Swiss airports ready for forum traffic

 - December 18, 2006, 12:53 PM

Zurich-area airports are preparing to receive a vast influx of business jets bringing high-ranking executives, politicians and celebrities to the annual World Economic Forum, held in the exclusive Swiss city of Davos. Flight planners and FBOs are advising corporate and charter crews to make handling and parking arrangements early to avoid inconvenience.

This year’s forum will be held from January 24 to 28, and the inevitable airport congestion is likely to begin a day or two earlier. At the main gateway, Zurich Airport, Swissport Executive Aviation (see box above) manager Tiziano Rosa advised operators to book parking spaces early or risk having to reposition aircraft to other airports after dropping off passengers.

There is no airport close to the Alpine resort and Zurich is almost 100 miles away. The only other viable airports for the traffic are St. Gallen-Altenrhein (70 miles away) and Friedrichshafen in southern Germany (90 miles).

Last January, St. Gallen-Altenrhein saw a 120-percent increase in traffic as more corporate operators tried to avoid the crush at Zurich. The airport’s 4,920-foot runway can accommodate aircraft up to the size of the G550, Global Express and Falcon 900.

St. Gallen has about 45 aircraft parking spaces available. In theory, attendees can book charter helicopter services to make the connection to Davos. However, in practice, slots can be a major problem–mainly because of the intense air security the Swiss military maintains during the forum.

Switzerland’s rail services are another option. However, the journey requires a change of trains at a local station that is often a focal point for political demonstrators. Most delegates, therefore, arrive by road, so it is advisable to book ground transportation service ahead of time.