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Budapest Airport

The Hungarian capital’s airport is investing heavily, hoping to take full advantage of economic and industrial growth in the region and the resulting impact on demand for cargo. Helen Massy-Beresford finds out more

After significant growth of 22.7% in its cargo activities last year, and with a broad customer portfolio including freighters, freight forwarders and passenger flights transporting belly-hold cargo, Budapest’s Ferenc Liszt International Airport (BUD) is optimistic about the future for freight. Executives of the airport, such as Cargo Manager József Kossuth, recognise that maintaining this pace of growth would be unrealistic in the long-term. “2016 was a record year for us. It was 112,000 tonnes total air cargo volume in Budapest airport”, he says. “This year, up until May, we had 22.5% growth, which means we’ve kept up the speed. Certainly, for the long-term, we don’t plan to maintain this level of growth, because that would be too ambitious.” He suggests that 5-6% would be a more realistic longer-term growth rate.


The airport recorded a throughput of 112,143 tonnes of cargo in 2016, up 22.7% year-on-year. Highlights towards the end of the year included the delivery of some unusual cargo, such as a baby hippopotamus, born at a zoo in Hungary and transported through Budapest facilities on its way to Indonesia in the belly-hold of an Emirates Boeing 777-200. The airport also handled 14 Przewalski’s horses, which travelled from a Hungarian national park to a sanctuary in southern Russia, returning them to their earlier natural habitat. Additionally, BUD saw several hundred calves travel from Hungary to Israel on board an El Al Cargo Boeing 747.

In 1Q17, 20,455 tonnes of air cargo moved through the airport, up 20.8% on the same period a year earlier.


If traffic is growing, this can be attributed to the airport’s infrastructure efforts, combined with economic and industrial development in Eastern Europe. These two factors should ensure BUD keeps attracting new customers and cargoes through its facilities.


“We have quite important industrial areas like automotive and electronics,” Kossuth says.

“There are huge and really sustainable investments from companies coming from abroad, mainly from Germany,” he continues, citing the examples of Mercedes’ parent company Daimler, which is building a second manufacturing plant near Budapest, and that of engineering company Bosch, which is investing in the region as well.


“We are discussing target flights with Bosch because they would prefer to fly directly to Budapest instead of flying today from Asia to Frankfurt or Amsterdam or somewhere and then putting the goods on a truck. We are discussing with big companies about establishing direct flights to Budapest.”

The airport is in the process of constructing a new dedicated cargo centre near Terminal 2 to handle freighters operated by carriers including Cargolux, Turkish Cargo and Qatar Airways Cargo, as well as belly-hold from some of its other airlines. Facilities will include warehouses and dedicated storage for perishables and live animals.

René Droese, Property Director at BUD, believes the new investment will drive interest from industries at home, such as the pharmaceuticals sector. He also believes it will draw higher numbers of freighter operators from around the world looking for a gateway into Europe, and especially into the economically fast-growing Central and Eastern European regions.

“Once we have the new facility freighter operators will seriously consider flying to Budapest instead of flying to Vienna, for example. Today our premises are okay, but we have reached our limit in terms of capacity and in terms of quality and therefore there is a need to provide a new facility. With the new facility in 2019 we can serve the industry – but also the airlines – with the proper service, proper facilities and proper infrastructure.”


The airport is also considering embarking on the process of obtaining CEIV pharma certification from IATA, an important stamp of approval for any airport wanting to make a name for itself in transporting highly temperature-sensitive goods, such as medicines. “We have four large pharmaceutical companies in Hungary so pharmaceutical and medical production for export is around 100,000 tonnes a year in total, including all the medical raw materials, the medicines, everything. CEIV would be really valuable just to have closed chain logistic transport away from the factories to the aircraft. We will locate the customs in the buildings, certainly. It will be an easy access from landside to the building, for the trucks,” Droese says.

The work on the new 16,000m2 cargo city, located near to Terminal 2, is being carried out in close coordination with tenants, Kossuth adds. “Our tenants know quite well what they need. They have their own architects, their own designers, and they have operational experience, so we are coordinating the design bi-weekly with the tenants.” >>

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