Some years back and after the demise of the Hungarian national carrier Malev, Budapest Airport was seen by some as being in danger of becoming a second-rate airport within Europe. That picture is something of the past as the airport, thanks to a great extent to air cargo, has shown itself to be a successful fighter.
From decrepit buildings to new facilities
Even back in the “old days” Budapest was doing its best to attract cargo carriers to the airport. It had proven to be a tough job as the facilities there were considered as being too old and decrepit, scattered across several locations around the airport, and by no means attractive to future customers.
Luxembourg-based all-cargo carrier, Cargolux, was one of the first freight airlines to operate regularly into BUD and has been a loyal supporter ever since, mastering the ups-and-downs both they and the airport faced in the past. In the meantime, the airport has invested heavily in the cargo and passenger infrastructure and this move is starting to bear fruit.
Fast rising tonnage
Cargo volumes have shot up during the past three years. Whereas the airport handled around 90,000 tons in the turnaround year 2015, this figure has risen to 144,000 tons by the end of October 2018 and results for the whole year will probably be in the region of 170,000 tons. The increase is partly because of a noticeable upswing in the Hungarian economy whereas local production has contributed a lot to exports leaving the country. However, the lions share can be attributed to Budapest having successfully positioned itself as a reliable and workable distribution, or catchment area for eastern and central Europe.
In the meantime, Turkish Airlines Cargo, AirBridgeCargo Airlines, Qatar Airways Cargo, and Silkway Airlines have joined Cargolux as regular cargo operators into Budapest. So has DHL that runs a newly built large distribution centre in the vicinity of the airport.
Construction of the new on-site Cargo City started in September of last year and once the €32.6 million project is completed by the middle of this year, will give the airport a further 20,000 square meters of warehouse space along with modern offices. There will also be an enlargement to the aircraft apron space which can allow another two B747 freighters to be handled simultaneously (CargoForwarder Global reported exclusively September 24, 2018).
Going a step further
Now, the cargo management under the leadership of Rene Droese is going a step further and has set its sights on China.
These plans include additional direct freighter and belly cargo flights to/from China along with a further enhancement of e-commerce capabilities at the BUD hub. A Budapest delegation was present at the recent China Air Cargo Summit in Shanghai where they met with various Chinese e-commerce companies as well as with Chinese international airlines.
Mr Droese and his team are convinced that they can sell BUD as a reliable e-commerce distribution centre for the future to their counterparts in China. He was quoted as saying that “e-commerce is a major driver of growth in the air cargo market, particularly in Hungary where we are seeing a more than 25 percent growth rate per year, which is one of the reasons Budapest is one of the fastest growing cargo airports in Europe.”
He could very well be right as the Eastern Europe e-commerce market was valued at €73 billion in 2017 - with the tendency for double-digit growth.
The BUD 2020 investment and development programme which will cost €160 million will surely be a benefitting factor to help this come about.
AviaAlliance Holding fosters cargo cooperation
Budapest is part of the airport management company AviAlliance that holds interests in five airports, among them Dusseldorf and Hamburg. Last year, the trio formed a “Sister Airports” consortium in order to offer carriers alternative cargo hubs. Their mutual aim is to present their joint benefits as non-hub airports as a bundled package. They claim that goods flows can be handled just as well, if not better from dedicated non-hub airports such as theirs due to the fact that they also have state-of-the-art infrastructures and are more flexible in meeting customer’s needs.
John Mc Donagh