After cargo operations at Budapest’s Ferenc Liszt International Airport returned another record in 2018, hopes are high that this year will see a further rise in figures, along with rising walls of the new facilities at the hub.
Operator Budapest Airport says it is especially optimistic about future progress, as European competitors of the capital’s airport are becoming overloaded, while there is ample room for expansion here, Mihály Hardy, communication director at Budapest Airport, tells the Budapest Business Journal.
The volume of air cargo grew by 14.9% in 2018, compared to the previous year, exceeding the surge of passenger traffic rate at the airport. Over the past three years, cargo growth in Budapest has raced ahead by double digits, totaling 146,113 tonnes of arriving and departing load in volume.
“We are focusing all our efforts to make good use of the ideal conditions in Budapest and turn Liszt Ferenc International Airport into a major cargo logistics hub of the Central and Eastern European region,” said René Droese, director of property and cargo at Budapest Airport, when last year’s figures were announced in January.
The momentum for turning Budapest into one of the most important cargo hubs in the region — if not making it a market leader — could be never better than now.
“The big European cargo airports are overloaded, it is difficult to obtain new slots for cargo aircraft and it is quite difficult to expand there; lately there is a notable slowdown due to different factors in the cargo market,” Hardy tells the BBJ.
However, that tendency is not true of the Hungarian capital’s airport. “In Budapest, on the contrary, we have almost unlimited space for development, great interest on part of Hungarian-based manufacturers to export (electronics, car parts and pharmaceutical items) and also interest from abroad, mainly from China to establish a new distribution center within the EU,” the communications director adds.
Whether it is the continuous developments at the airport or the geographically well-positioned nature of Hungary, the hub is, indeed, receiving attention. Cargo airlines that have partnered up with the airport include Cargolux, Turkish Cargo, Qatar Airways Cargo, AirBridgeCargo and Silkway.
“These are the major, dedicated cargo airlines, while all four integrators [the express parcel service providers] have aircraft based in Budapest: DHL, FedEx, UPS and TNT all have major daily operations here. They also benefit from the quick development of e-commerce,” Hardy adds.
A good geographical position and a progressively developing airport alone are not enough for success, of course.
“It is not enough to have facilities for importing products from the Far East via aviation cargo links; you also need to have a strong, export-oriented manufacturing base that needs cargo space for the outbound flights,” Hardy points out.
Another factor that boosts interest in the country is that 20 European countries, both EU and non-EU states, are in trucking distance of Budapest.
All the above-mentioned factors give Budapest Airport a very strong position in belly cargo operations; some passenger flights going through the Hungarian capital have approximately 10-12 tonnes of extra cargo capacity in the cargo hold below the passenger deck.
“During the summer our network of long-haul passenger flights will connect cities like Toronto, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Dubai, Doha, Beijing and Shanghai,” Hardy says. More than half of these will fly on a daily basis according to the timetable.
Work is progressing on BUD Cargo City, a 20,000 sqm warehouse complex, and an additional 10,000 sqm so-called forwarder building (both warehouses and offices) near. As of 2020, belly-cargo containers will directly go to BUD Cargo City, near the passenger operations of Terminal 2.
The new complex will also have a dedicated 32,000 sqm cargo apron, where it can service two Boeing 747-8F Jumbo aircraft simultaneously.
“This is the most important development and the good news is that if the market demands, we can continue doubling this estimated 200,000 tonnes/year capacity within one year,” Hardy says.
While it is difficult to tell what the upcoming decade holds in terms of cargo operations, the overcrowding of other European hubs certainly favors Hungary.
“Major European cargo hubs like Frankfurt and Amsterdam have already reached their maximum capacity or are quite near to them,” Hardy explains. “We believe that Budapest Airport has everything cargo operators may need, we are working very hard to have new flights and we try to expand our relationship with our Chinese partners,” he adds.
The airport operator says it also enjoys the “very active support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, including the full personal backing by Minister Péter Szijjártó,” Hardy stresses.
“Our aim is to turn Budapest into a real cargo hub in the region; we think everything is now given to achieve this goal. Hungary has an excellent road and rail network: we have also expanded the rail links at the airport; should any cargo partner need rail and road container terminals at the airport, the infrastructure is already there.”