The opening ceremony of the new BUD Cargo City in November 2019 crowned the hard work and dedication of the cargo team at Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport. During the current crisis, the importance of the cargo business for the Hungarian and Central Eastern European society and economy is clearer than ever. The facility is fully operational and well able to face the challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic. József Kossuth, head of cargo at Budapest Airport, delivers insights in this guest contribution.
Since 2015, the core BUD Cargo team has managed several developments at Budapest Airport, including increasing cargo traffic by 60% to about 150,000 tons annually, developing cargo connectivity
with several new full freighter and belly cargo flights, and opening the new BUD Cargo City, a 32,800 m², state-of-the-art cargo handling and forwarder facility, as well as the adjoining new
cargo apron with two code F 747-8F stands. The changing needs during the COVID-19 crisis required some adaptation of the work structure at BUD as well.
The role of the BUD Cargo City during the coronavirus crisis
The rapid spread of the coronavirus has far-reaching consequences for the global economy. Nevertheless, the undisturbed transportation of goods must be ensured. Budapest Airport is working around the clock for the seamless operation of air cargo, as, in addition to supporting the Hungarian economy, this is crucially important in ensuring the availability of medical supplies. It also plays a key role in the operation of supply chains and in job retention in the related areas.
The demand for dedicated cargo flights has increased considerably. Currently, there is an average of 25-30 cargo flights commuting to Budapest per day. In March 2020, the airport handled 12,303 tons of air cargo, which is 7.1% more than last March. The first quarter generated 33,131 tons, which is 3.1% higher than in the same period last year.
It can be assumed that approximately 15-20% of total traffic is connected to the current emergency, delivering primarily pharmaceutical products, such as personal protective equipment and sanitizers. In this situation, special medical supplies are arriving at Budapest Airport 24 hours a day, with maximum support from the airport, the authorities and the Hungarian government. Budapest Airport thus plays an important role in providing the society with much-needed medical supplies.
The impact of the virus on the daily cargo business
The increased demand for cargo handling is very noticeable at the newly opened BUD Cargo City. In addition to the scheduled flights by Cargolux, Turkish Cargo, Qatar Cargo and Korean Air, the integrator and courier companies DHL Express, TNT Express, FedEx, and UPS, are also operating regularly.
In the face of the emergency, some airlines, which normally transport passengers, are now also carrying cargo. Over the past few weeks, numerous flights by Wizz Air, LOT Polish Airlines, and Hainan Airlines, brought shipments from China. Large cargo charter flights are also arriving on a daily basis, operated by different airlines. In general, air cargo traffic from Asia has increased.
On the other hand, large volumes of freight that are usually carried as belly cargo on long haul passenger flights have vanished on account of the pandemic, which is another reason why the demand for dedicated cargo flights has increased.
Future plans at Budapest Airport
The cargo developments are continuing at Budapest Airport. Various actions, for example, the digitalization of cargo, focusing on special cargo, such as pharma and live animals, optimizing the cargo environment and a certified shipper program are part of the to do list. An ambitious, long-term development masterplan for the entire airport is also in the making.
For now, the entire BUD Cargo team is focusing on managing these challenging times of the coronavirus pandemic to best serve the needs of the Hungarian people.
This report was contributed by József Kossuth, Budapest Airport’s newly appointed head of Cargo.
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