Ferenc Liszt Int'l handled 4.6 mln passengers in 2021

Transport

Image by Budapest Airport/Róbert Baranyi

In 2021, Ferenc Liszt International Airport handled a total of 4,622,882 passengers, approximately 20% more than in 2020 but still below pre-pandemic levels according to a press release sent to the Budapest Business Journal.

While in the first six months of the year, only 604,000 passengers passed through the airport, the second half of 2021 saw the number of travelers increase sevenfold, due to the end of the third wave of the coronavirus, the easing of the restrictions imposed on account of the pandemic, the increase in vaccination coverage and the parallel increase in the propensity to travel.

Overall, travel rules were much more relaxed and predictable last year than in 2020, and passengers have learned to live with the different protocols and safety measures required for travel, and have become increasingly confident in traveling, even to destinations further afield, the airport says.

November was the busiest period in 2021, with nearly 730,000 passengers, while the airport recorded the lowest number of passengers in February, with 54,407. Last year, the busiest routes were London, Amsterdam and Paris, with 17% of passengers traveling on these flights.

As far as long-haul flights are concerned, Seoul, Dubai and Doha were stable features of Budapest Airport’s schedule last year. Flights to China, Canada and the United States are yet to resume; LOT announced late last year that its Budapest-New York service will resume in June 2022, and Budapest Airport is negotiating about several other long-haul flights.

Balázs Bogáts, head of airline development for Budapest Airport, notes, “We set one important goal for 2021, to rebuild as many destinations as we possibly could. I consider last year a success in this respect, as we were able to reconnect to 80% of the cities from before the pandemic and added many new destinations, 18 to be precise, that were never available before.”

He adds, “As Budapest and Hungary remain an attractive destination for foreign tourists and the rules in force in Hungary allow for flexible entry conditions, we have every reason to be optimistic for 2022. I am confident that we will be able to rebuild the remaining 20% of destinations this year, further enriching the list of cities accessible from Ferenc Liszt International Airport."

Cargo traffic soaring to new heights

While passenger numbers are yet to reach pre-pandemic levels, the airport closed a record year in terms of cargo volume. In total, 83,362 tons of air cargo were handled at Ferenc Liszt International over the course of 2021, up 36.4% compared to 2020. In addition, this was achieved with only 4.8% growth in the number of cargo flights, thanks to an increase in belly cargo traffic and the higher capacity and better utilization of dedicated cargo flights.

Among the major cargo airports in Central and Eastern Europe, Budapest Airport saw the largest increase in cargo volume compared to 2019, competing increasingly closely with the region’s leading airport, Vienna and even Munich.

The airport attributes the record figures to several different factors. On the one hand, the pandemic changed logistics processes. On the other hand, also in the wake of the pandemic, the transformed e-commerce trends seem to be solidifying, with the number and volume of online orders reaching unprecedented levels worldwide in 2021. The majority of international e-commerce volume arrives in Hungary by air, further strengthening the airport’s role as a cargo hub.

Partly due to the aforementioned trends, partly thanks to the government’s Chinese-Hungarian aerial Silk Road policy, air cargo traffic between China and Hungary has also reached new levels, contributing to the airport and the government’s ambition to make Hungary the freight transport, logistics, and distribution hub of Central Europe. This gateway role was reinforced last year by the Alibaba Group’s decision to choose Budapest as its CEE air logistics hub, attracting other major cargo players to the Hungarian market.

Budapest Airport’s cargo handling base, known as the Cargo City, also played a key role in the fight against the pandemic last year. The vast majority of the tens of millions of doses of vaccines that arrived in the country did so through the airport, which also contributed to the airport’s cargo performance.

Chris Dinsdale, the CEO of Budapest Airport highlights, “Our cargo developments will continue; Budapest Airport decided last year to further expand the BUD Cargo City, handed over two years ago, with preparatory works already under way and construction scheduled to start in 2022. The airport operator's air cargo activities currently involve around 2000 direct jobs at the airport and a further 12 000 through the associated ecosystem. With the expansion planned in the coming years, the airport will further strengthen its role in the national economy and its ability to create jobs, and thus the country’s competitiveness as well.”

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