Zürich Airport ready for takeoff with MeteoGroup

Flughafen Kloten in Zürich is Switzerland's biggest airport with an annual total of 270.000 flight movements. Every year it is the point of departure or arrival for over 30 million passengers, with direct connections to 185 destinations in over 72 countries. It is also the airport that, over the last 15 years, consistently took home the prestigious World Travel Award for its customer-friendliness and high quality. For an airport, high quality means more than just clean bathrooms, good restaurants, and nice shopping. Above all, it means delivering smooth and reliable flight operations, under all weather conditions. MeteoGroup helps Flughafen Zürich AG with precise weather forecasts to prepare itself for the ever-changing winter conditions.

Winter operations at Zurich Airport


Winter weather (especially snow and frost) is a major challenge for all operating partners at Zurich Airport. In order to guarantee smooth operations, a tightly organized process is in place where the various organisations closely cooperate and coordinate their efforts, with the help of one single source of information on one single platform: MeteoGroup RoadMaster.

At Zürich Airport the "Snow Committee" and "De-icing Coordination" units control and monitor all processes relating to winter operations and aircraft de-icing. Although Flughafen Zurich AG coordinates the management and holds responsibility, the ultimate outcome is the result of a close cooperation with a wide variety of partners, such as handling agents (Swissport, Dnata, AAS), airlines (incl. hub carrier SWISS), SR Technics, Skyguide, and the airport.

On the part of FZAG, the responsibility for de-icing falls to the Head of De-icing Coordination, located within Airport Steering. FZAG's Airport Authority is responsible for ensuring that runways, taxiways and aprons are always cleared promptly.

Winter Services, a department of FZAG's Airfield Maintenance, is responsible for clearing snow and de-icing all areas used for flight operations (runways, taxiways, stands and apron areas), and also all roads and parking facilities at the airport, both airside and landside. This includes making aircraft de-icing equipment available and treating all wastewater from de-icing operations.

Runway clearing carried out during operating hours is coordinated by FZAG's Winter Ops Coordinator with all other parties involved. The Coordinator also leads the Snow Committee telephone conferences. Central in all decision making are the weather forecasts as provided by MeteoGroup.

Safety and Environment


Dr.-Ing. Veit Voges, Project Leader Flight Ops Engineering, explains just how FZAG uses MeteoGroup: « In Zürich we are faced with interesting weather conditions. The location of the airport is such that in winter we are frequently dealing with snow, ice, fog, and rain. In summer we face heavy thunderstorms and local easterly winds due to the mountain influence. This, in combination with a layout of the runways that is quite sensitive to the weather circumstances and a high number of incoming and outgoing flights each hour, means that adequate weather forecasts are essential to plan for safe and efficient operations. On average we can handle about 60-70 flight movements per hour with the runway system. But that’s only under good circumstances. Where possible we have to adapt to unfavorable circumstances by making sure runways are cleared in time and airplanes are properly de-iced, without sending out the crews too soon. Careful planning and anticipation are crucial. These activities do not only cost money, but they also have substantial environmental impacts.»

Last year alone, aircraft de-icing at Zürich Airport used nearly 2000 m3 of water, whilst surface de-icing used another 1,300 m3. The amount of de-icing salts in 2017 came to 492 tons. No little amounts, so cautious use is required.

One single source, one single platform


«We started using MeteoGroup in 2015», Voges continues. «At that moment all the different teams and departments within FZAG used different sources for their weather info, and any coordinated action was really difficult. Now we have a single platform with a very good presentation, easy to read and understandable for all users. An additional benefit was that we could incorporate our existing runway sensors in the MeteoGroup RoadMaster system and upload their data to come up with a more complete picture. The website, as well as the app, are easy to use and to configure and in our Operations Center there is a large screen continuously displaying the latest MeteoGroup weather information, including precipitation and lightning maps, all in a way that makes the most important information easily visible.  It’s a single source of accurate information that makes our winter operations smooth, efficient and above all safe.»

“We use MeteoGroup for all weather information, in the broadest sense: from runway conditions to thunderstorm, wind and storm warnings. For strategic planning as well as for the day to day operations. We focus on the short- and medium-term (1-5 days) forecasts. The short-term forecasts (during operations) include e.g. temperature history/prediction and precipitation radar. With regards to de-icing we look specifically at local temperatures in combination with the type of precipitation.”  

“Accurate and good weather forecasting is essential for day-to-day operations to detect weather conditions early and to raise awareness. This will ultimately bring a safety benefit. For example, a precise wind or thunderstorm warning can initiate a handling stop so dispatching material can be secured and people avoid open spaces so that no accidents occur. A reliable forecast also can release the handling stop, so we don’t have to conservatively limit our ground handling process.”

“The fact that all FZAG internal teams now use the same data source, results in a harmonized, efficient process, for all our users and thus for all our customers, passengers as well as freight companies. This means we’re really happy with the MeteoGroup service, its accuracy, speed, and presentation qualities.

All photos courtesy of Flughafen Zürich AG

In our Operations Center there is a large screen continuously displaying the latest MeteoGroup weather information, including precipitation and lightning maps, all in a way that makes the most important information easily visible.  It’s a single source of accurate information that makes our winter operations smooth, efficient and above all safe.