SAS signs up for “massive network of routes” to deliver 150,000 additional annual passengers to Aarhus

European flag carrier SAS Scandinavian Airlines has entered into a cooperation agreement with the management and board of Aarhus Airport in Denmark to introduce “a large number of international routes to European cities”. The additional flights, which add to an existing link to Copenhagen and a seasonal leisure link to Malaga, will expand the airport’s traffic by “more than 50%,“ boosting annual passengers beyond 500,000.

In what the airport describes as ”its biggest transformation in recent times” the new flights will be “mainly targeted towards business and leisure travellers” and will be formally released by SAS in October. They will include higher frequency departures between Aarhus and Copenhagen and access to new holiday destinations directly from Eastern Jutland.

Denmark’s second city is now appearing on more airline network maps with direct international traffic into the city’s Aarhus Airport growing by 22% in 2016. Departure capacity from Aarhus was up 11.1% in 2016, reversing four years of reductions.  This was buoyed by a 43.0% rise in international capacity compared to 2015. The international share of departure seats in 2016 at 44.2% was its second largest annual share over the last ten year period.

In May-2017, Czech Airlines (CSA) introduced a four times weekly link to the carrier’s Prague hub, while SAS added flights to Malaga in Jun-2017 – two of four new European destinations that are linked to Aarhus this year.

Greater Aarhus – the city’s wider metropolitan area – stands shoulder to shoulder with its Nordic national capital rivals as the largest non-capital city by associated population and ranked fifth in Scandinavia at 1.38 million people in 2016. This makes the East Jutland city’s demographic market larger in scale than Norway’s 2nd, 3rd and 4th largest cities combined, more than double the population of Iceland and biting at the heels of both Greater Oslo and Helsinki metropolitan areas to contest the spot for Scandinavia’s third or fourth largest in the future.

CHART – SAS Scandinavian Airlines is already the largest operator from Aarhus based on weekly capacity for week commencing 28-Aug-2017, but it plans a significant network growth for 2018Source: CAPA – Centre for Aviation and OAG

Aarhus Airport is central to the city’s forward strategy for continued internationalisation and enhanced trade links as well as movement of people. Located just 30 minutes from Aarhus centre, it has been in operation since the 1940s but was very recently taken over by a shareholder realignment that sees over 90% of the Airport Company’s shares now owned by the City of Aarhus – a strategic step to align air service development and increased international traffic capacity with the growth of the city and region.

“The airport finds itself in a turnaround process and with such a positive statement from the most important, strategic partner, there is great reason to believe the airport will succeed with its project. This cooperation agreement demonstrates that Aarhus Airport has taken a huge step towards a successful recovery,” says Jacob Bundgaard, the mayor of Aarhus.

With over 33,000 companies operating around Aarhus including five major global headquarters ranging from food and agriculture sector leaders, to the world’s largest wind turbine manufacturer, the world’s largest engineer of pump technology and corporate giants in fashion, meat processing, the city has strong business demand that can underpin future air links. The city’s 10 largest companies alone account for €29 billion of the combined €56 billion Aarhus associated economic output. This places the city among some of Europe’s most valuable economic hot-spots.

According to Lars Sandahl Sørensen, executive vice president at SAS, there are several reasons why the Scandinavian carrier is betting massively on Aarhus and its airport. “We have acted on the consumers wishes as well as Aarhus and Eastern Jutland’s vision to expand and invest independently. We see it as our responsibility to strengthen the logistical link between East and West Denmark, and to make the world more available for Jutland,” he says.

Aarhus Airport has an ambition to connect East Jutland with more cities across Europe and boost connectivity within Scandinavia to meet both business and leisure demand. The largest route from Aarhus is the domestic link to Copenhagen, which each year supports around 200,000 passengers both locally and connecting onwards via the Danish capital.

A strong growth in international traffic over recent years highlights what strong potential Aarhus has to offer and has highlighted that the city has previously been among the most under-serviced major markets in Scandinavia.

The Blue Swan Daily analysis of OAG traffic data for the first half of 2017 highlights strong potential for additional connectivity from Aarhus into Norway and Sweden, which are by far the city’s largest indirect markets.

CHART – Norway and Sweden are the largest indirect markets from Aarhus, but demand is growing from Poland, Switzerland and domestically within DenmarkSource: The Blue Swan Daily and OAG 

There are also sizeable indirect flows into Germany, the UK (a market served by Ryanair into London Stansted), domestically within Denmark and currently unserved markets such as Germany, Finland, Poland and France. The United States of America (USA) is the seventh largest indirect country market to/from Aarhus which could be supported and stimulated by additional hub connectivity from the city.

Historic passenger flows suggest that a hub connection such as Amsterdam, Brussels or Paris would help support local and transfer connectivity, with Helsinki perhaps more likely given additional local traffic demand. There is already indirect flows to regional destinations such as Bergen and Stavanger, while the data highlights that a domestic link to Bornholm, a Danish island in the Baltic Sea, to the east of the rest of the country, south of Sweden, northeast of Germany and north of the westernmost part of Poland could also be an option from Aarhus.