Flight delays at Zurich Airport skyrocket in 2022 and 2023

Flight delays at Zurich Airport skyrocket in 2022 and 2023

New data released by Zurich Airport has revealed that only two-thirds of flights leaving the city took off on time in 2022 and the start of 2023. The number of delayed services at the largest airport in Switzerland has increased significantly since March 2022, with the recent security disruption in 2023 adding to an already “below quality” punctuality record for the year ahead.

Zurich Airport sees punctuality rate fall

According to the data, released by Watson, 66,4 percent of flights leaving Zurich took off within 15 minutes of their official departure time in 2022. This means that around 35.700 flights - around 3,7 million passengers - took off late last year.

A spokesperson for the airport told the newspaper that they are currently running “below our quality standards.” The latest numbers for 2023 don’t show much improvement, with the punctuality rate remaining around 68 percent for the first quarter of the year. Watson explained that in previous years, punctuality rates have ranged from 71 to 86 percent, making 2022 and 2023 some of the worst years on record.

European disruption leads to delays in Zurich and Geneva

Authorities explained that the number of delayed flights in Zurich began to rise in March 2022, as COVID restrictions were on the verge of being lifted and passengers flocked back to destinations for the first time since 2019. This culminated in dramatic delays across Europe which saw nearly half of flights leaving Zurich in June delayed by more than 15 minutes.

The spokesperson for Zurich Airport explained that both it and the airport in Geneva are surrounded by other nations’ airspace - (under) staffed by workers who were regularly on strike in 2022 over salaries and working conditions. This meant that while Swiss airports were not directly affected by industrial action and staff shortages, disruption seen in France, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands had knock-on effects on punctuality, bag deliveries and connecting flights in the alpine nation.

Zurich Airport faces NATO exercises and staff shortages

In 2023, staff shortages at Schiphol have been replaced by worker shortages in Zurich, leading to hours-long queues for security during Easter. The spokesperson acknowledged that they are “stressed to the limit” at peak times, explaining that they are often forced to hold planes for delayed passengers, “Which has a negative impact on our punctuality values.”

The spokesperson concluded that the current delays are what we should "expect given general conditions,” and promised that they would prioritise certain flights to make sure passengers make their connections on time. Watson added that the worst may be yet to come, with the planned NATO exercises in June set to bring “massive delays and missed connecting flights” to Zurich, according to one industry insider.

Thumb image credit: / 2p2play

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Editor for Switzerland at IamExpat Media. Jan studied History at the University of York and Broadcast Journalism at the University of Sheffield. Though born in York, Jan has lived most...

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