Why does Zurich airport want to extend its two runways?

Michael Stuchbery
Michael Stuchbery - [email protected]
Why does Zurich airport want to extend its two runways?
Zurich voters will decide whether to extend their airport's runways. Photo by Nino Steffen on Unsplash

Voters in the canton of Zurich will head to the polls on March 3rd to decide whether two of Zurich airport’s runaways will be lengthened. But why do some argue there is a need to do it?


Why is there a need to lengthen Zurich airport's runways?

Following a close call involving two Swissair aircraft almost colliding on take-off in March 2011, a review by the government found that lengthening the runways would result in improved safety outcomes.

Proponents of the plan - including airport management and the federal government - suggest that lengthening two runways by 480 metres and 200 metres would result in better flight punctuality, and reduced noise at night.

The Board of Airline Representatives in Switzerland say the pan is not to increase airport capacity - meaning more flights, which would be unpopular, but that lengthening runways would allow the airport to operate its runways, "but rather at reducing the complexity of the runway system, thus enhancing safety."

"The entire airport community will have a better and saver infrastructure and environment," the board argues.

And those who are against it?

Opponents - including the Green Party - base their rejection on the perception that construction work on the runway would cause environmental damage, heavier aircraft using the airport would create more pollution and more noise.


Will the vote be passed?

Zurich’s cantonal council already approved the extension plans in September 2023, passing 87 to 83.

However, Switzerland’s direct democracy means that issues of cantonal and federal importance can be subject to a referendum based on popular support, usually determined by the collection of signatures.

However, plans for the extension are likely to succeed, due to the population’s traditional support for extensions or modifications to the airport.

Zurich (Airport code ZRH) is Switzerland’s largest airport and a key entry point to the country. Some 241,005 aircraft either took off or landed at the airport in 2023 and in January 2024 alone, over 1,959,580 passengers passed through. 


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