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Night flights answer to Euro 08 bed shortage

Keystone

Euro 2008 fans without accommodation will be able to fly home straight after matches after the government lifted restrictions on night flights.

This content was published on April 12, 2008 - 10:54

The move came in response to a chronic beds shortage that threatened to leave fans walking the streets until airports opened. But canton Zurich has criticised the decision as it faces more uproar over noise pollution.

Hotels, guest houses, private accommodation and even camp sites in host cities Zurich, Geneva, Bern and Basel are already overbooked for the tournament as demand for beds continues unabated.

The authorities feared public order problems with drunken fans wandering around city centres after matches.

The government responded to the problem on Thursday by temporarily lifting normal night flight restrictions to allow aircraft to take fans back home between the hours of 10pm and 6am.

Airlines can now apply to the aviation authorities to fill a permitted 20 slots per match day at each of the host cities.

The authorities in Geneva and Bern accepted the deal, and those in Basel must reach a separate agreement with France as the Mulhouse airport sits on French soil and is jointly operated by both countries.

However, Zurich officials reacted angrily, saying the decision-making process was "dishonourable" and lacking in transparency. The canton believes it was duped after previous discussions with the federal transport ministry had not mentioned such high numbers of flights.

The canton's president Rita Fuhrer accused the government of sweeping the security problem under the carpet for others to trip over. "This has shifted the responsibility onto us at the last minute," she fumed.

Noise saga

At the heart of Zurich's complaint lies an ongoing problem of aircraft noise pollution that has generated a headache for those living in the vicinity of Switzerland's biggest airport.

Traffic in and out of Zurich airport has been growing steadily over the past few years and was made worse in 2003 when Germany banned night and weekend flights over its southern territory. The resulting aircraft had to be rerouted to new flight paths over the canton.

A people's initiative last year rejected a proposal to cap flight movements to 250,000 a year, instead adopting a less severe noise pollution index to restrict disturbance.

A number of households have begun to sue the airport for noise pollution damages. The first test cases won their argument in February and the airport fears total damages could peak at SFr1.2 billion.

The government decision applies only to planes with more than 95 seats to avoid private VIP jets exploiting the relaxed restrictions. In contrast, aircraft with at least 28 seats may apply for permission to take off.

Zurich, though, is demanding that fans get to the airport and depart by 2am.

swissinfo with agencies

Euro 2008 in Switzerland

Switzerland will co-host the Euro 2008 football tournament together with Austria between June 7 to June 29.

The 31 games will be played in four cities in Switzerland (Basel, Bern, Geneva and Zurich) and four cities in Austria (Innsbruck, Klagenfurt, Salzburg and Vienna).

The Letzigrund stadium in Zurich will play host to three matches: Romania - France on June 9, Italy - Romania on June 13 and France - Italy on June 17.

Up to 5.4 million football fans are expected to follow the tournament in Switzerland, including 1.4 million from abroad.

The Swiss Federal Railways has announced it will put on an extra 3,800 services to its timetable and deploy 1,500 special customer advisors during the tournament.

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