Swiss Airport Files For Liquidation As Pandemic Halts Traffic

Credit: Lugano Airport / Facebook

The company behind the airport serving Lugano, Switzerland has opted to put itself into liquidation after the COVID-19 pandemic destroyed air traffic at the location.

Lugano is the main city in the southeastern Swiss canton of Ticino, the only Italian-speaking canton in the federal nation. The closest alternative airport is Milan Malpensa, around 70 km (45 mi.) across the border.

LASA, the owners of Lugano Airport, said “due to the coronavirus pandemic, the conditions for continuing operations in the current form are no longer present. The Lugano Airport board of directors has announced that it will request the orderly liquidation of the company that manages the airport of the city.”

Lugano Airport has been struggling to attract commercial flights since the main operator using it, Darwin Airline—which had formerly traded as Etihad Regional—ceased trading in December 2017.

The airport had latterly focused on private aircraft, an activity that had been increasing significantly early this year, before the pandemic halted almost all flights.  Among activities disrupted by the pandemic were negotiations for a new Lugano-Geneva commercial service.

“With less than one private flight per day and the elimination of commercial and aviation activities, the sustainability of airport activities in the existing form is no longer given,” the city of Lugano, the airport’s main shareholder, said. 

The LASA board of directors concluded “that not even the SFr1 million [$1 million] in public loans envisaged at the end of March would now be sufficient to cover the liquidity needs of the entire 2020 financial year. The board of directors therefore considers it impossible to ask for loans that could not reasonably be repaid.” 

After consultation with its shareholders, the airport company asked for an orderly rundown of its activities. Doing so will allow the realization of assets and the payment of salaries to the airport’s employees until the end of May, as well as paying off the facility’s creditors.

The City of Lugano, which owns the airport grounds and holds the related Swiss federal operating concession for the airport, will retain it and maintain minimum operating conditions at the facility. This will allow it potentially to remain open until any new owner appears on the scene.

Alan Dron

Based in London, Alan is Europe & Middle East correspondent at Air Transport World.