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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.

Zurich Airport, Switzerland. Photo by Fabian Joy on Unsplash
Zurich Airport, Switzerland. Photo by Fabian Joy on Unsplash

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. 

Flight cancellations

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. 

READ MORE: Airport chaos in Europe: Airlines cancel 15,000 flights in August

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. 

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CULTURE

IN PICTURES: Swiss techno Street Parade returns after two-year absence

Hundreds of thousands of people filled the streets of a sun-baked Zurich Saturday for the Swiss city's annual techno Street Parade, after a two-year absence due to the coronavirus pandemic.

IN PICTURES: Swiss techno Street Parade returns after two-year absence

But celebrations were marred by the death of a young man who drowned after jumping into the city’s river near the parade. Zurich police said rescuers tried to save the man but it was too late.

Around 850,000 people attended the last event in 2019, and this year, organisers expected between 750,000 and one million.

street parade zurich

Participants celebrate the 29th edition of Street Parade with one reveller holding a sign reading ‘finally, normal people’. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

Under a clear blue sky, fans gathered for the start of the free parade for around two kilometres (1.4 miles) along the river in the heart of Switzerland’s financial capital.

revellers at street parade in zurich

This year’s Street Parade gathered several hundred thousands of ravers and electronic music fans. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

As the temperature reached 29 degrees Celsius (84 degrees Fahrenheit), the river’s banks were full of revellers, many taking the plunge into the water to keep cool.

“I don’t have the right words to describe the atmosphere here, it is fantastic, all the people you know they are so eager to party,” said Patrick, a 26-year-old Master’s student in Zurich, with multi-coloured flowers and glasses on his head.

“You can feel that, you can feel the vibration in the air,” he added.

The highlight of the event is 30 floats known as “lovemobiles”, which are usually brightly decorated trucks with music, DJs and party-goers.

street parade zurich

Revellers jump into Lake Zurich to cool off during the 29th edition of the Street Parade in Zurich. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

More than 200 DJs will play at this year’s event, including international stars Adriatique, Anna Tur, Ida Engberg, Reinier Zonneveld and Syreeta.

After two years marked by the pandemic, the organisers said the parade’s motto was “THINK”.

street parade zurich

Revellers surround one of the 30 ‘lovemobile’ floats at the event. (Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP)

“Thoughts are the key to a peaceful coexistence of our cultures, no matter what religion, skin colour, origin or sexual orientation people belong to,” organisers said.

The first edition of Street Parade took place in 1992, drawing a mere 1,000 revellers and only two lovemobiles.

It is now the biggest techno party in Europe.

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