Copenhagen Airport looks to cement its status as Northern Europe’s cargo hub


Positioned between the United States and the Middle East, Copenhagen Airport (CPH), the main international airport for Denmark, finds itself well placed to serve the European region through its efficient and unique multi-hub.

With some of the shortest cargo transfer times in Europe and direct access to the motorway, cargo arriving in Copenhagen can be transported overnight to 900 cities across the continent. This attractive and well-connected location has helped make CPH a northern European hub for air cargo traffic to Scandinavia, the Baltic States and the countries to the south of the Baltic Sea.

As it stands, the main types of cargo moving through the region include raw materials and industrial consumables, as well as perishables, such as food. This is followed by pharma and other life science products, machinery parts and, unsurprisingly given the airport’s location, fresh fish. Cargo coming into Demark through CPH is primarily pharma, perishables, e-commerce and electrical machinery.

Throughout 2022, CPH handled over 204,000 tonnes of freight, plus 97,000 tonnes from Integrator traffic, in total 301,000 tonnes with the majority of that flown in the belly of passenger planes carrying travellers from around the globe. This allows CPH’s cargo operations to continue to thrive as passenger flights return post-Covid.

“We expect increased cargo activity with new intercontinental passenger flights to Delhi, Addis Ababa, Abu Dhabi and Montreal, which begin in 2023,” Senior Air Cargo Manager Michael Giese, Copenhagen Airports, said. “New cargo terminals near the airside cargo area ensures that the cargo community can continue to develop their businesses amid a rise in passengers.”

READ: Etihad Airways announces new routes to Copenhagen and Düsseldorf

Creating a cohesive cargo community

CPH’s strong cargo operation is facilitated through the four cargo terminals at Copenhagen Airport: Spirit Air Cargo Handling, DHL North European Hub, FedEx and Worldwide Flight Services (WFS). The Spirit facility, built in 1998, offers a capacity 14,100 square metres of space, the DHL newly established site adds 26,800 square metres, the WFS terminal consist of 15,000 square metres and finally FedEx terminal has 10,000 square metres of terminal.

These partnerships, paired with the key connection to other forms of transport, means that CPH is prepared in the future for the increased focus on intermodal transportation in the logistics space. “We receive through-going pallets at CPH from some freight forwarders using trucks. It could be possible to combine this with rail roads in Malmö or the harbour in Copenhagen.”

With a well-balanced relationship between imports and exports, CPH benefits from its lack of restrictions, with no curfew or capacity restrictions, making it particularly appealing for airlines. This is reflected in how cargo traffic has remained stable at the airport amid the global fluctuation in the market. According to airport data, cargo traffic declined by 12.8% in 2022 versus 2019, as growing demand for airfreight transportation starts to cut heavily into demand.

This strong bond between cargo companies in the region continues into the evolution of the airfreight industry at CPH, with dialogue opening up across the network to build a digital cargo community system. “We are fully aware that digitalisation is needed to offer the best possible customer service and to ensure seamless traffic growth within the present airside area,” Giese explained.

READ: WFS opens new Cargo Terminal 3 in Copenhagen

Keeping growth on track

On the horizon, there are a number of areas that present significant opportunities for growth in the type of cargo and destinations serviced by European hubs, such as CPH. The pharmaceutical market is expected to expand, with new markets in Africa and Asia. e-commerce presents opportunities through the cooperation between Danish trade associations and to develop the Danish Pavillion on the platform. Fresh fish exports are on the rise through Denmark to Asia and North America, reflecting a strong perishables supply chain.

Despite this potential for growth, CPH is aware of three significant threats to growth across both the type of cargo and destinations serviced by the European hub. The most concerning challenge is potentially unavoidable, as there is an ongoing risk of recession in some markets, which could reduce demand for non-vital products. The second challenge has been ongoing since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, as the closure of airspace has made it more difficult for cargo hubs and airlines to support Asian markets. This final issue ties into the second, as capacity constraints in China and other parts of Asia have limited the movement of cargo from Europe to the region.

Amid all of these potential hurdles, CPH remains optimistic. “The employment numbers continue to look good in North America, which most likely will ensure a constant demand for import which generate cargo operations,” Giese cited. “As China seems to get back to a more normal situation after the COVID-19 lockdown and epidemic, we expect increasing traffic to and from the region. Stronger political and business relationships with India may also become a driver for demand.”

To ensure that CPH capitalises on the opportunities, while avoiding potential hurdles, CPH has an objective: “We will be focusing on preventing bottlenecks and other obstacles, which can put limitations to future cargo growth. Besides ensuring ongoing capacity facilities at CPH, we will also focus on the digital development to ensure that we remain an effective and attractive cargo airport in the Northern Europe.