NATO exercise set to disrupt passenger flights in Switzerland
In the skies of Europe between June 12 and 23, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation or NATO will be conducting the largest air force exercise the alliance has ever attempted. According to a new report by the Federal Office of Civil Aviation, passengers flying out of Swiss airports should expect disruption to flights during the exercise.
Air Defender 23: The largest NATO air exercise in history
Between June 12 and 23, 2023, NATO will launch a training operation across Europe called Air Defender 23. The largest air exercise in the organisation’s history, the operation will involve 220 aircraft from 24 NATO members, with around 10.000 ground, air and support troops participating.
According to the website of the German Army (Bundeswehr), the exercise is designed to “optimise and enhance cooperation among NATO forces and to show the strength of the alliance.” With the war in Ukraine continuing unabated, and with China showing increasing hostility towards Taiwan, the show of force - or sabre rattling to critics - is expected to showcase what reaction there would be if a NATO member finds itself under fire.
NATO exercise to cause disruption to passenger flights in Europe
The air exercise is due to take place in Schleswig-Holstein, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Lower Saxony, Rhineland-Palatinate, the Netherlands and Czechia. However, the majority of the action will be seen in the skies above Lachfeld in Bavaria.
While Switzerland and the Swiss Army will not be directly participating in the exercise - as the country is not a member of NATO because of its strict policy of neutrality - significant airspace in southern Germany will be closed to commercial flights for a significant part of the exercise. This is expected to have knock-on effects on flights across Germany and the rest of Europe.
How will the NATO exercise affect Switzerland?
Speaking to 20 Minuten, the Federal Office of Civil Aviation noted that the heart of the NATO exercise will be just 120 kilometres north of the Swiss border, meaning passenger flights from Switzerland are likely to be affected. On weekdays during the exercise - air space will be open on the weekend - airspace closures “may result in disruptions to civil scheduled air traffic, in particular to and from Zurich,” a spokesperson said.
“Longer flight times, delays or even cancellations cannot be ruled out across Europe, especially in the event of bad weather,” the spokesperson said. Passengers looking to travel during these dates are advised to stay regularly updated with their airline regarding cancellations and time changes. Private and general aviation traffic is also likely to be affected by the exercise.
For more information about the exercise itself, check out the Bundeswehr website.
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