Reader question: How bad is the situation at Zurich Airport?
Zurich Airport has been hit by delays and lost luggage. Here’s how bad things are at the country’s biggest airport.
In comparison to the last two summers, this year in Switzerland couldn’t be more different.
While the impact of Covid saw the grounding of flights and a surge in the popularity of domestic travel, the world’s airports have roared back into life in 2022 - many to levels above the pandemic.
As a result, airlines and airport authorities have struggled to keep up, with the consequence being cancelled flights, delays and lost luggage.
The situation is particularly bad at Zurich Airport, which is Switzerland’s largest.
Zurich Airport saw an increase of almost 250 percent compared to last year, while passenger levels are fast approaching the highs set before the pandemic.
Half of all flights delayed
From the start of June until mid-July 2022, 46 percent percent of flights leaving from Zurich were delayed.
Delays were for a variety of reasons, including operational, technical or weather-related conditions.
Swiss Air, which operates the most services out of Zurich, reports that 48 percent of its flights have been delayed over the same period.
There have also been significant delays on arrivals at Zurich Airport, many of which contribute to late departure times.
While the majority of the delayed flights will leave at some point, there has been a low percentage of flights that have been cancelled outright.
Since the start of June, 632 of a total of 25,030 flights have been cancelled (2.5 percent).
250 pieces of lost luggage a day
Each day, 250 pieces of luggage are lost at Zurich Airport, as at July 20th, 2022.
Swissport, the company responsible for handling luggage, admits it has been having problems due to the global flight chaos.
Currently, “about 80 luggage trolleys for local luggage and 60 trolleys for those in transit are affected by the backlog. We are talking about 1,700 suitcases”, said Swissport spokesperson Nathalie Berchtold.
Lost luggage items are kept for five days by Zurich Airport authorities, before they are handed over to the transporting airline.
The airline then hands them over for auction after a minimum of three months from the date of unclaimed loss.
What is the reason for the flight chaos?
There are a variety of factors at play here, but the common denominator is the lingering impacts of the Covid pandemic.
Due to Covid, airports around the world downsized their workforces and infrastructure.
Amid a sudden resurgence in travel demand, airports and airlines have struggled to get back to the necessary capacity.
In Zurich, 500 new employees have been hired since December.
"This is the largest recruitment process in the history of Swissport Zurich," spokesperson Raphael Grundmann told SRF.
Another major factor is simply the flow on effect of worldwide airport chaos.
Where a flight from one country is delayed, it means that plane's next departure - and the departure of other flights from neighbouring gates - may be delayed.
This is also an issue in terms of luggage. Wherever possible, airlines seek to fly lost luggage to its owners. Where large amounts of luggage is lost, this can create a back log which means more luggage doesn't reach its owners.
Also, airports rarely have the capacity to store large amounts of luggage, which means that sorting through which luggage should go where takes additional time - thereby contributing to further delays.