"The situation is developing much faster and more dramatically than what happened during the financial crisis, after 9/11, the ash cloud and any other event that has impacted on aviation since the Second World War," says Copenhagen Airport CEO Thomas Woldbye.

Copenhagen Airport (CPH) is warning of a potential economic crisis resulting from the drop in travel activity as the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) spreads in Europe.

In its most recent reporting for February, CPH says the effect of the outbreak on passenger numbers was already felt. But the full impact has surfaced in March when passenger volumes “dropped by close to one third during the first ten days of the month.”

A total of 1,987,766 passengers travelled through Copenhagen Airport in February, a decline of 0.4% over the same period last year. However, with 2019 being a leap year, February had 29 days. Adjusted for the extra day, the decline was 3.7%. 

Long-haul intercontinental routes out of Europe had significantly fewer departures and there was also lower demand on departures to and from Asia.

Towards the end of February, short-haul European routes were also affected, and in early March that trend has sharply accelerated. 

“During the first ten days of March, the number of departures and travellers in and out of Denmark have dropped by one third. This is something we’ve never seen before. The situation is developing much faster and more dramatically than what happened during the financial crisis, after 9/11, the ash cloud and any other event that has impacted on aviation since the Second World War,” says Copenhagen Airport CEO Thomas Woldbye. 

Health crisis and economic crisis

Woldbye also raised a warning about the long-term impact of this reduction in traffic on the Danish economy.

“This means that not only do we have a serious health crisis, we are also facing a potentially serious economic crisis that could put Denmark’s connectivity to the world – our mobility – under severe pressure,” he emphasises. 

The crisis will impact not only airlines and airports. It will also affect large parts of the business community. For example, 32% of Danish exports by value is moved via air freight. The crisis has also been a major blow to the experience economy, impacting hotels, cultural events and venues as well as restaurants. 

“There are much fewer tourists and business people flying to Denmark these days and the effect is really noticeable. In Denmark, many people have cancelled their trips, and the drop in demand has made the airlines cancel more and more departures and arrivals,” says Woldbye.

He warns that the crisis may have long-lasting and damaging consequences for the country.