Competition for routes and passenger traffic across Scandinavia’s key airports is as hot as it has ever been with Stockholm Arlanda, Copenhagen, Oslo and Helsinki all vying to be the number one in the region.
Swedish operator Swedavia Airports has lofty ambitions and last year it grew passenger numbers across its 10 gateways by six per cent to nearly 42 million and on a rolling 12-month basis it has surpassed that figure.
The airport operators principle focus and strategy is to make Stockholm Arlanda the number one in the region by increasing the route network and passenger traffic, while also further developing Malmo Airport in the south of Sweden and Göteborg Landvetter Airport in the west of Sweden.
Route network development director, Ole Wieth Christensen, is confident it can reach the goal of making Arlanda the number one airport in the region and growing its other airports.
In 2017, Arlanda welcomed 26.6 million passengers (up eight per cent), compared to Copenhagen’s 29.1 million (up 0.5 per cent per cent), Oslo’s 27.4 million (up 6.6 per cent) and Helsinki’s 18.9 million (up 9.9 per cent).
“There is fierce competition in the region with Oslo, Copenhagen and Helsinki with their focus on Asia. We have the approach that Sweden is the largest market not only in terms of size, but population and the economy is the largest. We consider it is the natural hub for Scandinavia,” Christensen said.
Currently, there are about 85 airlines operating out of Arlanda, which run about 270 routes around the globe and in 2017, the airport added about 50 new connections.
New long-haul routes to Asia
Already in 2018, Arlanda has added new long-haul routes as Singapore Airlines has started services to Changi Airport and Air India to Delhi and China Eastern starts in June to Shanghai.
Christensen said: “We have really seen a step change towards the strategy of becoming the major airport in Scandinavia. The three big airport capitals (Oslo, Copenhagen and Stockholm) are more or less competing at more or less the same size, but we believe we can make the step change and be the major airport.”
But what is the strategy in the future to grow and attract more airlines and flights?
“In terms of the airport group’s focus it is to develop Arlanda, but also very focused on minimising the cost of airlines operating there. We try to teach the whole organization the extreme importance of making sure we automate and lower the operating costs of airlines operating there,” he said
“It is essential that all of the airport operations understand whenever we can reduce the airline costs by one per cent it will eventually turn into more airline capacity being flown into the airport.”
Developing Arlanda’s route network is also vital in order to growth further and it seems that the strategy is to three-fold with a focus on long-haul, short-haul and more transfer traffic.
Christensen said: “Finnair has been very good at claiming the position (on Asian routes from Helsinki) but we see that we are the airport with the biggest local catchment area and have a clear focus on Asia.
“Now we have got Delhi and Shanghai off the map, the largest unserved market is Tokyo and we certainly would like to see capacity coming in there, but obviously Tokyo-Haneda has slot restrictions – but Tokyo is on top of the list in terms of a new route to Asia.”
He said Arlanda has seen quite good growth to North America, fuelled by SAS and Norwegian, the latter having started to Las Vegas, New York and Los Angeles and Oakland recently.
“SAS has started a little bit away from Arlanda and only focusing on developing Copenhagen as their long-haul hub, but it started two years ago to Hong Kong from Arlanda and Los Angeles and to Miami so we are starting to see a shift there which is what we want to see a more balanced traffic pattern with SAS, which we see with Norwegian already,” Christensen said.
“We try to develop this two-hub strategy catering for both transfer passengers for SAS/Star Alliance and Norwegian so this is for our long-haul part of the business.”
As for short-haul, he said Eastern Europe is not that well covered from Arlanda so it sees some opportunities there and a number of destinations are not served like Sofia, so adding more direct routes to the region is the main focus.
Another key development is transfer traffic, which continues to climb at Arlanda and growing these numbers is also a major part of the growth strategy, Christensen said.
“There is a lot of discussion in the industry whether there will only be major hubs down the road, but we are seeing in Arlanda the transfer traffic is increasing where as many medium-sized airports are seeing the transfer share levelling out,” he said.
“It is where we believe that we have an advantage due to our geographical location as people have to transfer somewhere in the north because you have a big area in Scandinavia but with the population centres scattered around you have to consolidate the traffic somewhere.”
According to Christensen, Copenhagen has seen their transfer traffic decrease as it used to represent about 50 per cent of passenger, but this has dropped to abou 21-22 per cent, whereas transfer traffic at Arlanda is on the rise at around 17 per cent.
“For carriers like SAS and Norwegian their models are built also around transfer traffic, especially SAS, so we try to cater for that and build the right infrastructure to develop that further,” he said.
Closure of Stockholm Bromma Airport
Arlanda will also one day gain an immediate boost in traffic as Stockholm’s other airport Stockholm Bromma (pictured left) will be closed down in the next 20 years due to environmental reasons, with all flights transferred across to Arlanda.
The airport serves about 2.5 million passengers a year and operates domestic traffic and is located close to the financial district and authorities have decided it will be shut due to its affect on the city and as there is plenty of space at Arlanda for expansion.
“We are planning to expand the airport (Arlanda) and there is a massive investment plan going on right now in Arlanda to cater for that in both airside and landside.
“We are trying to make Arlanda into the first airport city in northern Europe focusing on this ‘Aerotropolis’ approach, since it is located in area that we can expand and north of the city so we are trying to turn it into a real airport city and we are starting to see that now with more gates, and airport stands.
“Eventually we will get there, we have just added a new ramp with 10 or 12 stands and we are developing a new remote area which will also see 8-10 aircraft stands and developing a new pier,” Christensen said.
Sweden’s airports look a firm bet to keep on expanding traffic and Stockholm Arlanda seems to have a sure strategy to become Scandinavia’s number one gateway.
(Main image is an artist’s impression of the vision of the future of Stockholm Arlanda)