Zurich Airport is undergoing a series of developments to cater to growing passenger volumes. Credit: Rama.
The Circle is a mixed-use complex under construction at the airport. Credit: Flughafen Zürich AG.
The airport handled more than 31 million passengers in 2019. Credit: Hansueli Krapf.

Zurich Airport, the largest international airport in Switzerland, is undergoing a series of developments to meet future air travel demand.

Operated by Flughafen Zürich, the international airport is currently carrying out the Zone West project, which mainly aims at improving aviation hangar space.

The airport is also expanding the baggage sorting system, constructing a new retail and commercial space called The Circle, expanding landside passenger zones, and developing the nearby Glatt area.

The Swiss airport served approximately 31.5 million passengers, handled 451,827t of cargo and witnessed 275,329 flight movements in 2019.

Zurich airport Zone West project details

The Zone West project will cover an area of 16.8ha and will create a new terminal building for business aviation. The increased hangar facilities will accommodate larger aircraft and the project will also include apron expansion and development of infrastructure for the maintenance of aircraft.

The airport expansion project is being carried out in two phases, 1.1 and 1.2. Two new stands with the capacity to accommodate up to category E aircraft such as Boeing 777 or Airbus A340 started operations in October 2017.

Phase 1.2 will include nearly 10ha of new paved surfaces to the west side of the new stands. It will involve the construction of stands to the south to serve Code C and Code E aircraft.

A 750m-long expansion to Rohrstrasse will facilitate the landside infrastructure for the Zone West building. In addition, the project will develop logistics buildings and parking facilities. The expansion of the existing apron requires the relocation of the viewing platform on the aircraft spotters’ hill and the Heli Grill to about 300m north of the existing location.

The new business aviation terminal building will extend across 22,400m² area and have a maximum height of 30m. The planning application for the construction of the new building was submitted in January 2020 and approval is anticipated by the end of the year. Construction on the new infrastructure is expected to start in 2023.

The works on the extension of the apron under phase 1.2 commenced in March 2020 and the new stands are expected to start operations in 2022.

Baggage sorting system

The baggage sorting system (GSA) is being upgraded and expanded as key parts of the system are reaching the end of their operational life. The existing baggage security systems will be replaced to meet the requirements of the new European Union (EU) regulations. The estimated investment in the project is approximately Sfr470m ($493.3m) and the new system will improve the handling capacity to more than 16,000 bags every hour, upon commissioning.

The project will be implemented in stages and the ground-breaking ceremony was held in March 2018. The first stage of the baggage system modernisation commenced in October 2019, while the last stage in Dock E is slated for completion in 2025.

The underground transport system, which is used to transport baggage from check-in 2 and check-in 3 areas to the sorting station, will be replaced by an improved system.

The Circle at Zurich Airport

Zurich airport is constructing a unique business and lifestyle destination, known as The Circle, with over 180,000m² of floor space. The foundation stone for the project was laid in March 2017 and the public areas, including restaurants and shops, will become operational officially in November 2020.

The complex is being built by a joint venture owned by Flughafen Zürich (51%) and Swiss Life (49%). It will have the capacity to conduct a conference for up to 2,500 guests. Flughafen Zürich shifted to its new headquarters in The Circle in May 2020.

The Circle is a mixed-use building and will feature offices, two Hyatt hotels (Hyatt Regency and Hyatt Place) along with a convention centre, health clinic, retail brands, art and culture, restaurants as well as educational facilities.

The building is expected to serve 150,000 people a day and will house workplaces occupying over 70,000m². Tenants at the location will include Microsoft, Unispace Global, and SAP and agreements for five of the six buildings at The Circle were reached by June 2020.

Other developments at the international airport

The airport is also renovating its runway 10/28, which is scheduled for opening in 2021. A new transformer station was erected at the intersection to enable electricity supply for the ground lighting system.

The airport authorities will implement upgrades to the northern part of the landside Airport Center to accommodate passenger growth. The expansion of the landside facilities is expected to be completed in 2024 and will mainly redesign passenger areas on levels G0 and G1. Shopping and dining facilities will be developed along the newly developed routes as part of the landside passenger area improvements. The Circle is planned to be connected with the Airport Center via an underground passage.

Contractors involved

A consortium of Leonardo and motion06 secured a €150m ($175.3m) contract to refurbish the existing baggage handling system.

HRS Real Estate is responsible for the construction of The Circle at Zurich airport, while Riken Yamamoto & Field Shop is the architect. Schindler was selected to provide 86 elevators for The Circle.