Kam Jandu, chief commercial officer at Budapest Airport, says airports shouldn’t panic if a dominant carrier stops using their facility.
Q) How easy or difficult was it to re-establish the airport’s network after Malév collapsed?
A) “It was, of course, very difficult to lose your largest customer and literally start again to recover as much as possible. Thankfully, due to our readiness in contacting potential replacement airlines, we were able to recover around 85% of the lost seat capacity in the first year and this has now reached more than 100% of what was lost given the attractiveness of Budapest and the flexibility of Budapest Airport’s (BUD) published incentive programmes.
“There are still some short-haul regional routes that have not been picked up but gradually they are being addressed. In short, it was a devastating time for BUD. However, great spirit and teamwork helped us recover faster than other airports which have lost their national airlines.”
Q) What are the lessons learned from the experience in terms of route development?
A) “Do not panic because our experience shows if there is a route opportunity, airlines pick them up. So make sure you do not compromise your commercial principles and remain focused on getting the right airlines to operate. In the Malév days, we had 32 airlines operating 88 routes and now we have 46 operating nearly 100 routes, which means our business is more spread out than in the past.”
Q) Where is your focus now – are there any particular regions or types of carrier?
A) “As mentioned, we have some gaps in the Balkan region such as Podgorica, Skopje and Sofia, and this is where the Hungarian state is looking to auction public services offering financial support, subject to European Union approval, to encourage smaller airlines to operate. In addition, the long-haul network remains a massive opportunity, especially to the US, Japan and South Korea.”
Q) How are you adapting your infrastructure to deal with network plans for the future?
A) “The record passenger growth numbers we are experiencing means that we need to bring forward some of our development plans. This includes a new passenger pier on the airside able to meet all airline needs, an extension of the security screening area, a new enlarged check-in hall and improved car parks to satisfy the growing passenger numbers.”
Q) What is your vision for Budapest Airport – can it become an eastern European hub even without a dominant legacy carrier?
A) “Our vision remains to be the best airport within the central and eastern European region in terms of growth, service quality and passenger satisfaction. The need to be a high-ratio transfer hub like we used to be is no longer relevant as transfer passengers are loyal to the fastest connection and cheapest air fares and given that we now have more direct routes within Europe than ever before, accessibility is far easier.
“Moreover, pure origin and destination (O&D) passengers are much easier to handle and serve without the risk of missed connections and mishandled baggage, which network hubs experience. This is better for airlines and better for Budapest and Hungary as all O&D traffic is investing more financially in the local economy than hubbing passengers.”
(This article first appeared in Routes News – Issue 2, 2016)