Gaining a US pre-clearance facility could pave the way for Stockholm Arlanda airport to gain new narrowbody-operated services to the USA, Swedavia's route development manager Ole Wieth Christensen believes.

Stockholm Arlanda already has transatlantic flights, but speaking at the Routes Europe conference in Belfast today, Christensen says that once the new pre-clearance facility is “up and running” it will make it "much easier" for an airline like Norwegian to start Boeing 737 Max or Airbus A321LR-operated flights to the USA from the Swedish capital.

"Now with Norwegian starting with the new strategy of flying into more smaller places, we see that as an optimal fit that they can transfer their passengers, clear them in Stockholm and then go to the smaller domestic kind of airports in the USA," says Christensen.

He says that the A321LR "might be a more suitable aircraft because it seems that it has a little longer range then the [737] Max".

Stockholm is one of 10 airports that have been shortlisted for a pre-clearance facility and the airport’s operator Swedavia recently signed an agreement with the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency covering US border controls at the Swedish gateway.

Christensen expects the facility to be "up and running" by 2019. The next stage is for the Swedish parliament to ratify the agreement with the CBP. Christensen says it would be "very surprising if we didn’t get it".

Elsewhere, the airport executive says that SAS’s decision to open new overseas bases in Spain and the UK could open up more European short-haul routes from Swedish airports such as Malmo.

"Of course we don’t have anything confirmed yet but coming back to – let’s say for example Spain – we see Malmo to Spain as a clear cut [route] case for SAS," he says.

Christensen says a priority for Swedavia is working to develop new routes to Malmo, which is Sweden’s third largest city but currently does not have direct services to cities such as London.

Because Malmo is located close to Copenhagen, airlines have been reticent to operate to both cities, but Christensen points out that Czech Airlines now operates to both Malmo and Copenhagen from Prague.

He says there are opportunities to add routes to Malmo from London, Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Munich.

Copenhagen and Malmo are connected via the Oresund bridge and Christensen says that Swedish passengers drive to the Danish airport to fly. However, border controls are already in place and Christensen says "there are talks of putting even more border control up there". He believes these could encourage more Swedes to travel from Malmo instead and convince airlines to open new direct routes from the city.

Source: Cirium Dashboard