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Denmark returns to growth as airlines flood market with new routes

Air Service one Denmark Focus

Denmark’s aviation sector is poised for a complete recovery this summer following the pandemic, with the Nordic state to exceed its pre-Covid capacity during the second and third quarters, by 0.4%. As the 17th-largest market in Europe based on available seats, Denmark’s main hub of Copenhagen is buzzing with optimism after securing a number of new routes for this year and reopening Ryanair’s base in late 2023. On the other hand, the country’s second busiest airport, in Billund, has already achieved record traffic levels, serving as a Ryanair base since 2022.

SAS and LCCs dominate in Denmark

Denmark’s flag carrier, SAS Scandinavian Airlines, holds the top position in the country’s aviation landscape. Not only does it offer Copenhagen seamless connectivity to numerous European destinations, but it also extends its reach to distant markets. Most recently, SAS launched a seasonal winter service to Bangkok, adding to its roster of flights to New York JFK, Los Angeles, and Tokyo HND introduced over the past four years. This summer, the airline will further expand Copenhagen’s reach, linking the city with Atlanta.

During the second and third quarters, SAS is projected to operate at 91.9% of its 2019 capacity in the Danish market. Most of the reduced capacity compared to 2019 is evident on routes to other Scandinavian and Nordic hubs like Oslo OSL and Stockholm ARN. Additionally, the airline has yet to reinstate services to Beijing PEK and Hong Kong.

The subsequent three largest carriers in the country are Norwegian, Ryanair, and easyJet. Norwegian, with over 4.1 million seats in Q2 and Q3, has returned to strong growth this year following a period of consolidation, which saw it discontinue long-haul operations. It comes on the back of a robust expansion, involving 40 new routes, including 18 operating from Denmark’s Aalborg, Aarhus, Billund, and Copenhagen airports. The additions encompass destinations like Nice, Malaga, Alicante, and Palma de Mallorca, offering increased travel opportunities for Danish passengers.

Ryanair celebrated the opening of its new Billund base in the summer of 2022 with the launch of 14 new routes and now offers 27 destinations from Denmark’s second busiest airport over the summer. Late last year, the ULCC reestablished its presence at Copenhagen Airport by reopening its base after eight years. The move saw two aircraft and about 100 employees stationed at Denmark’s largest airport, offering 24 routes.

Denmark's biggest airlines Q2 and Q3 2024

Copenhagen Airport with over two dozen new routes in 2024

Copenhagen Airport is poised for a record summer with a whopping 25 new routes scheduled to be launched by five different airlines. It follows on from the 13 new routes added in winter 23/24 to diverse destinations in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, that included contributions from SAS, Etihad Airways, Wizz Air, Ryanair, and Volotea, offering a wide array of travel options to passengers.

This summer, Norwegian is planning wide-scale growth with up to 10 new routes from Denmark’s capital. Fellow budget carrier Ryanair will add four new destinations, while Volotea begins a new service from Verona.

Notably, American enters the Danish market with a daily seasonal summer service from Philadelphia, further improving Copenhagen’s connectivity with North America.

SAS will also grow with eight new routes, most of which are in Europe. The airport anticipates exciting developments, as the flag carrier prepares to join the SkyTeam alliance, opening doors to new opportunities for airline partners.

Shannon AIrport

Copenhagen routes 2024

Denmark’s secondary airports see strong growth

Billund Airport has been a star performer within Denmark’s aviation ecosystem, surpassing its annual 2019 record results as early as November of last year.

The airport’s unique market positioning for business and tourism, aiming to attract more travellers into Denmark, has proven as a successful formula. In addition, increased enthusiasm among West Danish holidaymakers to travel abroad further increased its traffic figures.

The airport is expected to continue its record run into the summer of 2024, with four new seasonal routes to be launched by Norwegian, while airBaltic adds its third service from the city.

Airports in Denmark 2023

Aarhus Airport, located in Denmark’s second-largest city, heavily relies on seasonal summer traffic. It too managed to outperform its pre-pandemic results, handling 538,082 passengers last year, representing an increase of 7.5% on five years ago.

This summer, Norwegian makes its debut in Aarhus with the launch of three seasonal routes to Spain, counting on demand for outbound summer travel.

Despite loosing KLM and easyJet since the pandemic, charter carrier Airseven and its summer sun operation, along with growth by Ryanair and SAS, have offset the loss of other carriers at Aarhus Airport.

Denmark’s aviation sector is on the path of strong growth, driven by factors including increased demand, expanding route networks, and ongoing investments in airport infrastructure. With the country’s strategic geographical location and Copenhagen’s status as a major European hub, Denmark is well-positioned to capitalise on emerging travel trends and market opportunities.

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