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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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For members


‘3,000 francs a month?’: Zurich to vote on trying universal basic income

On Sunday September 25th, while the Swiss will decide on three national issues in a national referendum, Zurich voters will weigh in on a pilot project involving the recurring issue of universal basic income.

'3,000 francs a month?': Zurich to vote on trying universal basic income

The idea of the government handing out a set amount of money to its citizens is not a novel concept in Switzerland: in 2016, a referendum made Switzerland the first country in the world to vote at national level on this issue.

But 76.9 percent of voters rejected this initiative because they could not see how it could be funded without increasing taxes.

Some left-leaning districts in Zurich, however, voted in favour of the universal basic income (UBI), and while nothing came of it on the national level at the time, the city will re-vote on this issue on Sunday.

READ MORE: Zurich to roll out universal basic income pilot project

While the exact details are still muddy, voters will decide whether to offer “free” money on monthly basis to 500 residents chosen for the pilot project.

Though the amount is not yet determined, it could likely be between 2,500 and 3,000 francs a month.

Contrary to what had been proposed at the federal level in 2016, the part paid by the city government will vary according to income from work.

For the political left, which launched the proposal, UBI “represents a possible answer to current challenges such as automation, poverty and the climate crisis”, the group says on its website.

Among the opponents, the municipal council “believes that paid work is the most important element to ensure the livelihood of individuals and at the same time create social prosperity”.

Does this proposal have a chance of success?

Based on the outcome of the national vote, probably not.

On a municipal level too, such initiatives have already failed in Bern and Lucerne.

However, as Swiss media points out, “Zurich is very left”, so perhaps UBI can get more of a boost there.

As far as the national referendum on September 25th is concerned, this article explains what issues will be voted on:

Pensions, farming and tax: What issues will the Swiss vote on this month?