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From Zurich to the skies: the daily work of the world’s airports

Experience the sights and sounds of the tightly-planned operations that move passengers at Zurich Airport and other hubs around the world.

It’s a bright and sunny morning in Zurich. The air is filled with the grinding and whirring of machinery and the roar of planes cutting through the sky. Between landings and take-offs, the ground crew are in action, preparing for a Swiss International Air Lines arrival.

A so-called ‘Foreign Object Debris’ (FOD) check is carried out by the onsite ramp team. As the plane comes to a halt on the apron – the aircraft parking area – chocks are placed in front of the aircraft wheels and power is connected from the main building. The team, all wearing safety clothing, waits until the engines are switched off and the aircraft is then secured and marked with cones.

Only when the supervisor has authorised all the relevant arrival checks can the passengers leave the plane – luggage of first-class passengers, is placed near the cargo doors so that it can be unloaded quickly.

Heavy weather

The total weight of luggage, cargo, passengers and fuel has an influence on the aircraft trimExternal link (keeping the aircraft balanced). Loading has to be in line with airline safety regulations- and weather plays an important role also, explains Nathalie Berchtold, communications manager at Swissport International AG. 

At high temperatures, the air is thinner and the aircraft has less lift during take-off and landing. To take off and climb as quickly as possible, the aircraft must therefore be lighter when temperatures are high. That means less cargo or baggage can be transported on the aircraft for safety reasons, which is why not all luggage is guaranteed to be transported on a set flight and will sometimes be sent with a later one.

Lost and found

Over 30 million passengers use Zurich Airport every year and in 2018, 38,000 missing luggage reports were issued at SwissportExternal link Zurich. In the same year, they reported only four misplaced bags per 1000 passengers. Around 98% of all lost baggage can be located within 24 hours at Swissport Zurich and since June 2018, IATA External link(International Air Transport Association) requires its member airlines to keep track of every item of luggage from start to finish. Swissport Zurich is already compliant.

Zurich Airport facts

  • 31,113,488 passengers travelled via Zurich Airport in 2018, a year-on-year increase of 5.8%.
  • Zurich Airport provides direct flights to 206 destinations within 68 countries internationally.
  • Zurich Airport received the ‘World Travel Award’ (2018), juried by Travel industry experts and passengers from all over the world.

How do other airports compare? Some examples from around the world: 


Each year 17 million passengers pass through this airport, tens of millions of pieces of luggage are checked, and over 400 planes land and take off daily. Last year it linked Prague to 157 destinations and a new terminal and runway are in the planning phase.


Warsaw’s Chopin Airport is the largest in Poland. Last year it was used by 15.8 million passengers. Poland’s president authorised an ambitious plan to build a large new airport in the centre of the country. It is to be built between the capital Warsaw and the central city of Łódź and is expected to handle up to 100 million passengers a year and be one of the largest hub airports in Europe after it is completed in 2027.


Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport (YUL) provides direct flights to more than 140 destinations in Canada, the United States and interna-tionally, year-round. Some 30 airlines use this airport to transport close to 16 million passengers every year.

YUL is also known for its expertise in snow clearing and de-icing during Canada’s harsh winters. In 2008, the airport earned the International Aviation Snow Symposium’s Balchen/Post Award in the “Major Airports” category. 


“Henri Coanda” – Otopeni International Airport was built on an old WWII military base. The largest of two airports in Bucharest, Romania, is located in the outskirts town of Otopeni.

In 2018, this aerodrome registered a record in air traffic movement with over 13.8 million passengers. 57 airlines operating from airport, carry passengers to and from 128 destinations.

Project ‘The Sounds of…’

This article is part of the project “The Sounds of…” produced with our partner media organisations Polskie RadioExternal linkRadio Canada InternationalExternal linkRadio Romania InternationalExternal link and Radio PragExternal link. Further videos have been produced by journalists at these outlets, to give an insight into their work in these countries. 

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR