Improving the safety margin

The planned extensions to runways 28 and 32 will enable more stable operations in all weather conditions and for all aircraft types, and will help to improve the safety margin at Zurich Airport.

Operations at Zurich Airport have been handled in the same way since 1 January 1976, with the current system of three runways: 16/34 at 3'700 metres long, 14/32 at 3'300 metres long and 10/28 at 2'500 metres long. In its Sectoral Aviation Infrastructure Plan (SAIP), the Federal Council approved the extension of runway 28 to the west and runway 32 to the north to improve safety and operational processes. The runway extensions are an essential measure from the "Zurich Airport safety review" to improve the safety margin in flight operations.

Political process started

Spatial planning for the runway extensions can be found in the SAIP. Operation on the extended runways is specified in the SAIP detailed plan (Objektblatt) for Zurich Airport, which was last fundamentally revised by the Federal Council in August 2017. The runway extensions are also included in the cantonal planning guidelines.

The cantonal representatives in the Board of Directors of Flughafen Zürich AG have a blocking minority (§ 10 Airport Act, 748.1) in the event of resolutions on the submission of planning applications for changes to the location and lengths of the runways. The cantonal representatives in the Board of Directors are bound by the directives of the Government Council when exercising this blocking minority (§ 19 Airport Act).

The directives of the Government Council are subject to the approval of Cantonal Parliament. With the resolution of 19 May 2021, the Government Council applied to Cantonal Parliament to approve its instruction approving the project. Based on the Airport Act of the Canton of Zurich, voters in the Canton of Zurich – if this is requested by means of an optional referendum – will have the last word on the proposed runway extensions, even if the Cantonal Parliament was to reject the project.