Zurich Airport Observation Deck — Why Don’t More Airports Have This?!

Filed Under: Travel

Introduction: Emirates, Etihad, Qatar Economy Class Showdown
Review: Zurich Airport Observation Deck
Review: Emirates A380 And 777-300ER Economy Class Zurich To Dubai To Delhi
The Delhi Airport Ground Experience
Review: Air India 747-400 First Class Delhi To Chennai
Review: Jet Airways 737-800 Economy Class Chennai To Mumbai
Review: Qatar Airways 777-300ER Economy Class Mumbai To Doha To Beirut
Transiting Beirut Airport On Separate Tickets
Review: Etihad Airways 787-9 And A320 Economy Class Beirut To Abu Dhabi To Muscat
Review: Premier Inn Abu Dhabi International Airport
Emirates Vs. Etihad Vs. Qatar – Who Has The Best Economy Class?

I’m going to be honest. Zurich Airport didn’t do it for me. I’ve transferred there once before and wasn’t especially impressed by the crowded older Swiss lounges or the strange terminal layout. Well, cheap airfare can make me go anywhere, so I started my recent trip to the Middle East with a six-hour layover there. During that time, I decided to head to the observation deck above the A gates.

Granted it was a perfect summer day with a light breeze and few clouds, but oh my God, what a nice place!

Given that my overall impression of the airport wasn’t too positive, the terrace stuck out even more. Firstly, it was huge. There was room for thousands of people up there, though I’m sure they’d never let it reach that capacity.

The terrace had 270-degree views of the airfield, with great views of takeoffs on both active runways.

There was a large play area for kids.

They even had dedicated restrooms and a snack shop.

Access is free for anyone holding a same day boarding pass during opening hours, or you can purchase it at the following prices:

While I’m still not sure if this is incentive enough to transfer through Zurich again, unless I’m flying a premium cabin from the E gates (or the price is exponentially lower), I certainly wish more airports would learn a lesson from this. Even normal people LOVE spending time at outdoor places like this in airports, and there were at least 150 people on the terrace while I was there. Old, young, men, women — they all gathered here to enjoy the sunlight and watch the buzzing airport action. If you have an upcoming layover here, make sure you check out the terrace! It’s avgeek heaven.

  1. YHZ has an observation deck. The good news is that it is landside, so anyone can go. The bad news is that it is a dingy little room. It does have a fairly good view of the runways and the apron, but it only has windows facing in one direction. Not much traffic to watch compared to Zurich 😉

  2. For those wondering about prices since Daniel could not be bothered to write it down and only posted a bad and difficult to read picture. It 5 CHF for Adults, 2 CHF for children 10-16 and free for children under 10.

  3. Great article, photos and certainly, for any avgeek, places like this are uber heaven. Not only for those traveling on a given day, but also the general public who are willing to pay for a day pass to spend it on the deck, see some plane action, either from the outside or inside a cafeteria etc. .
    While waiting for our flight out of Vienna/Schwechat, we went up to the observation deck there. Not as nice as this one, but still, a place where not only travellers meet for some “avgeeking”.

  4. I love hanging around the observation deck before a flight. Check out the ones at NRT and TSA if you ever pass through there!

  5. @No Name

    – Really??
    – Wouldn’t it be easier to just provide the information about the prices, instead of saying Daniel couldn’t be bothered?
    – Unless of course the lazy Daniel told you to do this for him

  6. The PP lounge that Cathay uses has an outdoor terrace with similar views. And yes, the Swiss lounges (at least the PP ones) are underwhelming and crowded.

  7. Zürich airport ist the best. Don’t know what lounge you visited, but compared to the rest it is exceptional.

  8. NGO has a phenomenal deck as well. Given that it’s a small(er) airport, you can see every single gate from the observation deck, and the runway is directly in front of you.

  9. The Zurich Airport Observation Deck is indeed amazing. But most of the people that are on it are actually Swiss, without a chance connecting flight, those are actually pretty rare since it is outside of the security zone.
    Swiss always holds it’s events there (like when the CS100 or B777-300Er was introduced) where more than 5000 people gathered on the terasse. There would be room for at least triple
    of that though (probably not legal
    due to emergency escape policies). Swiss actually holds some events for their HON-Circle members there as well: right next to the entrace, to the right there is a presentation room including a reception where the invited people gathered to be the first to check out their new Dock E-Lounges.

    Your impression of the airport wasn’t too positive? – *Excuse me?*

    You don’t just casually write that an airport is bad you once visited. Especially not my home airport! I might be a bit biased but Zurich airport is easily one of the best airports in the world. The fact that it isn’t overimensionally huge definetly helps there. I do not know a single airport where my baggage is on the belt *before* you reach it quite often. (In Economy as well as in Business)
    When you are arriving in the late night and are connecting on one of the then departing Swiss long haul flights and only have a connection time of several minutes there is a person with a sign of the destinations waiting for you actively asking if anybody has a connecting flight to following destinatons and ready to bring you to the other terminal and not have to miss your flight. (In all booking classes!) In my opinion while the Swiss might be reserved, they can be some of the friendliest and nicest people and I think that to be the case in the airport too. (Although if you come along snobbish or generally out of the there valid rules you will not be liked)

    The lounges are old and overcrowded? What lounge have you been in? The Swiss Business Lounge in nect to Dock A? I have yet to see it being any more than full. But nontheless this Lounge is being updated and redesigned as we speak. And if you’d like to go to the Dock E lounges nontheless as a shengen passenger you can do that, you just need your passport since you have to go into the non-ahengen departure zone, which you can do without having to show your ticket.

    What you find odd about the terminal layout is beyond me. everything is parallel and in 90 degree angles…

    Zurich airport is my most favorite airport and I hope you revise your
    decision about it.

  10. I love Zurich airport – one of my favorite airports to use. Compact and efficient. Nicely laid out and decent shopping (Sprungli!!)

  11. Perth airport has a reasonable public viewing area for visitors. Albeit behind glass but has great view of tarmac/runway.

  12. Reply to Nick;
    I might be biased, I arrange most of my transfers through FRA, usually with an overnight at the airport. I used to use ZRH with a lot of long haul using a airline that preceded SWISS.
    On two occasions I missed my connecting flight to EWR, once by 2 minutes. They should have known that I was transferring without baggage and made the slightest attempt. The help you described was not there years ago. Yes, I know about missing slots but they admitted they did not wait because luggage transfers take more time.
    On a flight from EWR to ZRH my Mother took ill. There was no help, no talk of diversion, not anything. When I asked if at least medical care would meet us on the taxiway or tarmac I was told that they would bring on nurses or Medics at the gate. This meant AFTER ALL PAX DEPLANED.

  13. Munich has an amazing one, even with a subway stop and mini museum. There are a couple of LH planes from the 50s era. A Connie you can visit. And it faces Terminal 1 close to the East – West runway start.

    Miami has an area close to ElDorado furniture. You can park and be close to 150 feet from the runway. an A380 or 747 spool up and start is an assured thrill for everybody. (free)

  14. Zürich Airport is one of the best in the world. Seems like you’ve not really got a very good sense of the many many things it offers. Oh well, too bad for you. I just had my 11th & 12th flights of the year in/out of ZRH … it’s leagues ahead of literally other airport as far as quickly getting in/out; services available; early-morning and late-nights flights … but seems you were previously just fixated on the lounges. Secret tip: don’t take flights that depart from the E gates.

    Guess you also missed the deck where you can have drinks outside. Oh well.

  15. Daniel, if you’re going to dismiss an airport that consistently ranks as one of the best in the world, you should at least provide a little color as to why you believe this is the case.

    And as others have said, please don’t post a blurry picture of the prices. Either put in the effort or don’t bother (with everything you write).

  16. The international terminal, which is detached, is definitely not a pleasant space in which to spend time – even the lounges are dismal. However, they do offer views of the spectacular aircraft in the morning departure periods.

  17. ZRH is an efficient airport close to downtown and surrounded by beautiful green countryside and sleepy suburban villages. The design and atmosphere is very cool and modern and efficiently “Swiss”. It has, however, some issues that are a bit “clunky” at best:

    – many non-Swiss international flights leave from terminal E, which is oddly separated from the main terminal building and requires an underground transport car to reach. The car itself (like a driverless monorail) is almost all standing-only and, while fast and interesting (the moving-picture effect on the tunnel walls is always cute and ‘Swiss’, as is the sountrack with various “sounds of Switzerland” accompanying, ending with a big “moo!” from a cow – hey, you’re in der Schweiz now!, it seems to say), it is a big inconvenience and often reminds me of Atlanta or Chicago with its underground transport.

    – the Swiss lounge in terminal B area is rather unpleasant – dark, on two levels, one big long bar for smoking (ick!), many seats usually full, average food at best (usually cold salads and sandwiches, and a powdered-made soup), no views or lighting really at all. The A lounge is nice and the new E lounge is amazing – maybe one of the best I’ve ever been in (except for Singapore Silver Kris in Terminal 3 of SIN), with a whisky bar, open-kitchen griddle cooking fresh meals, ample seating, great views and lighting, and – as this article highlighted it – an actual terrace deck on which you can sit and have your meal or drink and watch the aviation scene. No daybeds or loungers however (as far as I saw) so not good for an overnight or longer.

    – the A and B gates are not particularly laid out well, especially the B, along a long corridor and quite crowded, with many gate area seats usually taken, and meager choice of shopping or refreshment. These are usually intra-Europe flights so they’re usually quite crowded.

    – if you want to, say, use the A lounge but you have an E terminal gate leaving flight, you have to clear immigration at the A area (and usually they’ll say, oh, your flight leaves from E you know, and you say, yeah, that much I figured out, but I want to use this lounge) and to get to the B or E gates there is a long underground corridor that gets you there but it’s hard to find for some. Initially I once went through A immigration, used the A lounge, then went ‘back into Switzerland’ through the A immigration and ‘back out’ through the E immigration.

    – no showers in lounges as far as I know (never saw any but could be wrong)

    Other than these rather minor things it’s my favorite airport in the world – how can you not like a place whose walls are adorned with big Swiss tourism ads saying, “happy to see you here”, “gut, dass Sie dabei sind”, “Swiss Natural”, etc. with gorgeous views of the countryside which aren’t just photoshopped “idealism” (like in, say, JFK or ORD) but the actual views you might see on your train trip out of ZRH.

    By the way, for train access, can any airport be any better? ZRH is a major stop on train lines through the country and it couldn’t be easier to get from, say, ZRH right down to Milan if you had to with a simple change in Zurich Bahnhof, versus, say, LHR to Salisbury on public transport. And those Swiss! Couldn’t be nicer and efficient and sometimes even humorous.

  18. Another REALLY irritating thing about ZRH – I have Star Gold status, and on an economy boarding pass with CLEARLY the SQ*G shown (and perhaps on the boarding pass it might have even said “E lounge” or something, I forget) they always ask “can I see your card”? – and for some time I didn’t have mine (got lost and wasn’t replaced) and although it’s SO obvious that I have the status (and could be verified right there on their systems), the cold and robotic Swissport lounge ladies would always drone to me “Karte, bitte?” They would never let me in unless I literally went to the darn SQ app and SHOWED them the Star Gold membership status, and even that seemed suspect to them, which seems ridiculous. Never happens at NRT or HND or SIN or HKG.

  19. Nagoya airport has an open air observation platform too. You should go visit there and the Star Alliance lounge some time.

  20. @Nick Art

    You both have plenty to discuss it seems. I, from my personal experience have to agree with Nick.

  21. @No Name,

    Does it hurt? Whatever it is you’re suffering from? If five francs is what’ll be the decider for going/not going, please review your life choices (and to quote my favorite Brit; stop being poor).

    Daniel, keep up the good work. Thanks for this.

  22. “Even normal people LOVE spending time at outdoor places like this in airports”.
    I love the “NORMAL” people expression! LOL! Hahahaha!
    Otherwise, ZRH is perfect for short/medium haul flights and if you’re traveling for a conference, you can stay at the airport hotel -, have your conference there, hop on a train for a 15-minutes ride to the city at the evening! Very convenient!

  23. @AlexD

    If Daniel can’t handle harsh criticisms he has no place posting on the internet in the first place, second I don’t sugar coat things period. The real world does not have safe spaces and trigger words.

    When a blogger simply write:
    or you can purchase it at the following prices:
    And post a photo, and a bad one at that he is lazy. I would have taken him very little effort to add the numbers.

    Had he simply said the entrance is in the photo below and not mention anything about prices I would have been more than happy to add that small detail with no sarcastic comments.

    There are several reasons newspapers and book publishers have editors, one of them is to stop writers taking lazy short cut like this. While blogs and the web in general has meant that there is more content than ever out there on just about every subject, sadly a side effect is a distinct lowering of the quality of said content.

    @William Y
    It suffer from a good number of medical conditions, and yes some of them literately hurt quite a lot 24/7. Painkillers help, thank you for asking.

    For me 5 CHF would not be a hindering factor if I wanted to stand outside and suck in jet fumes, for being Switzerland that is down right cheap.

    Now consider the fact that there is people that willingly gets on board ULCC’s like RyanAir or Vueling or Easyjet more than once where a tickets routinely costs as low as 70 CHF or lower when booked in advance. Generally the same crowd that complains that there is no free water on their flights. 2 of those airlines fly into ZRH, I have never personally flown either of them and have no desire to.

    You seem to forget that there are people behind the premium cabins or gasp flying on planes without any premium seats at all. I know it’s pain to see them at times, but such is the world of public transport unfortunately. Perhaps you can serve them some of your leftover cake Marie?

    Also I’m probably a pedantic, luckily I don’t suffer from being a brown nose. You seems to have a terrible case of that condition.

  24. I went to Zurich, when they were building the new terminal/viewing deck and manage to get to the middle terminal, that viewing deck was 100% better than the new one, every plane passed close to the viewing deck and no eye straining trying to read registration numbers on planes taking off on runway 28/10. also sadly after the lunchtime rush hour, there is very little movement, to go back again, I would go to the midfield viewing deck. To get there I walked to the local bus stop`s and there was little checkpoint building, got searched paid the fee and then a bus took me to the entry door to get to the viewing deck. There was vending machines that dispensed hot drinks and snacks.

  25. I have been to Zurich Airport deck twice and love it; not just the views, but the friendly people you come into contact with. Can’t wait to fly there again. My local airport Heathrow has no viewing deck and treats spotters and photographers as if they are children, what a difference to Zurich, Frankfurt, Munich, Amsterdam and others.

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