Sweden's smaller airports see 10% drop in passengers

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Sweden's smaller airports see 10% drop in passengers
If the fall in passengers leads to small airports closing down, would the economy of these regions be negatively affected? Photo: Håkon Mosvold Larsen/NTB scanpix/TT

Sweden's smaller airports lost a total of 275,000 passengers in 2019, and there are concerns within the industry that this could over the long term have an impact on the economy outside the country's major cities.


If the trend continues, it's possible that some of Sweden's airports will close down.

"I'm worried that more will go down that path," said Peter Larsson, CEO of Svenska regionala flygplatser (Swedish Regional Airports).

Swedavia, which runs the country's major airports, earlier announced that the number of passengers at its airports fell by four percent last year.

But when looking at the smaller airports, the corresponding figure is ten percent, or 275,000 people in total.

And at certain airports, including those in Jönköping, Karlstad, Skellefteå and Mora, the figure is closer to 30-40 percent.

In those cases, the fall is due to airlines totally or partially leaving the airport, but Peter Larsson attributes two other factors to the nationwide trend: flight tax and the climate debate.

"Employees at municipalities and companies are encouraged not to fly for work for climate reasons. We point out that you can choose to pay for your individual journey to use biofuel, but very few people know about that," he said. 

At the same time, the international industry organization IATA estimates that the number of air passengers will double between 2016 and 2035. One of the big reasons for this predicted growth is the growing middle class in countries like China, India and Indonesia.

"Sweden is almost unique with our reduced flying. In our neighbouring countries, the state subsidizes smaller airports so that they can be kept open," said Larsson.

He said he was "worried" about the possibility smaller airports could be forced to close in future, and that this would have negative consequences on the Swedish economy.

"We are a sparsely populated country and in many places there's no reasonable alternative if, for example, you need to get to Stockholm for a day," he explained.

"I've spoken with entrepreneurs who are considering moving to Stockholm from smaller places, when it's not possible to get to something like a client meeting by plane. Flight connections are high up on the list of priorities when companies choose where to establish themselves."


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