Regulations governing flight operations
The operating concepts are detailed in Zurich Airport's operating regulations. During the day, aircraft primarily take off from runway 28 and land on runway 14. In addition, runway 16 is generally used for take-offs and landings of long-haul connections. In the morning, aircraft primarily take off from runway 32 and runway 34, and primarily land on runway 34. In the evening, aircraft still primarily take off from runway 32 and runway 34, but primarily land on runway 28.
For reasons of safety, concept changes may be necessitated by the weather. If there are strong westerly winds, aircraft take off from runway 32 and land on runway 28. If there is a north-easterly wind, aircraft take off from runway 10 and land on runway 14 or, in the evening, on runway 34. Various factors can be decisive in causing a weather-related concept change. The prevailing weather situation both at the airfield and in the respective approach sectors has a major influence. Once the conditions for a safe approach to the runway as defined in the runway usage concept are no longer met, the aircraft is switched to the next approach runway (or departure runway) in order of priority.
Aside from the weather situation, other reasons for deviating from the general runway usage concept may include runway refurbishments, emergency landings, accidents, Rega deployments, etc. Short-term changes to the runway usage concept are undesirable for the smooth and efficient handling of flight operations, so these are only made when absolutely necessary. It is therefore preferable to conduct flight operations that are as regular as possible using a consistent runway usage concept. The use of runways for air traffic travelling in opposite directions, such as take-offs from runway 32 or runway 34 towards the north with simultaneous landings on runway 14 or runway 16 from the north, is only permitted in exceptional circumstances or when there is very little traffic.
Airport Zurich operates with three different operating concepts.