The facility handled almost 300,000 passengers last year.
Sweden is known, among other things, for being the country in the world with the most islands. While only around 1,000 of its more than 267,000 islands are inhabited, some are still large enough to require their own airports. One of these is the island of Gotland, situated off the Nordic country’s southeastern coast.
More than 80 years old
According to Swedavia, which operates Gotland’s Visby Airport (VBY), flights to the island predate the airport itself. Indeed, as early as 1925, Dornier Wal flying boats from German carrier Deutsche Aero Lloyd were making intermediate stopovers in Gotland’s bay of Slite on their way from Stockholm to Szczecin and Danzig to Berlin.
In the years that followed, seaplanes also took off from and landed on Lake Tingstäde, but, as traffic increased, so did the need for a permanent, land-based commercial airport. With this in mind, Visby Airport opened in the northeast of the island in January 1942, 81 years ago. Commercial flights commenced that October.
For more than a decade, aircraft flying to and from Visby Airport had to take off and depart using a grass runway. However, 1956 saw the construction of a paved strip. Today, this asphalt runway (03/21) measures 2,000 meters (6,562 feet). The facility also retains a grass runway (10/28) which clocks in at 1,100 meters (3,609 feet).
Visby Airport today
Gotland has now been served by jet aircraft for more than half a century, following KLM’s deployment of the Fokker F28 ‘Fellowship’ to the island in 1972. Meanwhile, 1990 saw the airport’s first Boeing 737-operated services.
In terms of the facility’s current network, it carries a primarily domestic focus. Indeed, its year-round flights only serve other Swedish destinations, with Braathens Regional Airlines (BRA) flying to Gothenburg, Malmö, and Stockholm Bromma. Meanwhile, Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) also flies to Stockholm Arlanda all year.
Visby also sees considerable seasonal traffic, necessitating upgrades such as the automated bag drop systems pictured above. Indeed, Flygtorget notes that during Almedalen Week (a political festival), the airport even has to be slot-controlled. Seasonal destinations include Ängelholm (BRA), Helsinki (BRA and Finnair), Norrköping (BRA), and Stockholm Arlanda (Norwegian and Ryanair).
Crunching the numbers
Prior to the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, Visby Airport’s busiest year came in 2017. During this 12-month period, the facility handled more than 490,000 passengers, making it the 27th-busiest airport in the Nordic countries. In terms of Swedish airports alone, the facility ranked ninth in the country with this figure.
Of course, the events of recent years have significantly impacted air travel all around the world, and Visby is no exception to this rule. However, the airport is recovering well, with the 294,760 passengers that it handled last year representing a 55.6% increase compared to 2021. Visby Airport’s 2022 figures made it the 32nd-busiest airport in the Nordic countries, and Sweden’s eighth-busiest.
What do you make of Gotland’s Visby Airport? Have you ever flown there yourself? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments!
Sources: Flygtorget, Statistics Sweden, Swedavia