich Airport hosts this light and music festival for the first time, with top Swiss acts, light installations and gastronomy delights from the region.
The coronavirus year 2021 was characterised by lockdowns, travel restrictions, test centers, health certificates, quarantine decisions and mask requirements. We take a look back.
The Federal Council lifts masking requirements and working from home recommendations and announces a return to normal as of 1 April 2022.
Lufthansa Group passengers who have already checked in online are given the option of dropping off their luggage at the self-service bag drop machines.
The renovation work starts. The central strip on runway 10/28 reaches the end of its life and work to replace it is completed in around 100 nights.
The contract with design-and-build contractor Tata Projects Ltd. covers the terminal, the take-off and landing runway and the land and airside infrastructure in Noida.
The Circle is officially recognised for sustainability, becoming not only Switzerland's largest Minergie building, but also its highest-rated LEED building, achieving a Platinum ranking.
The northern part of Airport Shopping at Zurich Airport are completely renewed. The project includes more spacious passenger routes, new retail spaces and a food hall.
The western part of the airport gets 14 new aircraft stands and service areas, along with a new viewing platform for plane spotters.
To reduce the risk of collision, the plan is for most taxiways of inbound and outbound aircraft at Zurich Airport to be physically separated. Creating taxiways around runways further improves safety margins.
Renewal of the baggage sorting system starts in 2018 as central components have reached the end of their lives and the existing equipment needs replacing due to new EU requirements.
The new Dock A complete with tower and finger dock replace the old Dock A, which has reached the end of its life. The entire roof surface is used for photovoltaics and supplies around a third of the building's electricity.
2030 – 2035
The extensions of two pistes improve the safety margin and enable robust operating concepts.
Flughafen Zürich AG aims to reduce its CO2 emissions to net zero by 2040, without offsetting.