In a Higher League

pp 20-21

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With a major upgrade and facelift successfully completed in 2014, Vagar Airport continues to see the number of passengers traveling through it soaring to record heights — propelled by newfound momentum in the incoming tourism business.

With a 50-percent extension of the runway, modernized navigation and airport lights plus a brand new terminal and service building — Vagar Airport’s 425 million dkk (57M eur) investment is taking the Faroe Islands’ only airport to a higher plane of existence in the aviation business. The new reality coincides perfectly with a rise in incoming tourism amid fresh injections of government cash to the official tourist board, more than doubling their marketing budget to 16.8M dkk (2.25M eur).

“The Faroese tourism industry is clearly going through a process of positive change as the Ministry and Trade and Industry is committed to helping boost this economic sector,” said Vagar Airport CEO Jákup Sverri Kass. “The industry works closely together through Visit Faroe Islands and we are of course excited about the prospects now with their boosted budget. So one of the questions we are looking hard into is how to make good use of the advantages offered with the upgrade of the airport.”

As a case in point, national carrier Atlantic Airways recently decided to add Edinburgh to its flight route network, which opened on 30th March this year (2015).

“We can see many potential synergies in this new route between Vagar and Edinburgh,” Mr. Kass commented. “Knowing Edinburgh Airport is a major hub for Scotland with 20 airlines doing regular flights to and from there, we are going to recommend the Faroe Islands where appropriate as an additional destination or transit point. In fact we are already in dialogue with a number of airlines and charter operators as well with a view to offer the Faroe Islands for consideration in their future plans.”

Back at Vagar, one of the most significant differences compared to earlier — the entire airport renovation project was successfully completed in the summer of 2014 — the flight range that can now be supported: it jumped from 1,400 kilometers to 5,300 km. In practical terms, whereas earlier flights were confined to destinations in Denmark, Iceland, the UK, Ireland, Norway, parts of Sweden and a little corner of western Greenland, now they can go much farther to include all of Europe, the entire Arctic region, just about half of Asia, a good piece of North America, and much of North Africa and the Middle East.

Flying colors

Also significantly, the variety of aircraft types that the airport can receive has become greater because of the greater length of the runway, which is now 1799 meters compared to 1250 before the extension. Traffic regularity has inched upward, too, in result of the combination of new state-of-the-art navigation instruments and a highly improved light configuration which includes new central lights and flash lights at both the east and the west ends of the runway.

“Call this a revolution if you like,” Mr. Kass added. “This is a huge step of historic proportions for this country. It means the number of destinations within reach of direct flights to and from Vagar has grown exponentially compared to 2011 and, also, because of the fact that the number of aircraft types that can land and take off at Vagar has increased significantly, our services can now be offered from a much stronger position compared to earlier. So our area of coverage is certainly large enough to keep us busy for the foreseeable future. One of the main challenges right now is establishing, making known the fact we are here and we’re open for business and part of that means informing people about the Faroe Islands and all the things available here whether for business or pleasure.”

Business indeed appears to be going in the right direction for Vagar Airport with the upward trend in the number of passengers arriving or leaving the airport continuing — that is, after last year’s record-breaking number of 250,000 which marked a 35-percent increase on the decade from 2004.

This year indeed, the whole operation including the new passenger terminal were put to test on the occasion of the total solar eclipse on 20th March. The month saw an increase of 7,160 passengers compared to March 2014.

Said Mr. Kass: “I was very pleased to note that our personnel and our facilities were up to the task in the face of this spectacular event, particular on and around the 20th March.

Fortunately everything went smooth and we were able to handle the huge traffic spike. That test was passed with flying colors.”

With financial results improving, meanwhile, Vagar Airport has decided to lower its transit fee from 185 to 165 dkk (22.12 eur), bringing it under that of Copenhagen Kastrup.