Schengen security to inflate Zurich airport tax

Security costs have soared at Zurich airport since the September 11 attacks Keystone

Passengers at Zurich airport are going to have to foot part of the bill for the huge costs to get the airport ready for the EU's borderless travel zone.

This content was published on February 20, 2007 - 19:40

Improved security and redevelopment at Kloten in Zurich will cost SFr300 million over three years, and airport passengers will have to pay an extra SFr4 ($3.20) extra in duties from July.

Airport operators, Unique, announced restructuring plans to create separate Schengen and non-Schengen passengers on Tuesday.

Swiss voters agreed to relax border controls with other Schengen area member states in June, 2005. Switzerland plans to implement the agreement in the autumn of 2008, by which time Unique intends to have a new bus gate ready for use.

The former B terminal, which is currently being used as an entertainment centre and for corporate events, will be restructured to cope with the division of passengers by the end of 2009 along with a new centralised passport control and security control.

Half of the costs will be met with existing funds and the other half via loans taken out on the capital market. The increased passenger tax is necessary to meet repayments on these loans, Unique said.

From July 1 passengers will be advised what portion of the levy relates to security, refinancing the infrastructure and noise pollution charges. Although the price increase is described as a security charge, some of that hike will be used to pay for the new infrastructure costs, Unique confirmed.

Security fund

The timescale for the changes is dependent on exactly when Switzerland implements the Schengen agreement and on the results of a people's initiative later this year that proposes flight restrictions at the airport to reduce noise pollution.

Geneva airport will spend some SFr60 million on redevelopment to meet Schengen standards between now and 2009, but will keep its tax at a flat Sfr19 per passenger, a spokesman said.

The Swiss federal authorities last week proposed setting up a central fund to pay for security costs at all Swiss airports.

Under the proposal, the airports would have the power to levy a separate security charge from passengers that would be paid into the state supervised fund. This would shift the burden of security costs from the airports directly onto passengers.

From July every SFr15.50 of the SFr41.50 in airport tax charged to local passengers at Zurich airport will be devoted to safety measures. If a separate security charge is introduced, the money will be collected via airport duties as before, but would be directed into a central fund.

A previous idea to divert tax revenues on aircraft fuel from road maintenance to airport security are still on the table, but have been criticised as being insufficient to cover costs.

Security costs have soared to more than SFr100million at the airport since the terrorist attacks in 2001 and the recent restrictions on liquids in hand luggage.

swissinfo, Matthew Allen with agencies

In brief

The 1985 Schengen Treaty aimed to create an area where individuals could travel freely from country to country, and was signed by five EU members: Belgium, Germany, France, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

It was subsequently adopted by most other member states, plus Iceland, Norway and Switzerland.

Although most Schengen countries require citizens to carry identity cards, the removal of frontier controls on most internal EU borders has made it much easier for criminals to travel undetected into different legal jurisdictions - and to evade prosecution.

This has led to significant efforts to develop co-operation between prosecutors and investigators, notably in the field of extradition.

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Key facts

Breakdown of Zurich airport taxes for local passengers:
SFr21 general airport tax
SFr5 noise pollution charge
SFr11 for security costs (to be increased to SFr15.50 from July 1)
Total: SFr37 (to be increased to SFr41.50)

Transfer passengers:
SFr8 airport tax
SFr5 noise pollution charge
SFr8 for security costs (to be raised to SFr11)
Total: SFr21 (to be raised to SFr24)

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