Bernie Baldwin

A visit to Juan-les-Pins on the Côte d’Azur in late summer – what’s not to like?

For Aarhus Airport CEO, Peter Kristensen, however, attending the General Assembly of the European Regions Airline Association (ERA) at the French riviera resort brought more than pleasant surroundings as the airport walked off with the ERA Airport of the Year Award.

The success of Aarhus Airport has built on the city’s role as the 2017 European Capital of Culture, according to David Surley, head of airline relations. “The city, which has a majority share ownership in the airport, has been nicknamed the ‘Danish Dubai’ because of all the cranes, as there is a lot of construction going on, with many hotel groups moving in,” he remarks. “It’s the fastest growing of any major Nordic city. Greater Aarhus has a population of 1.38 million making it the fifth largest Nordic market. Only the 4 Nordic capitals are larger.”

As for the airport’s own figures, Kristensen reports that the current annual throughput is 0.5 million passengers. “We’re aiming for that to be 1.5 million in five years and as we do that we think about how to be different,” he remarks.

“We’re doing that by having the total airport designed as a VIP lounge. The development work on that was carried out between May to August this year and many airports have been coming to Aarhus to see what has been done,” Kristensen adds.

New routes are on the cards for the 2020 summer season, including Chania and Alicante. Charter operations play a key role with many from Aarhus being be operated by Great Dane Airlines. “Tour operators have some new destinations still to be announced,” the CEO notes.

The development from a low-level of traffic began when the Aarhus Airport team convinced easyJet to fly there. “It took about 12 months from the first discussion,” Kristensen recalls. “The gamechanger was when we brought people here and they loved it.

“We’re talking to a lot of airlines at the moment – 40-50 – who aren’t here yet. The benefit is that Scandinavia is strong and Denmark is super strong,” he declares. “Understanding the Nordic region has been difficult for some carriers from southern Europe though.”

Beyond the perimeter, ground transportation developments are also planned. Currently it is a 35-minute drive from the city and there are airport buses available for that. In the city there is a light rail network, but it doesn’t go to the airport yet. “We need to shoot for an extra road lane to the airport and for the light rail extension,” Surley comments.

With a renowned university, and a place in the world’s top 75 conference destinations, the airport serving the City of Smiles looks set for strong continuing growth in the years ahead.