ROUTES EUROPE: Budapest Looks at Medium- and Long-Haul Markets following Short-Haul Turnaround

It has been a tough few years for the airport, Hungary’s largest air gateway, following the collapse of national carrier Malev in February 2012, but the past year, during which it hosted the previous Routes Europe forum, has seen it continue to back fill the lost capacity and introduce links into new markets.

Budapest Airport is looking to secure the return of a regular scheduled link to North America and boost capacity via the Middle East hubs into Asia and Australasia, its head of airline development, Balazs Bogats, told The HUB Daily on the sidelines of this year’s Routes Europe forum in Marseille, France.

It has been a tough few years for the airport, Hungary’s largest air gateway, following the collapse of national carrier Malev in February 2012, but the past year, during which it hosted the previous Routes Europe forum, has seen it continue to back fill the lost capacity and introduce links into new markets.

It is now in line to continue its best-ever start to a year in a decade, adding eight new routes and welcoming four new airlines during the summer 2014 timetable.  Recording an eight per cent increase in passenger traffic in February alone, the expanding summer schedule highlights the airport’s trend of continued growth.

The Hungarian capital city airport kick-started the scheule by launching four new routes in the last week. On March 30, 2014, Norwegian added its fifth route, inaugurating a thrice-weekly service to London Gatwick and boosting connections to the UK.  The same day marked the beginning of Air Serbia’s association with the airport, when the carrier commenced Budapest’s second link to Belgrade.

Meanwhile, having chosen Budapest among its first destinations, the airport also welcomed UP, the low-cost subsidiary of Israeli airline El Al, and its flight from Tel Aviv on April 2, 2014.  Concluding the first week of the summer schedule, April 3, 2014 brought the return of Jet2.com’s twice-weekly service to Leeds Bradford, following large demand for this airport pairing.

As this year’s late Easter approaches, mid-April sees the Central European airport welcoming two further new airlines when Vueling and Transavia.com France commence operations at Budapest.  Transavia.com France links its base at Paris Orly Airport from April 15, 2014 and Vueling will be offering Easter flights (April, 17 – 21, 2014) to Barcelona, before its full thrice-weekly service begins on June 20, 2014.

Demonstrating its growth and expansion at Budapest, home-based carrier Wizz Air will also add its 36th service, with the addition of a weekly flight to Alicante for the seasonal period (June 14, 2014 – September 13, 2014) as well as a twice-weekly service to Kutaisi from September 30, 2014 following the basing of an eighth aircraft at the airport from June 2014.

“The 2014 summer season is a significant time for many of our existing airline partners who are celebrating momentous anniversaries – TAP and Wizz Air both observe a decade of working with us, while we are honoured to mark LOT’s 85th birthday, having flown to Budapest Airport for 75 of those years,” Kam Jandu, chief commercial officer, Budapest Airport, explained to The HUB Daily ahead of Routes Europe.

”I applaud the enterprise of all our airline partners, new and existing. To be able to offer our passengers a variety of airlines and an ever expanding selection of great destinations is a top priority for us,” he added.

Now, the airport hopes its short-haul success will continue in the medium- and long-haul markets with New York, USA and Toronto, Canada two of the top targets for the airport.  ”In the past we have seen these destinations served but competition had forced down yields.  Now these are much stronger and we feel it offers the perfect conditions to enhance connectivity with the return of a direct air service,” explained Bogats.

Budapest Airport is also seeking to get capacity to Asia increased through the addition of widebody capacity to the East.  The facility is already served by Qatar Airways using Airbus A320 Family equipment on a tagged flight with the Croatian capital, Zagreb, but Bogats says demand is strong enough to justify a capacity increase.

”We are seeing really good loads on the route and believe our traffic demographic could easily sustain the introduction of a widebody link,” said Bogats.  This could come in the form of Qatar Airways upgauging capacity or even the arrival of a new carrier, although Bogats believed Etihad Airways was an unlikely option due to its emerging strong partnership with Air Serbia in Belgrade.


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