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Deregulation of air traffic

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Project Acronym
D8 (NRP 41)
STRIA Roadmaps
Network and traffic management systems (NTM)
Transport mode
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Transport policies
Societal/Economic issues


Background & Policy context

The NRP 41 was launched by the Federal Council at the end of 1995 to improve the scientific basis on which Switzerland's traffic problems might be solved, taking into account the growing interconnection with Europe, ecological limits, and economic and social needs. The NRP 41 aimed to become a think-tank for sustainable transport policy. Each one of the 54 projects belongs to one of the following six modules:

  • A Mobility: Socio-institutional Aspects
  • B Mobility: Socio-economical Aspects
  • C Environment: Tools and Models for Impact Assessments
  • D Political and Economic Strategies and Prerequisites
  • E Traffic Management: Potentials and Impacts
  • F Technologies: Potentials and Impacts
  • M Materials
  • S Synthesis Projects

The project 'Air Transport Deregulation Effects for Switzerland' investigates the possible effects which might be produced by the air transport deregulation in Europe, such as:

  • The effects on the structure of the uniform European market (Chap. 1);
  • The effects on the market opportunities for Swiss airlines (Chap. 2);
  • The effects on the position of the Swiss intercontinental airports and regional aerodromes (Chap. 3 and 4);
  • The effects on the Swiss railway traffic (Chap. 5), and;
  • The effects on the environmental capacity of Swiss airports (Chap. 6).

The objectives of the project are to:

  1. Document the deregulation process in Europe and Switzerland according to its main features;
  2. State the parameters of development in air transport;
  3. Fathom the consequences of deregulation for airlines;
  4. Represent the development of the Swiss international airports and national aerodromes during the past ten years;
  5. Analyse the interaction of air transportation with other transportation systems; as well as
  6. Expose the environmental effects and the possibilities of a transportation management.

Publications, reports, and research results were viewed and respectively worked off, and existing databases were analysed (secondary analysis). Several aspects, have been examined, such as:

  • Deregulation's scenarios;
  • The market (structure, costs, prices, schedules);
  • The expected air traffic volume;
  • The market position of Swiss airports.


Parent Programmes
Institution Type
Public institution
Institution Name
Swiss National Science Foundation SNF
Type of funding
Public (national/regional/local)


Seven sections of the bilateral treaties between Switzerland and the European Union are paragraphed. The treaties's ratification is arranged and the agreement should come into force by 2001.


So it should be possible for Switzerland to participate in the European air transport liberalisation, but comparing the European Union and EEA, the regulated Swiss air transport market currently presents itself more monopolistic. Competition is decisive for lower fares and higher flight frequencies. A comparatively high flight price level can be observed in the regulated, oligopolistic air transport market between Switzerland and the EU.


Due to additional traffic rights and market accessibility for regional airlines, liberalisation should also lead to the introduction of new direct flights. The international airports Zurich, Geneva and the regional aerodrome of Bern are forming a uniform subsystem of the Swiss civil aviation. Looking at the proceedings of the deregulation process in the European civil aviation market, this benefit of co-operation might be lost, because this kind of Swiss city connection is no longer important for the framing of the scheduled flights.


In the short term, Switzerland's participation in the European deregulation will show only a weak, and in the middle term a stronger impulse on the growth rate. Because the growth rate is already strong without deregulation, the effect of deregulation can be neglected, respectively it will not be observable over a longer period of time. Zurich's immediate competitors with respect to traffic volume and structure are the airports of Paris ORY, Munich MUC, and Brussels BRU in passenger transport, as well as Luxembourg LUX and Cologne CGN in cargo transport. The extension of high-speed rail transport in Europe will not have a strong effect on Swiss air transport.


As seen from Switzerland, only a few destinations (Paris, Brussels, Cologne, Duesseldorf) will have a realistic chance that the rail-journey time will become shorter than the journey time by air. The railways will profit from a liberalisation-induced air traffic growth by transporting more passengers to the airports.

Policy implications

The question about policy implementation is two-folded. What should politics do, if they want to reduce environmental impacts drastically? What must they do, if they want to strengthen the Swiss airports' and airlines' positions? The cutting point of this question is the environmental capacity of an airport, thus clearly spoken, the environmental capacity is that capacity, which an airport concedes by the political means of environmental reasons. In most cases, the environmental capacity is set lower than the runway capacity whereby multiple antagonism between the society, the aviation industry, the airport authority, and the state occur. If the environmental capacity is low, then the position of an airport in the global competition will be weak, which can also restrict the competitiveness of airlines.



  1. Promotion of an indicator-system: The investigation in the unwanted effects requires certain indicators and data-bases. A thorough analysis of existing material shows some research lacks. A principal problem of the empirical analysis is that present traffic statistics are insufficient to investigate in such research questions.
  2. Development of air traffic management: Air traffic management uses the environmental policy's action margin in a way that legal limits for environmental effects can be guaranteed. The action margin of environmental policy is defined by the set of alternatives for the alleviation of environmental effects, e.g. emission-bound landing-taxes, limitation of night-flights, subsidies for noise-reducing windows in the airport's vicinity etc. This definition doesn't mean that each single airport always has such a number of different advantages. The limits are set by the means of secure, efficient, and economic air traffic control.
  3. Clarification and legitimation of the proceedings for an air-traffic management: An airport can be evaluated by its capacity. The capacity refers to an airport's ability handling a particular traffic volume (demand). The capacity is that limit which cannot be surpassed. In order to reduce the noise impact and air pollut-ants, there are two voluntary measures:
    - technical improvement of engines and aircraft configuration;
    - operational means at the airports.
  4. Tension reduction between the airport-system and the residents: In addition to the technology-orientated mea


Lead Organisation
EU Contribution
Partner Organisations
EU Contribution


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