Aarhus takes the resilient route

Bernie Baldwin

Making the most out of downtime during the pandemic, Aarhus Airport invested heavily and now has an airport ready for a post-Covid market.

Resilience was a key attribute during the COVID pandemic at Aarhus Airport, according to David Surley, the airport’s director of route development. That’s why, as some level of normality resumes, there is a new terminal completed ahead of the original schedule to serve the second largest city in Denmark and the fifth largest population base in Scandinavia.

“Everything came to a horrible halt a couple of years ago. And we had to decide how to deal with it,” Surley told CONNECT delegates. “We followed a strategy to invest and expand. And a tone of resilience is very important in such times.

“We’re not a capital city and we’re not a global destination yet. To put ourselves on the map as an airport, city and destination, we decided to represent our city by investing in a much bigger terminal. It’s a facility that will serve 3 million passengers going forward. Numbers today are around the 500,000 mark. So that’s a lot of growth that we need to achieve,” Surley added.

The airport will use its catchment area which has a population in the region of 1.3 million with an economy worth €60 billion. “That makes the Aarhus regional economy a little larger than the national GDP of Croatia or Bulgaria,” Surley remarked.

The pandemic caused a lot of airport staff to leave on a temporary basis, which left the existing terminal empty. “We’ve turned it into something wildly different, while saving about 12 months in construction time. Our security area has been redeveloped and is fully operational. The rest of the building is taking shape.”

Design-wise, the airport team knew the importance of knowing its audience. “In Scandinavia, things need to look good, they need to be high quality. That’s what we’re doing with our airport,” Surley explained. “Our largest airline is actually Ryanair. Lowcost travellers are very much our bread and butter like many airports now, but we treat them like VIPs.

“We worked with Danish architects and a Danish design house. It’s a hotel tone experience, with everything put in by the designers having that Danish design field,” he added. “The new lounge opened in February and we’re adding three new international stands, a two level departure facility of the highest quality, new car parking, plus a hotel. Also, by way of resilience, there will be new routes, new airlines and new horizons,” he concluded.

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