Congratulations BUD, on its 70th birthday. No doubt Budapest Airport’s officials would have preferred an occasion not clouded by the current trials and tribulations caused by the Covid-19 crisis, but anniversaries fall on set dates. So it was left to the cargo business to wave the flag of success on the occasion of the 07MAY20.
Since 1950, when the first flights took to the air, as many as 2 million tons of freight have been handled at Ferenc Liszt International Airport Budapest. Compared to Hong Kong, Memphis, or Shanghai, this is not huge, but one should not forget that Hungary belonged to the Soviet Empire until 1989, with limited commercial air traffic and even less cargo transports taking place.
Freight is an important revenue driver
However, lately things have changed dramatically; especially since November 21, 2019, when the airport opened a state-of-the-art Cargo Center as center piece of a larger Cargo City, built in just 15 months.
On the 32,000 m² apron, which is about the size of six soccer fields, two category F aircraft, for example Boeing 747-8Fs with a maximum take-off weight of 440 tons each, can be handled simultaneously. The apron and the adjacent taxiway were built using 15,000 m³ of basalt concrete. This volume corresponds to the amount of water needed to fill six Olympic swimming pools. The apron is 65 centimeters thick and has a considerable load-bearing capacity, which could safely support the weight of 80 African elephants.
Putting your money where your mouth is
Regarding BUD’s future as cargo hub, competing with strong players such as Vienna or Munich, it was kind of a do-or-die decision by the Duesseldorf-based investor AviAlliance GmbH, to give the business a new perspective. This, because Hungary, hosting many industries, has developed continuously into a hot spot for air freight in Eastern Europe, offering forwarding agents and carriers a wide and – most importantly – growing field for business, if the current Covid-19 crisis is left aside. Therefore, the key question the stakeholder together with the management had to decide on, was how to make the airport more attractive for cargo players, pleasing its current clients and attracting additional business. Supported by the Hungarian government, AviAlliance decided to put its money where its mouth is, in order to harvest positive returns as quickly as possible. Today, just half a year after the Cargo Center opened its gates, it can be said that this strategy has paid off, as evidenced by the increasing number of cargo flights and the growing tonnage recorded lately.
More than 16 million pax per year
In order to classify this development correctly, it is worth taking a look back. Initially, the annual cargo turnover averaged 3,000 tons per year. Since 2015, however, and particularly since last fall, freight traffic at the airport has massively increased, meanwhile surpassing 150,000 tons per year.
Also the passenger sector was thriving up until the current corona crisis which has led to deserted terminals. In pre-corona 2019, 16.2 million travelers were recorded – a new all-time high. For the airport staff, this meant that they had to handle an average of 40,000 to 44,000 passengers and 336 flights per day. At the end of 2019, 153 foreign destinations stood on BUD’s schedule. The terminal capacity of 21,000 m² at the time of opening grew to more than 103,000 m² this year.
All this was acknowledged on 07MAY20 by the management, who predict a bright future for BUD once the pandemic is over and air traffic can resume. "Due to the increased freighter connections, we are already seeing a change in road feeder traffic,” a BUD executive told CargoForwarder Global recently.
While in the past, most shipments from the Balkan countries were trucked to Munich, Vienna, or Frankfurt, in order to be flown from there, forwarders and trucking companies have increasingly integrated Budapest in their road feeder network because of the high capacity offered by freight airlines and attractive air routes connecting the main markets.
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