Budapest Airport has recently made headlines for all the right reasons. We speak to Kam Jandu, the airport’s chief commercial officer about its unstoppable rise.
In April, Budapest Airport (BUD) was crowned the overall winner at the Routes Europe 2019 Marketing Awards held in Hannover, Germany
The airport has made considerable progress on all fronts and the figures speak for themselves: BUD passenger traffic has increased by double digits over the last four years with 2018, recording a rise of 13.5 per cent. A total of 18 new routes, including 12 new destinations, were launched between April 2018 and April 2019.
They include direct flights to Philadelphia with American Airlines and to New York JFK, Chicago and London City with LOT Polish Airlines.
The Routes Europe Marketing Awards are nominated and judged by the airlines and Kam Jandu; the chief commercial officer at Budapest Airport feels very content: “It is really astonishing that not only did we win the airport size category marketing award, but we have won the overall award too.
“This demonstrates that the team have hit the right notes with the airline community by giving them world-class airport marketing which resonates with them to such an extent that they remembered us when it came to electing award winners. It really is the Oscars of our industry and something which makes us all immensely proud.
“It is even more satisfying because we have changed our campaigns several times in the last decade or so, yet we always seem to get on the short lists – meaning that we always provide relevant marketing support to the airline community,” he states.
Passenger numbers have clearly increased significantly over the last few years and Jandu says the airport will use the increased demand by preparing a convincing business case, including utilising extensive research data, passenger profiles, demand and market analysis which will help airlines make a more informed decision when it comes to making route choices.
“We try to demonstrate that we share risks with airlines whenever they contemplate stepping into a new route.” He says the strategy is to find the right operators for the right destinations. “In certain cases, we find that a full-service network carrier, who has a great onward network, can co-exist with lower cost point-to-point operators.”
Intra-Europe from Budapest is reasonably well-connected with over 120 destinations, therefore the goals have been focussed on increasing frequencies on some routes where more demand exists whilst also looking at long haul opportunities.
“In this context, last year we saw some great successes with flights to Philadelphia, New York and Chicago and we will also welcome new flights to Shanghai this June.”
Overall, in the last seven years BUD has doubled point-to-point traffic from Budapest, which contributes positively to the Hungarian economy. In evaluating the substantial aircraft orders by airlines in the years ahead, and the still relatively low propensity to fly amongst Hungarians, there can be little doubt that Budapest will continue to grow and develop ahead of EU average growth levels.
Links with China are particularly important. The number of passengers travelling by air between Hungary and China approached 200,000 last year and they are expected to increase with the launch of Shanghai Airlines Boeing 787-9 services.
The route represents several years of efforts aimed at establishing a direct aerial link to one of the most important economic regions in China: “This marks the culmination of years of diplomatic and business efforts from both countries to bring together all interested parties and to offer this excellent destination to our passengers.”
Specifically aimed at Chinese travellers, the airport will install Chinese signage in the terminals during the second half of 2019. Payment methods at various retail outlets will have more options to include those preferred by Chinese tourists, among other initiatives.
BUD is also working with two major Chinese cargo hubs, in order to further develop aviation links between China and Hungary. The airport has stepped up its efforts to turn into a major distribution and logistics base for China in the Central and Eastern European region.
Closer to home, LOT Polish Airlines started operations to London City Airport directly from Budapest and Jandu sees this as an opportunity for airlines to fill the gap left by the national airline Malév which collapsed in 2012. “This gap represents an opportunity for LOT, and we anticipate that they will grow with both short and long haul flights in the years ahead which will of course tap into markets which we deem as missing frequency or connections.”
With 142 scheduled destinations BUD is well-connected, but there are several destinations that are operated with only 2-3 weekly frequencies, which are not ideal for the business travel segment; Jandu is keen to see more operations on such routes.
As for the summer 2019 season, there are already 25 new routes announced for 2019 and that growth remains approximately double the average EU growth level of 4 per cent in S19. Some recent additions include Ryanair services to Bordeaux, Palma de Mallorca and Toulouse.
At the airport, BUD will introduce the ‘BUD: Connects’ product which is a facilitated self-connecting product. Due to network type and airline mix, the airport sees over 100K passengers annually who transfer at BUD mainly between low cost to low cost.
“Having investigated the opportunity, we see potential to develop this product to facilitate a smooth transfer between airlines without any formal relationship, codeshare or otherwise.”
Jandu says technology exists, enabling connections with airlines with completely different business models and as passengers are much savvier than previously, this segment is expected to grow. “As business continues to grow, of course our capacities will also be extended but that is a different chapter altogether. For now, Budapest Airport continues to enjoy a fantastic growth period and are well-placed to develop even further in the years ahead.”