Civil aviation

A plane with clouds in the background.
The agreement governs access for Swiss air carriers to Europe's deregulated civil aviation market. © Rolf Weiss

The 1999 Agreement on Air Transport governs access for Swiss air carriers to Europe's deregulated civil aviation market. It grants them commercial flying rights in Europe without discrimination, placing them on a largely equal footing with their EU competitors. For example, Swiss air carriers are free to choose their destinations and set their own fares, with their choice of aircraft on any given route. For passengers, this has resulted in lower air fares over the years and a wider choice of connections to many new destinations.

Before the Agreement on Air Transport was signed in 1999, Switzerland had a multitude of individual aviation agreements with almost all EU member states at the time. These bilateral agreements are today superseded by the Agreement on Air Transport with the EU. The provisions of the previous agreements now only apply where their scope or the rights they establish are wider than those in the Swiss-EU Agreement on Air Transport.

This agreement came into force during a very turbulent period in the air transport industry, following the grounding of Swissair on 2 October 2001. Since then, the barriers to accessing the European market – a contributory factor in Swissair's collapse – have been progressively removed. As of 1 June 2004 the agreement also allows Swiss air carriers to operate flights between two EU member states.

Agreement on Air Transport: same conditions for Swiss and EU air carriers

The Agreement on Air Transport secures Swiss air carriers practically the same competitive conditions as their EU counterparts. This is crucial for their survival in the fiercely competitive airline industry. Under the agreement, Swiss carriers can fly to the destinations of their choice with aircraft of any size, which allows for greater efficiency in fleet utilisation and lower operating costs. And as they are no longer subject to price regulation, they can now set their own fares.

Conversely, the opening of Swiss skies to foreign airlines has increased competition and resulted in many new international routes. Various existing routes are now also served by other European airlines, which benefited equally from the agreement. Low-cost carriers, in particular, have increased their market share considerably. For passengers, this has led to lower fares over the years as well as more and better flight connections. Almost 70% of the 31 million passengers on scheduled and charter flights from Switzerland travel to a European destination.

Chronology

  • 01.06.2002: Entry into force of the Agreement
  • 21.05.2000: Approval of the Agreement by the electorate in the popular vote on the Bilateral Agreements I (67.2% in favour)
  • 21.06.1999: Signing of the Agreement (in the framework of Bilateral Agreements I)