When Oslo Airport officially opens its expanded new terminal on April 27, 2017, the gateway will boast one of the most modern, customer and environmentally friendly facilities in Europe with the capacity to handle up to 30 million passengers per annum.
The fact that it is one of Europe’s most modern airports should come as no surprise, of course, as the gateway only opened 18 years ago as a replacement for downtown Fornebu, which simply had outlived its day.
When the NOK11.4 billion (€1.2 billion) airport opened on October 8, 1998, it was heralded as the beginning of a new era for Norwegian aviation as its state-of-the-art facilities and bigger and better design was incomparable to the much loved but outdated Fornebu.
However, managing director, Øyvind Hasaas, believes that effectively doubling the size of the central terminal building and the addition of a new 11-gate North Pier will take things to a new level in terms of creating a distinct and efficient user-friendly facility.
“The new integrated terminal will have more of everything – more check-in counters, more commercial areas, more comfort and more space to move around. It will also have a greater sense of place and be a much nicer airport for everyone,” he says.
Adding another 117,000sqm of terminal space as part of the NK14 billion (€1.5 billion) upgrade has allowed for the creation of new Arrivals and Departures halls and a new baggage handling system built by Vanderlande Industries.
Nine of the 11 gates on the new North Pier will be “flexigates” capable of being used for either Schengen or non-Schengen flights, which Hasaas believes will hugely improve Oslo Airport’s operational efficiency and ability to adapt to last minute schedule changes.
He notes that each new gate will be expected to handle between one and 1.2 million passengers yearly.
The addition of the 63,000sqm North Pier means that the central terminal has three 300m long concourses (North, East and West) which between them are equipped with 45 gates.
The North Pier actually opened to domestic traffic in mid-October and began handling its first international flights in December, although many of its new F&B/retail outlets will continue to be added in the coming months until it becomes fully operational in April 2017.
Why did the airport need expanding less than 20 years after being built? Hasaas simply states that the airport was initially built for 17mppa and in 2016 he expects it to handle close to 25 million.
Fornebu, which was located alongside Oslo Fjord and served as the city’s gateway from 1939 until 1998, handled around 12 million passengers in its last year of operations.
Hasaas, who points out that he is relatively new to aviation having only joined Avinor from the private sector in August 2014, says: “I obviously wasn’t around back then but what I can tell you is that we have enjoyed incredible traffic growth since opening and it was always the plan to expand the airport when traffic demanded it.”
He reveals that the current average annual growth rate of about 4% per annum is helped by Norway’s strong economy, wealthy population with a hunger for travel and the entry into the market of Norwegian Air Shuttle.
Indeed, such has been Norwegian’s growth that the airline is now on an equal footing with SAS at Oslo Airport, each accounting for around 40% of the traffic at the gateway.
He also admits that Norway’s size – it is 2,600km long – and wild and rugged landscape can make travelling between cities by road a long and arduous process, ensuring that aviation is often the preferred mode of transport for domestic travel.
Hasaas remarks that this phenomenon means that Norway is effectively an “airborne nation” and this is backed up by the fact that Oslo enjoys a 50/50 split between domestic and international traffic.
A total of 24.6 million passengers passed through the airport in 2015 with transfer traffic representing around 23% of the total.
The top five international destinations served from Oslo are Copenhagen, Stockholm, London, Amsterdam and Frankfurt while Trondheim, Bergen and Stavanger, its top three routes within Norway, are among the top eight domestic routes served anywhere in Europe handling 1.8 million, 1.5 million and 1.9 million passengers respectively last year.
Hasaas remarks that the airport has invested considerable time and effort into improving its concessions offerings in a bid to have a line-up of outlets that appeal to all tastes and pockets.
And he tells Airport World that introducing more of a Scandinavian feel to the concessions offering was a vital component of its retail/F&B development strategy for the expanded terminal.
He says: “We challenged the architects to come up with a Scandinavian look for the airport and they have responded, so now visitors are left in no doubt that they are in Norway and Scandinavia.
“We also wanted our new concessions offering to be exciting and appealing to all travellers and budgets and I now believe that we have the right mix of outlets to do this.”
In terms of facts and figures, the concessions revamp will increase the number of eateries from 20 to 37 and retail outlets from 12 to 21.
The latest new additions to the airport’s commercial offerings include the opening of a new Heinemann Duty Free outlet and several new restaurants that include Jamie’s Deli, British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s first restaurant
Already one of the world’s leading gateways for Arrivals duty free sales, Oslo Airport doubled the size of its Arrivals offering in September with the opening of a new 4,000sqm store operated by Travel Retail Norway (TRN).
The outlet alone has added 700 new items for sale and a selection of high quality Norwegian merchandise.
Hasaas says: “It means shorter queues and more room and choice for customers. What’s not to like?”
Non-aeronautical revenues currently account for 60% of Oslo Airport’s income and retail/F&B for 40% of this total.
As well as a world of new facilities to explore in the expanded terminal, airport visitors can also be assured of super quick security processing times with 95% of passengers already passing through checkpoints in five minutes or less.
Oslo achieved the enviable times 18 months ago and with 11 new security lanes opening next year, taking the total to 30 across the airport, Hasaas is confident that things can only improve.
According to Hasaas, the new lanes are significantly larger than the current ones and are designed to ensure that each passenger has more room to place their hand luggage on the belt before they pass through the security check, and more room to organise and repack items after passing through the inspection process.
“The security check is looked upon as a stress factor by many, so it is particularly important to us that this part of the journey goes smoothly,” he says, noting that a happy passenger is more likely to spend money shopping or enjoying a meal than an agitated or angry one.
Such is Avinor’s determination to be a good neighbour and green pioneer that it is almost impossible to talk about Oslo Airport and not mention its environmental efforts.
Among its numerous initiatives have been the creation of a snow depot to collect snow in the winter, which it later uses to cool the terminal building in the summer; providing 240 free charging stations for electric vehicles owned by passengers and staff; recycling 65% of waste in the terminals; and achieving the highest ‘Neutrality’ status in ACI’s Airport Carbon Accreditation programme.
The Air Transport Action Group (ATAG) endorsed publication Aviation Climate Solutions has also recognised the fact that more than 7,500 curved approaches have been performed at Oslo Airport since 2012 courtesy of satellite-based navigation technology that has helped the gateway reduce its overall noise impact and greenhouse gas emissions.
Another major milestone included becoming the first airport in the world, just ahead of Los Angeles International Airport, to start offering jet biofuel to its airline customers.
Air BP is the supplier of the biofuel and Lufthansa, SAS and KLM have already signed agreements to purchase it, although Hasaas notes that it is expensive and other airlines have yet to join them.
“The initial slow take up of jet biofuel is not unexpected as the introduction of biofuels for aircraft is still in its infancy, but it is a start. Elsewhere on the airport we have been quite successful in the introduction of bio-diesel for vehicles,” says Hasaas.
“I believe the new snow depot is a world first for an airport and quite an exciting project that is good for the environment and reduces our electricity bill.
“We are part of the aviation industry value chain and therefore must act responsibly and do our bit to address the challenges facing planet earth.”
Popularity of public transport
Despite its location 47km northeast of Norway’s capital, excellent bus and train links mean that 70% of Oslo’s passengers use public transport to travel to and from the airport each year.
Indeed, the percentage of passengers arriving by private vehicles dropped from 27% in 2014 to 22% last year while the numbers arriving by train courtesy of the NSB (Norwegian State Railway) has soared from a 7% market share in 2007 to 15% in 2014 and 21% in 2015.
Hasaas attributes the increased popularity of the train to more frequent services and lower prices, both of which fit in with Avinor and the Norwegian government’s respective policies of getting more cars off of the roads.
According to Avinor, no other airport in Europe has achieved a higher public transport share and Hasaas believes that the figure will be similar or even higher for airport staff.
“Worldwide, to my knowledge there are just three airports that can boast of a higher rate of public transportation,” says Hasaas proudly.
“We work diligently to improve the public transport share through a number of targeted measures that make it more attractive to take public transportation to and from Oslo Airport.”
Has the inevitable decline in car parking revenues been tough to take? “This is a price we are prepared to pay for being more eco-focused,” he states.
Hasaas is keen to stress that Avinor and Oslo Airport are 100% committed to delivering top quality customer service and hopes that the opening of the impressive new facilities will finally allow the gateway to shine in ACI’s annual Airports Service Quality (ASQ) Survey.
“Satisfied customers are the key to success, but it has been hard to impress with overcrowded facilities and all the construction work going on around the airport site in the last few years,” he admits.
“However, we are nearly done with the construction work and after April 2017 our two main customers, passengers and the airlines, will be able to enjoy one of the most modern, user-friendly airports in the world and I am sure we will do better.”
There is certainly no doubt that passengers have an ally in Hasaas who, on joining Avinor, stated that he had a “blackbelt in travel” and therefore saw things very much from a traveller’s perspective.