Danish independent Maersk Air is doubling the capacity on its European network as it experiences a dramatic surge in international traffic.

The carrier currently operates 19 B737s on scheduled services and is adding six B737-500s this year and 12 B737-700s from October 1997. These aircraft are coming in as the carrier phases out its fleet of nine F50s, more than doubling capacity.

Senior vice president commercial J¿rn Erickson says a 30 per cent increase in traffic on Maersk's international routes has necessitated the move to a jet fleet. Maersk operates from Billund on Denmark's west coast, away from SAS' Copenhagen hub, to Amsterdam, Brussels, London/Gatwick, Paris/CDG, Frankfurt and Stockholm.

Prior to liberalisation western Denmark had little direct access to major European cities. With half of Denmark's 5 million population within an hour and a quarter's drive of Billund airport, there was large demand being unfulfilled. 'Liberalisation has given new opportunities to Maersk Air and we have grown profitably because it has given us more scope for operations,' he says. Once the new fleet is in place, the next step is to increase the frequencies to these existing destinations, says Erickson. But new European destinations are also under consideration.

Maersk also serves five domestic destinations but in two years' time this traffic will be hit by Denmark's equivalent of the Channel Tunnel - a bridge giving Copenhagen a land link to the rest of Denmark. Erickson will not reveal estimates of how this will affect traffic, but says it would have a 'dramatic impact'.

Sara Guild

Source: Airline Business