A closer look: History of Copenhagen Airport (CPH)

This will be the first review in the new series on ScandoTraveler.com; A closer look. As the title suggests we will look deeper into the history and will review different airports, airlines and other entities in the world of aviation.

In this post we will focus on the history of Copenhagen Airport – a separate post will be uploaded with a full review of the current facilities.

The early days

Copenhagen Airport opened on April 20th 1925 and was one of the first civil airports in the world. Back then it consisted of grassy runways which was, believe it or not, kept short by sheep. At the time, flying was not for the faint hearted and most flights out of the airport was during the months of summer and in good weather conditions. It wasn’t until 1930, where the quality of radio transmissions and weather forecasts had improved, that the airport opened for year-around traffic.

Air travel became increasingly popular and in 1939 a new passenger terminal opened – six times the size of the old one. The passenger growth was however brought to a halt as a result of the second world war. The airport itself was relatively unaffected by the war and the facilities was in fact improved during those years. Three new concrete runways was built as well as new taxi ways. As a result, Copenhagen Airport was actually the most modern airport in Europe when the war finally ended. At least according to the airport itself.

The airport made the history books in 1954 when Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) opened the first commercial polar route in the world between Los Angeles and Copenhagen. A few years later, in 1957, the first jet landed at the airport. The world had now entered the jet age and most airlines started to replace their old piston-powered aircrafts with new and modern jetliners. This resulted in a true aviation boom and the charter companies was now transporting thousands of sun-hungry Scandinavians to Southern Europe.

In 1960 the airport opened a new passenger terminal (the current terminal 2) but soon realised that they still wouldn’t be able to cope with the increasing passenger numbers. A massive expansion plan was published in 1969 and that included the current terminal 1 (used for domestic flights), the addition of a new pier (C), a separate arrivals hall, a new control tower and finally a new 3600 meter (11,811ft) runway. The latter allowed simultaneous take-offs and landings to take place. The expansion was completed in 1972 and the annual passengers had now exceeded 8 millions.

The new strategy

The airport’s current strategy – to become the best transfer airport – took its shape during the 70s and 80s. A new long-term plan was developed and and the ultimate goal was to be able to handle 20 million annual passengers by 2000. The work started in 1982 and was to be completed in increments. New freight facilities was built and the terminal areas were given a comprehensive overhaul in line with the new transfer strategy. The aim was to create a relaxing environment where the passengers wouldn’t mind waiting for a connecting flight.

1998 was an important year. An expansion of the current terminal 1 was completed as well as a new baggage handling system and a new underground train station to mention a few. The latter was in preparation for the opening of the bridge between Denmark and Sweden. This opened on 1st July 2000. All of a sudden it was possible to reach the airport from the Swedish city of Malmö in just 20 minutes by train.

During the 2000s the European aviation market started to change significantly when the ultra low-cost carriers became increasingly popular. Copenhagen Airport was designed to handle full-service airlines and struggled to attract the likes of Ryanair and EasyJet. Different options was discussed and the airport eventually opened a new satellite terminal – CPH GO – in 2010. This is exclusively used by low-cost carriers.

Ryanair Boeing 737-800 at Copenhagen Airport
Expanding CPH

The most extensive expansion plan in the history of the airport was published in December 2016. A separate post will be uploaded to cover this –  so stay tuned.

What do you think? Please feel free to ask any questions or offer any insights in the comment section below.

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Fly safe!



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