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What Makes Copenhagen Europe’s Most Efficient Airport?

Copenhagen Airport (CPH) has been named Europe’s most efficient by international researchers and aviation experts at the Air Transport Research Society.

This recognition was earned through a consistent commitment to making air travel better.

“We want to make it easier for passengers to pass through the airport, and we want to provide the optimal conditions for airlines to operate at the airport. Both prongs of our strategy are very much based on digital solutions, automation and utilisation of the vast amounts of data we collect.”—Copenhagen Airport COO Kristian Durhuus.

Self-Service and Technology at Copenhagen Airport

Danes like mobile check-in. Since most airlines serving Copenhagen Airport have this feature available, there’s no need to queue.

There are sufficient automated kiosks for anyone needing or wanting a printed boarding pass.

Many people pack light in Europe, so there’s often no need to check luggage—but Copenhagen airport offers self-bag drop facilities.

Copenhagen Airport says that Danes are “among the most self-servicing in the world,” and I believe it.

Copenhagen has encouraged this behavior by prioritizing technology that simplifies air travel.

“Most of our passengers have been checking in themselves for a number of years, and in the past few years, many have also started using the automatic baggage drop. We were also among the first to adopt self-service scanning of boarding passes before security and at the boarding gates, and our most recent initiative is the introduction of automatic passport control this June. The self-service solutions save the airlines’ staff costs while increasing traveler satisfaction,” explained Kristian Durhuss. Durhuss also highlights the airport’s insight into the airlines’ processes, passengers’ travel patterns, and big data as a means of enhancing efficiency.

“Currently, we are investing heavily in expanding and improving the airport, and this year alone, we are spending more than DKK 1 billion on expansion projects. These construction projects are based on advanced models and huge amounts of data, for example, from some 100,000 passenger interviews annually, and analyses carried out jointly with airlines and ground-handling companies. These include analyses of how we can make it easier to use self-service solutions, analyses of how the ground-handling companies can better utilize data for their baggage team planning and reduce waiting times in the baggage reclaim area, or analyses of how airlines can speed up boarding and deboarding of aircraft,” Durhuus adds.

Copenhagen Airport: It’s Not Complicated

Copenhagen Airport’s operations are designed to make the complicated seem effortless.

It’s a relatively user-friendly airport, even if you’ve never been there before. You don’t need to speak Danish—at all. Everyone speaks English. The way-finding feature of the airport’s website is very useful. It includes guides in Mandarin.

The security checkpoint is always adequately staffed, with clocks at various points in the terminals reporting the average flow time to get through the queue.

The security area is also designed to help you prepare. Plenty of easily understood picture signs remind you to take out your electronics and separate your liquids and gels in plastic bags. There are even plastic bag dispensers because we can all forget.

In my six years traveling through Copenhagen, the longest wait I’ve ever encountered was twenty minutes. It’s easy to get used to the better things in life, so this was mildly irritating, but well-trained staff effectively managed the backlog.

“We maintain a very large, complex operation, yet we manage to do so using fewer employees than our peers. This is in large part due to our workforce of skilled and independent people who take on a great deal of responsibility,” says Kristian Durhuus.

No Baggage Hassles and Convenient Connections

Baggage retrieval is a breeze, and there are some benches to sit on if you have to wait. Painted lanes on the floor let you know how to walk out and even mark a path for those with no bags to pick up so you can simply breeze through.

Connecting to another flight is also convenient, but a word of warning: while Copenhagen Airport is not as enormous as other European hubs, it is large enough that you want to head out to your gate with some time to spare.

Fortunately, there are screens everywhere that tell you when that should be. There is also an excellent staffed transfer hall with helpful agents and more screens and kiosks to answer any questions you have and address any problems.

One late night I knew I had to rush to get to the other side of the airport in time for my connection to Billund. My previous flight was delayed, and it seemed I’d miss my plane. I rushed to the desk and asked an agent to please call the gate, letting them know I was on my way. They were glad to help. I wish other airports—even more prone to tight connections—would do the same thing. (I’m not naming names. You know who you are.)

Watch out for the shops and restaurants!

One final warning: there are so many nice shops and restaurants along the way to your gate that you’ll want to fight the temptation to linger. It’s a great reason to arrive early for your flight and also a good reason not to be too bothered if your connection is long. You will not be bored or go hungry. The lounges are really convenient, and there are plenty of them—including lounges that let you buy a day pass to enter.

CPH: Airline and Concessions Friendly

Copenhagen Airport’s efficiencies extend to back-end operations, concessionaire partnerships, and investments to attract more international carriers.

“Operating a business at an airport is complex, not least because of the security rules. For example, employees must pass through time-consuming checkpoints several times during their workday. The result is a lot of unnecessary idle time, costing the company money. Last year, we reorganized our critical security-restricted area to better match the needs and day-to-day operations of the companies. This involved investing a triple-digit million kroner amount, but has significantly reduced the number of times a day that in particular handling company and airline employees pass through checkpoints, saving them millions of kroner,” says Kristiran Durhuus.

“The airlines know that Scandinavia is generally a high-cost area. Having efficient operations is clearly one of the principal prerequisites for our ability to compete with other European airports in attracting new routes and airlines in the future. Being rated Europe’s most efficient airport is therefore extremely important.”


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  1. Pingback: CPH’s Record Growth Delivers DKK 1.7bn to Danish Economy – Flight Chic

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