Cope and Change: Copenhagen’s shortcomings run deep, but its airport is buzzing as the new year approaches

CopenhagenIt’s a hallmark for Denmark.

Last week, Emirates brought A380s to Copenhagen, which heretofore never had any flights with these super-jumbo airplanes. And they weren’t just any A380s. They were A380s flying for the first time in an ultra-dense configuration—615 seats, to be exact. That’s a big plane, a big number of seats and—as it happens—just one of many big developments in Copenhagen’s suddenly sizzling airline market.

After a no-growth first half of 2015—passenger volumes actually fell a bit y/y from January through June—Copenhagen’s airport enjoyed a revival this summer, with Q3 volumes up a solid 6%. This faster pace continued into the start of the fourth quarter, and the pickup appears to be just the start of something bigger. Looking ahead at seat capacity trends for the upcoming first quarter for the world’s top 100 busiest airports, no European airport will grow at a faster pace than Copenhagen, with scheduled seat counts up 17% y/y, according to an Airline Weekly analysis using Diio Mi. In fact, only five airports in the world—Istanbul SAW, Hangzhou, Nanjing, Xiamen and Ho Chi Minh City, all growing from a smaller base—show greater Q1 percentage growth. Copenhagen’s growth pace looks likely to slow somewhat later in 2016, but seats are still scheduled, as of now, to rise by about 8% during the summer months.

The sluggish first half of this year was largely the result of a brief SAS ground handler strike, fewer domestic flights and a 12% drop in passengers using the airport to connect. That drop, in turn, was largely the intended result of a tactical pricing move by SAS, Copenhagen’s busiest airline—its simplified shorthaul fares now produce more nonstop traffic. Nevertheless, SAS intends to grow in Copenhagen, the busiest of its three main hubs by most measures. Next summer, for example, SAS will launch new nonstops to Reykjavik, Vienna, Faro and Krakow…

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