“We have failed because we have always given the air lobby priority – especially with the climate agreement, where air traffic is excluded. It's a scandal,” Bálint Csontos, leader of the Green Party in the canton of Basel, told Swiss news outlet Prime News.
In 2016, nearly 1.4 million aircraft took off or landed in Switzerland. More than 52 million passengers used Swiss airports in the same year, an increase of 49 per cent since the year 2000, according to data from Switzerland's Federal Statistics Office. The number of passengers increased to nearly 55 million in 2017.
There are more than 50 domestic flights per day in Switzerland alone, according to data from the country's civil aviation authority cited by Swiss daily Blick.
Swiss politicians are divided on the topic of a ban. Swiss Socialist Party MP Thomas Hardegger supports a ban and says rail networks must be strengthened and connections made cheaper. Inter-city road links should also be upgraded to make travelling by land more competitive vis-a-vis air travel, he told German-language daily Aargauer Zeitung.
A Swiss International Air Lines (SWISS) spokesperson told the same source that without domestic transfers, the company would be able to offer far less intercontinental services, which “would affect the Swiss economy.”
Politician Christian Imark is sympathetic to the needs of local flight companies. “If Switzerland were to impose a tax on fuel, local airlines would be unilaterally disadvantaged,” Imark, an MP with the Swiss People's Party, told 20 Minutes.
“Inter-European flights are very bad for the environment,” Timo Ohnmachtt, an air traffic researcher, told Swiss portal 20 Minutes. Ohnmacht argues that if taxes on fuel were raised for airlines, prices would also go up and the number of passengers would decrease. “Flying must be more expensive,” concluded Ohnmacht.
The idea of a ban on internal domestic flights has also been suggested across the border in Germany. “It cannot be that we ban plastic straws, but continue to fly through Germany. I am in favor of banning (flights for) these short distances,” mobility researcher Andres Knie told German news site Zeit Online in an interview earlier this month.
A study by 20 Minutes found that a passenger travelling from Zurich to Frankfurt leaves a far smaller environmental footprint when travelling by train rather than by plane. Six hundred times less C02 is released into the environment using the train option on that route, according to the daily's calculations. On some routes, however, if passengers were to travel by car, the environmental impact would be worse than by air.
More than 14.4 million passengers used Switzerland's major commercial aviation hubs in the first quarter of 2018 alone, according to statistics agency Statista. More than half of those passengers arrived or departed at Zurich Airport. Genf and EuroAirport Basel Mulhouse Freiburg were the next busiest respectively.