Near 10% growth at Billund as it targets more freighters

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Billund Airport is looking to add another freighter to its roster and is sure it can attract new carriers after the success of Turkish Cargo, Justin Burns writes.

Growth of the twice a week Airbus A330 service by Turkish from Istanbul and express operators UPS, TNT, DHL and Lufthansa Cargo owned time:matters have led to a 9.7 per cent uplift in tonnage in the first seven months of the year to 40,100, up 3,500 tonnes on the same period in 2016.

Last year was itself a record year for Billund as it handled 66,500 tonnes, as both imports and exports increased strongly.

Vice president of cargo, Jan Ditlevsen (pictured) believes Denmark’s number two gateway for cargo after belly driven Copenhagen Airport, has benefited from the overall uptick in world trade and in the industry as a whole.

Billund Airport vice president for cargo, Jan Ditlevsen

Exports mainly consist of machinery, manufacturing goods, electronics, turbines, spare parts and IT and telecommunications equipment, and imports are generally textiles while e-commerce shipments are on the up.

The airport is looking for a strong finish to 2017 and Ditlevsen forecasts the peak season from September to November will be busy based on feedback he has received from the market.

He explains: “We expect to handled more than 70,000 tonnes this year, which is good for an airport of this size. I think the total market is going up and nothing is going down. Imports and exports are both strong.”

Ditlevsen says Billund is in an ideal location for carriers to the manufacturing heart of Denmark and the rest of the Europe and about 65 per cent of tonnage is from road feeder services.

“What we see is there is cargo from northern Germany coming on trucks to the Turkish freighter and express operators. We have widened our catchment area to 500 kilometres from Billund,” he explains.

He believes there is room for more freighters into and out of Billund and the airport is working hard to secure more routes.

“We are not expecting one straight away and are targeting one in the long-term, but we will keep on fighting for it. We have a big warehouse of 18,000 square metres so we are in a position to grow and adapt to more capacity.”

Belly traffic is still low at Billund as no widebody passenger aircraft fly into the gateway and the majority of belly traffic into Denmark comes via Copenhagen.

The airport is growing its passenger business so belly cargo may get a lift in the future, but it is firmly positioning itself as a freighter focused hub.

Ditlevsen is sure it has a bright future: “We are very optimistic about the future. Denmark is doing well economically and trade is strong. Billund will have a piece of the international growth.”