Swiss Efficiency at the Zurich Airport

by Nancy Bestor

When I think of Switzerland, one word comes to mind – efficient. A person can set their watch by the arrival or departure of any Swiss train, as they are always on time. You can get anywhere in the country, even to the peak of the mighty Jungfrau, on public transportation. Switzerland’s public spaces (parks, buildings, and even public toilets) are designed to be efficient in every sense–energy, space, water, etc.

The Zurich airport lives up to these examples of efficiency, as my family was delighted to discover this past summer. We traveled through Zurich on our way to northern Italy, flying from Medford, through Denver and then Boston.

In Zurich, we walked just one floor below the airport arrivals level right to the Swiss Rail station. We picked up our tickets at a kiosk, and then headed on our way, catching a train just 20 minutes after we walked off the plane. It was on our return to the Zurich airport however, that we experienced the best of the airport’s Swiss efficiency. We printed our boarding passes at a Swiss Air kiosk, and then sailed quickly through security, with all our carry-on bags. There were eight security stations open, each staffed by at least six courteous airport employees. There was no line and we breezed through without having to remove our shoes (which begs the question, “Why do we have to take our shoes off for security in the United States, but not in other countries?”). There was no full body scan, just the basic metal detector for us and an x-ray for our bags.

At our gate, where we went through passport control (here each of our boarding passes were stamped after our passports were checked), our 15-year-old daughter Sarah was randomly selected for an additional screening. She went behind a partition where a Swiss Air employee went through her carry on suitcase and purse. This too was done courteously and efficiently.

But the icing on the cake occurred while we waited to board our plane. I was approached by a Zurich airport employee and asked if I would be willing to take a survey on my experiences that day at the airport. I complied and answered several questions (answers were on a scale of 1 to 10) about printing my boarding pass, passing through security, finding my gate, and more. I was repeatedly asked for ways I would recommend these experiences be improved. I told him I didn’t think they could be improved, and suggested they come to the United States and offer efficiency-training courses at our airports. After completing the four-minute survey, to thank me for my “trouble”, the employee handed me a large bar of high quality Swiss chocolate. In hindsight, I should have expected nothing less.