Billund Airport defies strikes and cancellations to set passenger record

Billund, Denmark’s largest airport outside of Copenhagen, set a record for passengers in July despite disruption caused by strikes and delays.

Billund Airport defies strikes and cancellations to set passenger record
Billund Airport saw record passenger numbers in July, defying strikes and delays which have disrupted the sector in Europe. Photo: Billund Airport

More than half a million passengers travelled through Billund during July, the first time the total has been passed, the airport said in a press statement.

A total of 515,060 passengers passed through Billund last month, giving growth of 21 percent compared to 2019, the last year not to be affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The record for Billund comes in spite of severe disruptions caused by issues including airport delays across Europe and the pilots’ strike at Scandinavian airline SAS, which was resolved in July.

“The airport is very busy and not all airports are equipped for this after the difficult corona period,” Billund Airport CEO Jan Hessellund said in the statement.

“But despite being busy and having cancelled flights and a few strike-affected charter flights with SAS, we have hit a new all-time high,” he said.

Some airports have set capacity restrictions on the number of daily flights this summer as a result of staff shortages following the Covid-19 pandemic, which saw many airports and airlines release staff. This was not the case at Billund.

The Central Jutland airport said it had begun a recruitment process as far back as November last year in anticipation of higher demand as the sector begins to recover from the Covid-19-enforced downturn.

Further recruitment in January helped the airport to equip itself for current high demand. Other airports including Copenhagen have cited the time required to train new staff as being a factor in personnel shortages.

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SAS strike affected 380,000 passengers in July

More than 3,700 flights where cancelled and 380,000 passengers where affected by the 15-day strike which hit Scandinavia's SAS airline last month, the company has revealed.

SAS strike affected 380,000 passengers in July

“We sincerely apologize to our customers who were affected by the July strike,” Anko van der Werff, the company’s chief executive, said in a press release. “We are happy operations returned to normality again allowing us to start regaining our customers’ trust.”

According to the release, 1.3 million passengers travelled with the airline in July, which was still a 23 percent increase on the same month last year, when Covid-19 restrictions were still reducing tourism levels.

“In comparison with last month, the total number of passengers decreased with 32 percent and capacity was decreased by 23 percent, which was a result from the 15-day pilot strike,” the release read. 

Pilot unions in Sweden, Denmark and Norway, went on strike for 15 days last month over pay, conditions, and the company’s refusal to rehire pilots laid off during the Covid-19 pandemic on the same terms as before. 

The strike, which cost the airline between €9m and €12m a day, was ended on July 19th, after which it took several days to get flights back to normal

Van der Werff said company said it would now continue putting in place its restructuring plan, SAS FORWARD, and push ahead with restructuring in the US, where the company has filed for Chapter 11. 

He said these would both “accelerate the transformation process that will lead to a financially stable airline, that will be able to deliver the service our customers are expecting”.