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Kloten airport passes into private hands

Switzerland's biggest airport, Zurich Kloten, is passing into private hands. The formal handover on Thursday follows a vote in favour of privatisation by the canton's voters last year.

This content was published on March 30, 2000 - 17:04

Switzerland's biggest airport, Zurich Kloten, is passing into private hands. The formal handover on Thursday follows a vote in favour of privatisation by the canton's voters last year. It was a decision that many saw as vital for the airport to remain competitive.

The man running the new company is a former executive of the regional Crossair airline, Josef Felder. He says the main problem in privatising the airport has been to change people's mentality from a regulated approach to one that prioritises customer needs.

Felder spent many years at Crossair in charge of marketing and he says one of the most pressing need at Kloten is a clear marketing strategy.

"We need to ask the passengers what they want and that's a new philosophy," says Felder, "During the regulated period, it wasn't necessary to ask people what they wanted but now we need to talk to the customer and ask them what they like and what they don't like."

Felder seems quite clear where the problems lie. "When you walk through the airport today you can see that the shops are still the same as they were 30 years ago," he says. "The opening hours are the same, the fittings are the same and you can see that nobody has taken care to provide services needed by the customer."

Central to Felder's new strategy is the airport expansion programme which got underway just a few weeks ago. Kloten is to get a brand new docking terminal, additional hangars and rail links increasing its capacity to 320,000 passengers.

"Without increasing our commercial space, making the airport more attractive by building new lounges, new shops, we can't meet customer demands," says Felder.

Over the past year, Kloten has gained a reputation for delays and cancellations that Felder regrets. He says he will do all he can to change the perception but, wisely perhaps, he is not promising any miracles.

"The reputation is bad and it will be the main focus of the new company to do everything possible to avoid delays, but we have to be realistic. A lot of delays are caused by the organisation of European air traffic systems and we can't solve that problem but we can do a lot at the airport itself."

With European air traffic set to increase even more over the coming years, the pressure on Felder and Kloten will be immense.

By Michael Hollingdale

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