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Air travel SWISS expands Zurich flights, fears airport restrictions

Thomas Klühr, the Chief Executive Officer of Swiss International Airlines

Thomas Klühr, the Chief Executive Officer of Swiss International Airlines, says a lower-value Swiss franc, lower fuel costs, more demand and more efficient aircraft helped boost his airline's profits in 2017.

(Keystone)

Switzerland’s national airline has enjoyed a profitable year and expects continued success, but its chief executive says restrictions at Zurich Airport are making it difficult to meet passenger demand. 

Thomas Klühr, the head of the Lufthansa-Group-owned Swiss National Airlines SWISS, told the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper that developments such as the bankruptcy of German carrier Air Berlin have led to increased demand for certain European routes. As a result, Swiss has seen a profitable 2017 and increased its offering, including a new flight on the Zurich-Berlin route. However, Klühr insists the airline did not increase its prices after Air Berlin’s disappearance from the market, saying Swiss “does not want to exploit the situation”. 

He also insisted SWISS is not operating in a monopoly situation despite being the only operator offering some 80 routes of Zurich. He said such a situation is "normal" for a hub carrier and that the market remains open for any possible competitors.

Klühr says that new routes and demand are also testing the limits of Zurich airport, Switzerland’s largest. He argues renovations to the airport infrastructure are needed to accommodate new flights and make sure they run on time.

+ Read about a record number of passengers passing through Zurich airport last year. 

Weather events such as strong winds, as experienced over several days in summer 2017, affect the number of takeoffs and landings that can occur in Zurich and further restricting flight capacity, according to Klühr. 

The SWISS chief executive also warned of restrictions to nighttime flights at Zurich airport, which have been suggested in political discussions about how to reduce air traffic noise around the hub. The proposed restrictions would forbid flights taking off after 11pm; the current restrictions do not allow for flights departing between 11:30pm and 6am. 

Klühr warned that long-haul flights to South America, South Africa and Southeast Asia from Zurich would be endangered if such restrictions come to pass.

swissinfo.ch and agencies/vdv

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