Europe is a big place. It’s home to 44 countries, spanning 3.93 million square miles, equivalent to 2% of the Earth’s surface. In a place this big, there’s bound to be a lot of airports. Depending on where you get your information, that figure is between 1,000 to 2,000, potentially more.

When you’re selecting an airport to choose as your European air cargo hub, that’s a lot of choices. But, after a meticulous selection process, we’ve opted for Billund Airport in Denmark.

It’s where our own controlled flight operations now run from Hangzhou (China) to Billund seven times a week. The new facility is a fully-equipped 4000m² import and 13,000m² export facility, as well as housing separate areas for cold storage, dangerous goods, scanning and unit load device (ULD) handling. It’s the place for us.

But, you might ask, why Billund? Here’s why.

Maersk air plane illustration

Location, location, location

When choosing a place to base your air cargo operations, the first factor to consider is the location. That’s because, in its most basic form, an airport is a gateway. In this instance, it’s a gateway to the European market.

As such, you need the location to be central, to form a network to the rest of the continent. The more strategic the location, the easier it is to reach a wider pool of consumers.

Situated in the heart of Denmark, Billund Airport provides this strategic location for onward connectivity. 

Take the road south 176 miles and you’re into Hamburg and Central Europe. Go 185 miles east and you’re into Malmo, the Nordics and the remainder of Northern Europe. Or head 477 miles west across the North Sea and into the UK. Thanks to our bonded vehicles, the cargo from our Hangzhou-Billund flights can be delivered to Heathrow within just 33 hours of touchdown.

Plus, it’s only 165 miles away from Maersk’s global headquarters in Copenhagen. This proximity provides a lot of advantages in terms of infrastructure and resources.

For these geographical reasons, Billund is undoubtedly a great lynchpin in our integrator strategy. But location is only part of the story.

Shot of an engine from Maersk branded plane

Size matters

From a strategic standpoint, the size of Billund Airport is the real value-add and differentiator of the Maersk European Air Cargo Hub.

According to Statista, the European airports that handle the most cargo are Frankfurt, Paris, Leipzig, Amsterdam and Istanbul – four of which are centrally located. Each of these sites handles upwards of 1.5 million tons of cargo per year. That, potentially, is a problem.

More cargo means more congestion. And gridlock is hugely frustrating considering the key competitive advantage of air freight is speed. Take this report from The Loadstar, for instance. As air cargo volumes surged in response to the Red Sea Crisis, inbound movement into Dubai was suspended due to “clear cargo buildups”. The mode of transport that was chosen to avoid disruption became the disruption.

At small airports like Billund, however, this risk is much less likely. There’s less congestion, faster handling and better service. For example, thanks to our partnership with Billund Airport and the wonderful handling crew there, we get priority loading and unloading, which wouldn’t be possible at other European airports.

So, where it may take a number of days for cargo to get processed and cleared at larger airports, it takes us only a matter of hours at Billund. That’s a huge difference – one that enables us to maximise the speed advantage of air.

And it’s not just us who think this. It’s happening throughout the wider industry and in other markets. According to Aviation Week, a “growing cohort of major cargo players” are adopting smaller airports to “avoid intense congestion at major hubs”.

A crucial part of our integrator strategy

The demands on supply chains today are complex, testy and constantly moving. That means there’s no one-sizefits-all logistics solution. The best way forward is through an integrated, end-to-end approach.

The Maersk European Air Cargo Hub in Billund is a crucial part of our integrator strategy. It’s in the right place, it’s the right size and with the partnership we have with Billund Airport and its ground handling crew, we can optimise speed and connectivity for our customers. It may be a small airport, but it has a big impact.

Maersk solutions illustration

To talk to us about how Maersk Air Freight can help your business:

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