Flughafen Zurich AG operates Zurich Airport with a concession of the Swiss Confederation. Stephan Widrig has been on the management board since 2008 and was appointed to the top spot of CEO in January this year. He holds a degree in political and economic sciences, and has worked within the airport sector for many years. Stephan initially joined Zurich Airport in 1999 before the merger of Flughafen-Immobilien-Gesellschaft with Flughafendirektion a year later, and he played a role in its privatisation. He also has experience with the Kempegowda International Airport Bengaluru in southern India. The CEO Magazine had a chat to Stephan about Zurich Airport's importance, how it has achieved success, and its plans for the future.
The CEO Magazine: How important do you believe the role of the airport is in Switzerland?
Stephan: Zurich Airport is the biggest airport in Switzerland and it is the Swiss gateway to the world. It fulfills its role as a key traffic infrastructure of our country, not only for the economy, but for export and tourism as well. Zurich Airport offers direct flights to 184 destinations in 70 countries. Our goal is to meet the economy's requirement for direct flights to the most important economic spots worldwide. About 26,000 people work in the 280 companies at Zurich Airport. Every third holiday visitor to Switzerland arrives by air. One-third of the value of all transported goods leaves Switzerland as air freight. Zurich Airport generates a value creation of 6 billion Swiss Francs.
What have been some of your proudest moments or greatest achievements since joining the company?
I joined Zurich Airport in 1999. The biggest challenge then was to get the inhabitants of the Canton of Zurich to vote in favour of the airport's privatisation. Until then it was a state-owned airport. Luckily, people voted in favour of the privatisation. Then, not long after the privatisation this took place in March 2000 our former home carrier Swissair got into financial problems, which ended in the bankruptcy of the proud airline in October 2001. The following months were a role model of crisis management, of which I was a part.
Zurich Airport then was in the middle of one of its biggest expansion projects ever with several important infrastructure parts. The fifth expansion phase cost 2 billion Swiss Francs. Since then, the whole terminal infrastructure has been extended and modernised. Zurich Airport was also among the responsible parties for the first big privatised airport in India, which was built on a public-private partnership. The greenfield airport in Bangalore was realised with great influence of our company. As a passenger who travels regularly through Zurich Airport, you'd recognise quite a lot of the Zurich spirit in the way the airport in southern India presents itself be it on the infrastructure or the operational side. I used to work at Bengaluru Airport for three years as chief commercial and chief financial officer.