After the completion of its major refurbishment — including an extended runway, a new passenger terminal, and significant safety and technology upgrades — additional development is set to make Vagar Airport even more attractive.
[By B. Tyril and R. Olavson]
Vagar Airport has been on a path of unprecedented progress over the last few years, with traffic statistics breaking new records in 2015 and financial results the best ever. A major development program initiated in 2010 and largely completed in 2014 and 2015 included a 50-percent runway extension, from 1250 to 1799 meters, as well as a complete new passenger terminal and services building plus a range of further infrastructure improvements and safety upgrades.
With a renewed airport, not merely the whole Faroese travel and tourism industry has received a serious boost that has coincided with a sizable raise in the public funding for incoming tourism. Society as a whole has invested for the future, according to Vagar Airport CEO Jákup Sverri Kass. “This goes beyond travel and tourism,” Mr. Kass said. “The airport is the only one in the Faroe Islands and the vast majority of those who enter or leave the country travel by air, for business or pleasure.”
The last round of development saw all control tower equipment renewed with the latest in technology.
This comes on the back of the installation of new navigation equipment outside simultaneously with the extension of the runway itself to increase safety and flight regularity.
There is still more to come. A new apron is being added this year (2016) to make room for parking of six aircraft on the airport rather than five.
Also a large parking lot is being planned, featuring roofed sidewalks for all-weather convenience. At the same time, two new, modern fire trucks have been purchased.
“This equipment is something you only want to use for fire drills but you have to have it nonetheless, just in case,” Mr. Kass said. “These trucks are a vital part of our emergency preparedness plan and we’re pleased to have raised our safety standards quite considerably in this department.”
‘People seem impressed’
To airlines and tour operators, the half kilometer of tarmac added to the Vagar Airport runway makes for an exponentially increased operational radius, almost quadrupling it from 1,400 to 5,300 km. That means non-stop flights from Faroe Islands, previously limited to the Nordic region and the United Kingdom, can now safely be made to all of Continental Europe, about half of Asia, the entire Arctic region, a good portion of North America, and most of North Africa and the Middle East.
For passengers in particular, meanwhile, the new terminal, which was finished in the summer of 2014, made the transformation of Vagar Airport complete. More comfortable and spacious and with a much larger supply of tax-free shopping items and more enjoyable lounges and eateries, the modern and neatly designed building has become the symbol of a new era, as its inauguration marked the official opening of the refurbished airport and the completion of a major development program.
“In effect we have a brand new airport,” Mr. Kass said. “This is no small deal for a country of 50,000 inhabitants. In addition to the critical extension of the runway and the all-new and much larger terminal and services building, all of the equipment in the control tower has been replaced and besides we have had several improvements and upgrades when it comes to navigation, communication and safety. In fact the control tower is now one of the most modern in Europe.”
The new passenger terminal was put to the test in March 2015, when the Faroe Islands was host to the spectacle of a full solar eclipse, an event that brought with it record numbers of tourists present in the Faroe Islands at any given point, an approximate 8,000 people.
“The event was the perfect way to demonstrate to the world that this airport indeed has the capacity to receive many thousands of people in a very short time period,” Mr. Kass said.
2015 set a new record with the number of travelers coming through the airport totaling 276,375—underpinning the broader ambition of the Faroese government to expand the tourism industry.
“The tourism industry is clearly going through a process of positive change and for their part the political authorities seem to be more committed than ever to support its growth.”
Mr. Kass added: “Last year we turned a profit of 4.6 million dkk despite the fact that we lowered fees and extended a discount to a major client; this is our best financial performance ever.”
Representatives from Vagar Airport often attend aviation and airport conferences, such as Terminal Expo 2016 in Cologne, where Mr. Kass gave a presentation on the refurbishment and expansion of the airport, using the opportunity to present it as a viable destination and transit hub for scheduled and charter flights. “People are impressed with the way the Faroe Islands invests in public infrastructure development,” he noted.