Whether it be for a holiday or to visit family and friends, expats are well-accustomed to travelling through airports. Switzerland has a long history of aviation, with the first plane landing on Swiss soil in May 1910. Since then, several large airports have been established to service all parts of Switzerland.
They benefit from a strong integration with public transport, with many of them having large terminals for trains, trams and buses. They mainly serve the cities of Switzerland, but due to strong public transport links, you are never too far away.
Is Switzerland in the Schengen area?
Switzerland is part of the Schengen area, meaning that European citizens and those travelling into a Swiss airport from EU countries do not have to face extensive border checks or customs duties. This allows for seamless travel between Switzerland and the EU. If you have arrived from a non-EU country, you will have to submit to a passport check and possibly apply for a visa.
Commercial airports in Switzerland
Overall, there are seven airports in Switzerland that receive regular international travel. Switzerland's commercial airports receive more than 57 million passengers each year in total, with some being used as connecting hubs for transfer passengers. Below you will find a list of all seven airports, listed in order of passenger numbers.
Constructed in 1947, Zurich Airport is the largest airport in Switzerland. Built after the decommissioning of Dübendorf Airport as a commercial airport, the new airport boasts three large runways and four terminals, capable of accommodating the largest aircraft available. It is now a major hub for Swiss airlines and a connecting hub for Star Alliance, as well as the airport for the largest city in Switzerland, Zurich.
The airport receives around 30 million passengers a year, meaning that over half of flight passengers in Switzerland pass through the airport. It is a hub for business and holiday travel, with multiple international airlines serving destinations around the world. The longest flight you can take is a nonstop route to Buenos Aires, Argentina, an impressive 7.000 kilometres away.
Genève Aéroport was converted from a grass aerodrome in 1937. After several runway and terminal expansions, the airport serves the French region of Switzerland and its largest city Geneva. The airport has 17 million passengers passing through its doors each year. The airport has one large runway and is a prime destination for shopping and leisure.
The airport has various international destinations, reaching as far as the USA and China. It has also more recently become a hotspot for budget airlines, offering seasonal services to some of the best holiday destinations in Europe and beyond.
One of the strangest facts about Swiss airports is that the third most used airport in Switzerland technically isn’t in Switzerland. The airport was opened in May 1946 to serve the northern cantons and the Alsace region of France.
It sits on the French side of a three-pronged border between France, Germany and Switzerland, close to the city of Basel. Due to a special arrangement, it was agreed that half of the terminal would be French and the other half Swiss, demarcated by a passport post to pass between the two. However, due to the Schengen agreement, this is now a red line that cuts the terminal in half, which passengers can hop across freely.
The airport is a haven for budget airlines that serve wide-ranging destinations in Europe and abroad. It is also the home of EasyJet Switzerland and the official headquarters of Swiss. It serves around 9 million passengers a year, its most popular route being from Basel to airports in the Netherlands.
Designed to serve the Italian-speaking area of Switzerland, Lugano Airport was converted into a commercial hub in the 1960s. The airport used to have regular services to Zurich, Geneva and Basel, but due to faster rail services and increased costs, the airport now only has semi-regular services to holiday destinations. As of 2019, it serves 190.000 passengers a year.
Bern Airport is situated to the south of the Swiss capital and is within sight of the Swiss mountains. Originally tasked with serving the government and people of Switzerland, the airport now provides seasonal services for holidaymakers from Bern and central Switzerland, serving destinations in Germany and Greece. It also offers private charter services to many European capitals.
St. Gallen-Altenrhein Airport
St. Gallen-Altenrhein Airport is a new addition to commercial airports in Switzerland. Originally a private airport near St. Gallen on the banks of Lake Constance, the airport is now home to Austrian airline People’s, which offers regular services to Vienna, alongside seasonal routes to the Canary Islands and southern Italy.
In the heart of Valais, Sion Airport was opened as a regional hub in 1935, designed to take pressure off the larger airports in Geneva and Basel. The airport used to have regular services to London Heathrow and Mediterranean destinations, however these services are yet to be resumed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Alongside large international airports, Switzerland is home to a handful of domestic airlines. Once a closed market to new ventures, there are now several airlines based in Switzerland that provide competition.
The official flag carrier of Switzerland, Swiss International Air Lines (SWISS) was formed after Swissair was put into administration in 2002. The company has operated ever since with a high level of quality and service. In 2005, SWISS was taken over by the Lufthansa Group and joined Star Alliance in 2006. This has led to a large and interconnected network of services, covering all the inhabited continents. The airline currently has over 90 aircraft and hundreds of destinations to choose from. The company also has a joint agreement with Helvetic Airways, which run some European flights in collaboration with SWISS.
Edelweiss Air is a holiday airline and sister carrier to SWISS. It was founded in 1995 to offer short-haul flights to holiday destinations, but more recently the company has started to offer package holidays to Europe, America, the Middle East and Asia. It now operates a fleet of 14 aircraft and has agreements with several hotel chains around the world.
Chair Airlines is an airline founded in 2019 to serve destinations in eastern Europe and the Middle East. It offers regular services to Bulgaria, Greece, Tunisia and Turkey from its hub in Zurich. It now operates two aircraft and has started to expand its holiday destination network.
Private airports in Switzerland
Alongside commercial airports, Switzerland has a diverse array of regional airports. These are airports that can be used for charter services and private planes:
- Flugplatz Birrfeld, Canton Aargau
- Interlaken Airport, Canton Bern (Now decommissioned)
- Gstaad Airport, Canton Bern
- St Stephan Airfield, Canton Bern
- Aérodrome Régional Fribourg-Ecuvillens, Canton Fribourg
- Aérodrome de la Gruyère, Canton Fribourg
- Engadin Airport, Canton Graubunden
- Les Eplatures Airport, Canton Neuchatel
- Neuchâtel Airport, Canton Neuchatel
- Buochs Airport, Canton Nidwalden
- AIRPORT GRENCHEN, Canton Solothurn
- Ambri Airport, Canton Ticino
- Locarno Airport, Canton Ticino
- AeroBex Aérodrome Bex Chablais, Canton Vaud
- Aéroport de Lausanne, Canton Vaud
- Dübendorf Airport, Canton Zurich