The operator of Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport has launched a luxury personal service, complete with an exclusive VIP lounge right next to check-in gate 30 at Terminal 2A. Donʼt expect a stampede of people though. The aim is exclusivity, rather than footfall, with a target of around 5,000 clients a year.
“That’s about 0.04% of all the passengers going through Budapest,” Péter Mészáros told the Budapest Business Journal at the official launch on February 27. Mészáros runs Cavok Aviation, which operates the service.
Kam Jandu, the chief commercial officer of Budapest Airport Zrt. told guests at the launch that the airport operator had wanted to launch such a VIP service for six or seven years but lacked available space and the right partner to make it happen before now. “During that time, we were looking at other airports with a VIP service and benchmarking against London, Paris, Vienna nearby and many German airports,” he said.
A big part of that benchmarking concerned setting the right price point against very different markets. According to the service brochure, the standard VIP service for a departing or arriving guest, including up to two hours use of the BUD:VIP lounge, will cost one person EUR 215 gross. Throw in luxury city transfer, and the price rises to EUR 290. Yearly rates range from EUR 5,700 for silver membership (limited to 30 occasions), to EUR 12,500 for platinum (unlimited).
Other airports charge “almost three times what we are charging here,” Jandu said. He was confident “the value offered for the service you get will make it the best VIP service in the region”.
The lounge has a separate meeting room, toilet and shower facilities. Check-in assistance and a personal escort are offered, along with a baggage porter service. Fine foods and beverages are available, and there is even an option to order á la carte meals. More is available upon request.
Jandu said the service needs to be booked 24 hours in advance, which will help Cavok Aviation ensure the lounge does not become overcrowded. Whether film stars, top business executives or even couples waiting for their honeymoon flight, discretion and exclusivity is a key part of premium travel.
But luxury travel does not mean safety can be ignored. Passengers and luggage still need to be processed, but dedicated security staff and equipment help speed that process. “This morning, we had a group going through and it took eight minutes to get 20 people through security,” Mészáros says.
Once cleared, you are taken down to the tarmac and a luxury vehicle (either a Mercedes minibus or an AMG S-Class, depending on the number of passengers) will whisk you across the apron and deposit you at your aircraft - or pick you up if you are arriving. At the time of the launch, the driver was Mészáros himself. “Next week my staff will be trained on driving on the apron,” he explained.
Clearly, driving out here is little different from a Sunday morning excursion to the shops, and the insurance premium is eye-watering. Little wonder, I suggest; aircraft are even more expensive than his AMG. “That’s not the point. If there is an accident the insurance will pay for it, but it won’t cover the loss of prestige.”
He currently employs seven, but, despite having worked at the airport for 27 years in one capacity or another, he says he does much of the work himself because it is a good way of discovering exactly what is required, both from the clients and of his employees.
Jost Lammers, CEO of Budapest Airport, said the lounge was just the latest example of progress at Budapest. “Over the last few years we’ve consistently upgraded and improved the services available for all our customers at Budapest Airport. Our new lounge and VIP services form part of our comprehensive designs to ensure we continue to be one of the best airports in the Central and Eastern European region,” he said.
“It remains important for us to be able to offer good services for all our passengers, and with so many more people travelling through our terminals today, it’s essential to be able to provide an additional facility for those looking for the little added extras.”
More about the lounge and the service can be found at vip.bud.hu.
The airport says it welcomed more than 13 million passengers in 2017, flying to 125 destinations in 45 countries. Monthly passenger traffic at Budapest grew by more than 12.7% in December alone. Upcoming new routes include regular services to Stavanger, Athens, Santander, Paphos, Kraków, Basel and Marseille. LOT Polish Airlines will launch a four-times-a-week service to New York JFK from May 3; and a twice-weekly service to Chicago O’Hare, starting May 5, while American Airlines will launch a daily service to Philadelphia that same day.
Budapest Airport Zrt., the operator of Budapest Ferenc Liszt International Airport, is owned by an international consortium of investors, led by the privately-owned German company AviAlliance, an independent airport manager holding a 55.438% stake, together with Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (21.228%), and Malton Investment Pte Ltd. (23.334%).