Fly Balaton, a former airbase converted into a commercial airport by a group of Irish and Hungarian investors, served 80,000 passengers in 2006, and this year it aims to serve 100,000, airport director Attila Benkő told Mti on Sunday.
Benkő said passenger numbers were boosted by the start of flights by Ryanair, Europe's biggest low-far airline, to Fly Balaton. Six airlines now offer scheduled and charter flights between Fly Balaton and ten big cities in Europe. Many of the passengers fly from the UK and Germany. He noted that more passengers are choosing to fly in the off-season as well to take advantage of the Balaton region's famous thermal baths, which are open year-round.
Fly Balaton expects to add another two scheduled flights to its timetable as well as two charter flights in 2007, Benkő said. From April, Lufthansa will offer another scheduled flight from Fly Balaton, and in July, low-fare airline Germanwings will start offering twice-weekly flights between the airport and Berlin Schönefeld. Weekly charters will start flying to Fly Balaton from Amsterdam in May and from Bulgaria in June.
Fly Balaton's owners are in talks with potential Finnish and Russian partners, Benkő said, adding that the airport still expects to meet its 100,000 passenger number target regardless of the outcome of the talks. The airport plans to complete a nearly Ft 400 million cargo base by the end of 2007. Fly Balaton development director Richard Richter said the 2,200-square-meter base will include a parking lot for lorries and a customs center.
Air traffic at FlyBalaton Airport at Sármellék at the western tip of Lake Balaton increased fourfold in the past two years, receiving 80,000 passengers in 2006. FlyBalaton Airport is open year-round, for passengers choosing lakeside resorts or the nearby hot springs in Zala County, which are open all year round. He said the sharp rise in passengers was largely the result of Ryanair, Europe's largest discount airline, choosing the airport as a destination. "With them, we are now serviced by six international airlines and our scheduled flights and charters connect us with ten major European cities," Benkő said.
The majority of passengers coming through the airport in this record year, he added, were from Germany and Britain. Benkő said he expected 2007 to be even better, starting with a new Lufthansa flight travelling the Hamburg-Düsseldorf-Frankfurt route to FlyBalaton. (Mti-Eco, Mti, Bloomberg)