Aalborg Airport history
Aalborg Airport had its 82nd anniversary in 2020. But the main route, Aalborg-Copenhagen, goes back further than that. It is the first domestic route in Denmark, which started in September 4th 1936 where the planes from Copenhagen landed at the field of a concrete factory in Rørdal, outside Aalborg.
At that time the route is one hour and 40 minutes. There is room for eight passengers, the pilot, the radio operator and one engine in the Fokker F VII-plane. The price for a single ticket is 25 kr., corresponding to approx. 907 kr. 2021-prices. Both SAS, DAT and Norwegian are much cheaper today.
In 1936, the aircraft is slightly more expensive than the high speed train, but about five hours faster. A modest start at the Aalborg-Copenhagen route, which turns out to be Denmark's undeniable largest domestic route with an estimation of about 25 millions passengers from then till now.
The Concrete Mogul leads the way
In the thirties, major cities in Jutland tries to be the first with a flight to Copenhagen. Aalborg City Council is not much for sacrificing a fortune on an airport, no one could imagine a need for. But Aalborg is still the first to do so, because of engineer Gunnar Larsen. At the time he is the Director of F.L. Smidth, who owns Aalborg Portland - the concrete factory in Rørdal.
The concrete mogul as he is called, has his own corporate jet with a private pilot and a small airfield at the factory. He offers that the flights for Copenhagen used the airfield for a trial period of two years. Then, Aalborg municipality adopts the idea and decides to build an airport when and if the route would become an success.
The mayor of Aalborg, Marinus Jørgensen, is convinced. In urgent matters the Provincial Carrier is founded and on the 4th of September 1936, the Prime Minister Stauning is the first with a flight from Copenhagen to Aalborg, and declares the day a national day of celebration.
With one round-trip flight per day, the 26 flights has no more than 277 passengers in September 1936. The reason for that is that the planes are only able to fly in daylight. The year after there is both a morning and an evening departure from May to October with a total of 878 passengers from Aalborg to Copenhagen and 967 in the opposite direction.
City Council on the wing
The route from Aalborg to Copenhagen has shown its merits, and Aalborg City Council invests in an Airport at Thistedvej north of Nørresundby. The Airport opens 29th of May, 1938 with a flying tournament with 75,000 spectators. A German pilot gets a great deal of attention, when he makes a loop with a large Condor Airliner on 14 tones with 26 seats and the swastika on the tail.
Later this year, the Danish airline company DDL buys two Condor airplanes. It gives Mayor Marinus Jorgensen the idea for a flying City Council on the Condor plane, "Dania".
Aalborg Airport is one of the first airports in the province and the best equipped. However the concrete city's runway is still covered in grass; sufficient for contemporary aircrafts though. In addition to the Copenhagen route, a route to Hamburg opens in June that year from Silkeborg (RY) and Esbjerg, and the year after opens Kritiansand in Norway as well. At Aalborg Airport there are free parking at the time - as there is today.
Aalborg Airport has had its ups and downs, as it usually is the case in the airline industry. Most ups though - with a single slump:
2nd World War
9th April 1940: German Forces occupy Denmark and Aalborg Airport, which extended from 254 to 5,000 acres of land and in a few months turned into a giant military airbase: Aalborg Fliegerhorst West with Europe's longest runways - now in concrete. Contemporary aircraft can not fly from Germany to Norway without having to refuel along the way, and Aalborg becomes the German air forces' stepping stone to Norway - and therefore a bombing target for the British aircraft. The war stops all civil aviation, and the two year old airport building is being demolished.
1945-1948: Britain's Royal Air Force takes over Fliegerhorst Aalborg West and destroys all German military equipment, aircraft hangars, cars, airport equipment, etc. Equipment and buildings for millions are lost at the airport. The area is much larger than Copenhagen Airport, but passenger facilities are almost absent.
The route to Copenhagen starts again in June, with the German's former fire station as the "terminal", and in 1946 the airport and most of other Danish airports are being taken over by the state.
The wanderlust is great after five years of occupation, and in 1948, in addition to the Copenhagen route, there are periods with routes from Aalborg to Aarhus (Tirstrup), Gothenburg, Kristiansand, Stavanger, Oslo and Amsterdam and London. But most of the international routes have at that particular time a short time span.
1951: The passenger numbers plummet and reaches the bottom line, when SAS closes the main route to Copenhagen for a short period of time.
1952: Aalborg Air Base is established in the north of the airport and in 1954, Aalborg Airport requests for a new airport building in the south - closer to Aalborg city.
1969: The passenger numbers rises in the sixties, which makes it necessary to expand the small airport building from 1954 with a much larger extension.
1970-1982: The ship route between Aalborg and Copenhagen closes in 1970, and several people are now taking the plane to Copenhagen. The first charter route from Aalborg Airport starts in 1971, but they are soon to be called off because of the limited capacity at the small airport building. Finally, in the year of 1982 a new, much larger airport terminal is ready, because of the slow process of state fundings.
1997: At the 1st of July, 1997, Aalborg Airport is transferred to the 13 municipalities in Northern Jutland, which are 6 large municipalities today (Aalborg, Jammerbugt, Rebild, Brønderslev, Frederikshavn and Vesthimmerland). Northern Jutland is now again owners of the airport. The municipalities may not profit from the airport, so the money goes to the improvement of passenger facilities.
29th May 2001: New large terminal, 126 meters long. Awarded for its interesting architecture, with arched roof of the boomerang-shaped rafters and two storey glass facade facing the airside. An exterior design that continued in subsequent extensions. The airport will be much more attractive with more departure halls (gates), a view balcony, large duty-free shop, etc. Price 110 million Kr. Charter airlines are returning in increasing numbers - and there is still free parking.
2006: Low-cost carrier, Sterling Airlines opens up a Aalborg-Copenhagen route in October and breaks SAS and Cimber's monopoly. Now there are up to 40 round-trip flights on weekdays with SAS, Cimber and Sterling which are reducing the prices. Sterling also opens up international routes from Aalborg Airport to London and Malaga.
2007: Passenger numbers are exploding, and in 2007, the terminal extended by 60 meters to a total of 186 meters. More space for passengers and more facilities, which, among other things, results in a major departure hall on two floors, extra arrivals and an even greater duty-free shop.
2008: Sterling declares bankruptcy in October. Instead the low-cost airline company Norwegian opens a Aalborg-Copenhagen route and more international routes. The airport upgrades its marketing and attracts new passengers from the Aarhus, Randers, Viborg and Silkeborg area in the south to Skagen in the north and Thisted in the west.
2011: Aalborg Airport gets an international breakthrough when KLM / Air France in the spring opens a new route to Amsterdam. An exciting destination, but equally important: Most of the world is now open from Aalborg with just one connecting flight in Copenhagen or Amsterdam.
2012: Financial crisis. Cimber goes bankrupt. On the other hand SAS and Norwegian increases the number of departures at the Aalborg-Copenhagen route, and there are new international routes that include Istanbul and Barcelona as well as new charter destinations. In 2012, there are approximately 1, 4 million passengers traveling to and from Aalborg Airport compared to the modest 6,052 in 1939 - the airport's first full year.
29th May 2013: Aalborg Airport celebrates its 75 years anniversary with a terminal expansion of 7,000 square meters to 175 million Kr. Now with twice as many gates (11), new large lounge, larger security area, seven times as large duty free shop, new bar, etc. The terminal extends at both ends, so the old "terminal" from 1954, which in recent years has been used as the Cargo-dept., is demolished along with the old German guard house from 1940. Aalborg Architects NORD A/S stood for the enlargement both in 2007 and 2013.
2014: Turkish Airlines deploys more departures to Istandbul and several charter companies invest in Aalborg Airport - including Sunweb and SunCharter, which marks itself as North Jutland's own charter company. In addition, Aalborg Airport Hotel opened its doors, and there is now a hotel 50 meters from the terminal.
2015: International traffic gets another push forward as Lufthansa opens a daily route to Frankfurt and Primera Air and KLM expands their route program - while the charter companies continue to expand with more destinations to Spain and Turkey, among others.
2016: Lufthansa unfortunately chooses to close the route to Frankfurt and Turkish Airlines closes their route to Istanbul - due to external conditions. However, SunExpress registers on the runway with a direct route to Antalya, and in December Aalborg Airport reaches a milestone when more than 1,500,000 passengers traveled through the airport in one year. 2016 is also the first year where all the eateries at the airport are 100% insourced, and where a new restaurant and new concepts are introduced.
2017: Direct routes to Oslo with SAS, London with Ryanair, Gran Canaria with Norwegian and a domestic route to Bornholm with DAT will open. In addition, there is an increase in Malaga and Amsterdam, among others, and foreign traffic is flourishing significantly.
2018: Foreign traffic is in a continued great development, where capacity is increased on the Spanish routes such as Malaga, Mallorca and Vueling's Barcelona route, which becomes a year-round route. Primera Air opens a route directly to Athens and charter traffic gets a boost - with flights to Turkey, Egypt and Greece. In October 2018, Primera Air goes bankrupt, where several routes from Aalborg Airport will be closed and the charter companies will be challenged. It gives a decline in the last months of the year, but the annual result ends with a historical record of 1,609,965 passengers.
2019: After Primera Air's bankruptcy, the winter program is challenged with a decline in foreign traffic. The new Danish airline Great Dane Airlines will be established and launch three direct routes to Edinburgh, Dublin and Nice from June 2019. At the same time, they will enter the charter market and fly for Bravo Tours to Rhodes, Mallorca, Varna and Crete, among others.
2020: This year will forever be remembered as the year of the corona, which had a catastrophic impact on the aviation industry, including Aalborg Airport, which could register a passenger decline of as much as 65 percent compared to 2019. The first two months of the year started otherwise promising with news for the summer program, such as Gazipasa and Zakynthos and more summer traffic abroad. In March, Denmark closed down and from the end of March, the airport had to send 85 percent of its employees home on wage compensation. Subsequently, the airport had to say goodbye to 92 skilled employees.
One big bright spot in 2020 was the opening of the new direct train connection to Aalborg Airport, which in the future will lift the airport to new heights. However, there is no doubt that the 2020 and COVID-19 pandemics will affect the industry for many years to come.
The airport attracts passengers from all over Jutland due to exciting destinations, 6,000 free parking spaces and direct trains to the airport. From 2008 to 2019, the number of passengers has doubled, where today in a normal year there are around 1.5 million. passengers. The main route Aalborg-Copenhagen is in 2021 still Denmark's largest domestic route, accounting for more than half of all passengers on the Danish domestic routes.