Geneva airport sets new passenger record
A record number of people passed through Geneva airport in 2003, but Zurich and Basel both saw a decline in passengers.
Officials said Zurich and Basel had been hit by a reduction in flights operated by the national airline, Swiss, while Geneva was developing as a base for low-cost carriers.
Last week Geneva airport announced that more than eight million people had passed through the terminal building in 2003.
The operator of Zurich airport - Switzerland's largest - said on Thursday it had served 17 million passengers in 2003, down 5.1 per cent on the previous year.
Basel, meanwhile, registered a decline of nearly 20 per cent in passenger numbers, with just under 2.5 million people passing through in 2003.
“These figures show that it is a problem when an airport is too dependent on one single airline,” Jean-Pierre Jobin, the director of Geneva airport, told swissinfo.
Airport operators blamed last year’s outbreak of the pneumonia virus, Sars, the war in Iraq and the economic downturn for the decline in passenger numbers.
Managers at Geneva airport, however, say they have benefited from the arrival of no-frills airlines such as easyJet.
The airport in western Switzerland handled a record 8.1 million passengers last year, six per cent more than in 2002.
“easyJet is a very important airline for us. This [British] low-cost airline generates 28 per cent of our air traffic,” Jobin said.
Better than expected?
Despite registering a fall in passenger numbers, Zurich airport's operator, Unique, said the figures were better than expected.
“The big turnaround came in the fourth quarter of last year when low-cost tickets boosted the number of passengers,” said Unique spokeswoman Sonja Zöchling.
Nearly 60 per cent of the 269,392 flights which departed from Zurich airport in 2003 were operated by Swiss, which launched a low-fares initiative on its European network last August.
The director of Basel airport, Jürg Rämi, described 2003 as one of the worst years on record, adding that he was not expecting a quick recovery.
“I think we will continue to see passenger numbers drop in the first quarter of 2004,” Rämi said.
Geneva was the only airport in 2003 to record a rise in passenger numbers compared with the previous year.
Officials say the decline in passenger numbers at Zurich and Basel airports was mainly due to a reduction in the number of flights operated by Switzerland's national airline, Swiss.
97 per cent of passengers in Geneva use the airport as their final destination rather than as a point of transfer.
Zurich airport served around 17 million passengers in 2003, down 5.1% on the previous year.
Around 2.49 million passengers passed through Basel airport, a decrease of 19%.
Basel airport has seen a drop of about 35% in passenger numbers since 2000.
Geneva set a new record when it announced that 8.1 million passengers had passed through the airport in 2003.
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