Swiss airport offers fly-in banking

 - September 13, 2006, 4:16 PM

The small airport of St. Gallen-Altenrhein in eastern Switzerland is using fly-in banking to attract more well heeled travelers. Cdr. Bud Slabbaert, who is in charge of business aviation development at Altenrhein, said the appeal of the airport is that it does not have the slot problems, crowding or delays that plague larger airports.

There are no ramp-side counters or branch offices at the airport itself. However, according to Slabbaert, wealthy individuals “come to Switzerland for banking purposes anyway. We just try to make things as easy and comfortable as possible for them.” He facilitates meetings with representatives from major banks in the airport’s new business center and arranges limousine transportation to nearby branch offices. He also works with TAG Aviation and NetJets to arrange flights as needed.

Business aviation movements at the airport during the first half of this year are up by 94 percent over the same period last year, because more executive travelers have discovered Altenrhein as a convenient alternative to Zurich, at least for business meetings east of the city.

The airport has a single 4,920-foot-long runway with a Category I ILS on Runway 10. It is one hour’s drive from Zurich but is the closest airport to Lichtenstein and close also to Davos, of World Economic Forum fame. Pilatus has a maintenance center at Altenrhein specializing in business aircraft.

Because of the short distance to Zurich, Altenrhein is unlikely to become clogged with airline traffic. Tyrolean Airways operates three daily links with Vienna, and some holiday charters also originate at Altenrhein.

The airport was privatized three years ago and belongs to Dutch investors who see potential for developing business aviation in the prosperous region of eastern Switzerland.