How it all began
Bern was involved in the history of manned flight from a very early stage.
And so it was that the “1st Swiss Aviation Exhibition” was held in Bern in 1910 on the occasion of the Federal Shooting Festival. The first major flight gathering was held from 8 - 10 October, 1910, with the first Swiss aviators – Dufaux, Failloubaz, Cailler and Grandjean – participating. The Bern Aerodrome at the time was located in the Beundenfeld quarter, on the common. To this day, the streets in the adjacent quarter still bear the names of the aviation pioneers.
It was quickly apparent that this site was not suitable for the development of a flexible and expandable aviation infrastructure. A commission was established and given the task of finding a suitable location near the city for a Bernese airport. The decision was made to develop the Belp Moor into a new aerodrome for Bern. Within a very short time, barely imaginable today, the planning, approval and construction were completed. Bern’s “new” era of aviation could begin.
An action committee made up of leaders from the world’s of commerce, politics and tourism called an inaugural meeting for a cooperative society to operate an airport, to be held in the then Bürgerhaus Restaurant in Bern on 5 March, 1929. In the early morning hours of 6 March, 1929, the society was inaugurated under the name Alpar. The name “Alpar” reflected the nearby alps and the River Aar, the tributary of the Rhine on which Bern is built.
An airline of the same name was also established, and scheduled flights began as early as 8 June, 1929, with a Fokker F XI. Alpar flew the Bern-Biel-Basel route three times a week, connecting with flights to Paris, London, etc. The official opening ceremony for the aerodrome, with a large official party and huge crowds, took place on 14 July, 1929.
In the years before the outbreak of war in 1939, Alpar continually expanded its route network. In those days, Bern was at the forefront of aviation.
From September 1939 until 1945, civil aviation was almost non-existent. Military aircraft took over the Bern aerodrome during the war years.
After the war, Alpar resumed scheduled flights. Bern’s airline now also flew international routes using “Koolhoven” aircraft, produced especially for Alpar.
In 1945, the Federal Council issued a statement on the expansion of Switzerland’s civil aerodromes, determining the underlying concept for future aviation infrastructure. Zürich was chosen as the site for an intercontinental airport. Bern-Belp would remain a regional airport.
In 1950, both the airport operating society and the airline were converted from a cooperative society into a stock corporation. The newly incorporated company chose to call itself “Alpar Flug- und Flugplatzgesellschaft AG”. The name has changed 2014 into Flughafen Bern AG.
On 31 May, 1951, the Federal Department of Transport, Communications and Energy issued Alpar with a 30-year concession to operate an airport.
On 1 June, 1986, the concession was extended to 31 May, 2016.
The sealed runway (1200 x 30 metres), constructed in 1959, was equipped with an instrument landing system (ILS) in 1987, facilitating operational reliability and consistency appropriate to the mature requirements of commercial transport.
In 1983, the Bernese government and the parliament of the Canton of Bern approved a loan of CHF 8.9 million to bring Bern Airport up to the standards required by contemporary aviation.
At the same time, an amendment to the law relating to concessionary transport companies was enacted to allow the canton to make operating contributions to aviation independent of the boroughs being served.
A referendum was initiated against both of these decisions. On 4 December, 1983, the voters of the canton revoked both decisions.
From this date on, Bern Airport has been operated by Alpar AG according to private sector principles, without any public funding.
Bern Airport today
With a strategy built on four pillars, Flughafen Bern AG operates Bern Airport as an important element in the aviation infrastructure, serving the public interest as a private company and without any subsidies. This strategy consists of:
- Services and real estate in the vicinity of the airport
- Scheduled and charter flights (public transport)
- General aviation (private transport by air)
- Flights in the service of the Swiss Confederation, as the airport in the nation’s federal city and de facto capital
The airport as important economic factor and employer in the region:
Providing more than 400 jobs, the airport is recognised as an important economic factor for the surrounding area.
New studies prove that more than 1,000 jobs are either directly or indirectly dependent on Bern Airport and its operations.
The airport as driving force behind economic and tourism development
Bern Airport is a major force for the economic and tourism development of the larger region. Flights to and from Bern benefit local companies, and those considering moving to the region, in particular through time savings.
The airport and environmental protection
Environmentally friendly operations are especially important to Flughafen Bern AG. Several measures have combined to keep the airport comfortably within the immission limits for Sensivity Level II, as defined by the Noise Protection Regulations, in all neighbouring boroughs. Operational expansion without exceeding legal limits is therefore feasible.
The airport’s many green areas provide a safe home to an extensive and varied flora as well as several species of animal, including some endangered species.
As an efficient airport, Bern will continue to provide an aviation connection for the greater Bern region, the Swiss Plateau. The airport is open to all types of scheduled and charter flights as well as general aviation.
The needs of the Swiss Confederation necessitate and receive particular flexibility and attention from the airport for the federal city.
Bern’s greatest advantages as an airport lie in the short and well laid-out routes through the airport, the straightforward check-in and arrivals procedures paired with innovative services, and a very high standard of security.
Active marketing and the best in operational support make it possible for airlines and tour operators to rapidly establish a viable long-term market presence in the airport’s catchment area.
General aviation – private transport by air – shall continue to be encouraged with an economical and efficient operating environment.
After a period of wide-ranging construction and modernisation work, concluding with the extension of the runway to 1730m, the airport now offers up-to-date facilities. The only remaining aspects of this modernisation programme are the construction of a new car park for 270 vehicles close to the terminals and the creation of hangar space for business aircraft.