Just like elsewhere in Europe, no increase was experienced in passenger traffic at Budapest Airport during the first quarter of 2021; a total of 183 416 persons used Ferenc Liszt International Airport from January to March. This is a drop of 93.4 percents compared to last year, when passenger traffic in January and February was still as expected, but by March, the coronavirus pandemic made its presence felt very strongly, thus producing passenger traffic totaling 2 775 390 at the Hungarian capital city airport.
Cargo traffic at the airport remained stable in 2020, and, following an exceptionally strong last quarter, cargo volume increased by 19.3 percents between January and March 2021, compared to the same period in the previous year. The airport handled 39 529 tons of cargo, which constitutes the strongest quarter ever in its history. Moreover, the 14 904 tons registered in March is the highest monthly cargo traffic ever at Budapest Airport.
Developments continued in the first quarter of 2021
Investments aimed at developing the airport have not stopped, even in spite of the negative impacts of the coronavirus on aviation. On the contrary; Budapest Airport brought forward the execution of several projects, on account of the low passenger traffic. Developments totaling 167 million euros were implemented in two years up to the end of 2020, and capital expenditure continued in the first quarter of 2021 as well.
The development that is perhaps most visible for passengers is that the coronavirus test center at the airport has been expanded. The test facility, accessible for all, has been expanded with another six sampling rooms from March, at Terminal 2B. This expansion greatly facilitates seamless sampling and epidemiologically safe administration, even with much higher passenger traffic than currently. Another four stations are also available, which can be opened at any time, if needed.
Numerous background developments are currently under way, whereby Budapest Airport will welcome passengers back with the same, high level of safety, security and health standards. These include, for example, the refurbishment of the terminal aprons, the maintenance of taxiways P, Q and R and their shoulders and the renovation of the service roads, thus ensuring durable infrastructure for aircraft and seamless working conditions for ground handling and airport staff. The systems controlling building engineering devices at Terminal 2 are also being modernized, thus providing an even more comfortable environment for passengers.
The airport’s new main gate, supported with EU funding, has been completed. Following its handover, it will ensure faster passage and a more pleasant environment for customers, tenants and airport staff. As part of the project, the roads leading to the main gate will also be handed over, including a bicycle road.
The elevator connecting the departure and the arrivals levels of Terminal 2A will be refurbished by the end of April. Budapest Airport renovated the other such elevator last year. The goods elevator used to transport oversized bags, which take large bags directly into the baggage sorting hall, will also be refurbished in the near future. Budapest Airport has also commenced the installation of a new escalator in the Pier B arrivals area. The development is expected to be completed at the end of June, and will enhance passenger convenience.
The airport is prepared for the return of passenger traffic
Budapest Airport is doing everything it can to rebuild traffic to the 2019 level as soon as possible, but this is primarily dependent on the travel regulations introduced by the various countries, the availability and efficiency of vaccines and the level of inoculation. The airport operator awaits the gradual return of passenger traffic with a safe and refurbished environment and even higher service quality and health protocols. The operator (with the involvement of its airline and ground handling partners) is drawing up plans including several different scenarios on how the airport will operate safely in practical terms, from a healthcare perspective as well, even with a high level of passenger traffic.
Some airlines have already announced the list of flights to be launched in 2021 and frequency increases on existing routes. Ryanair is launching five new flights from July, to Burgas, Rhodes, Sofia, Bologna and Zadar, and is significantly increasing the frequency on numerous routes. Wizz Air has added the city of Chania to its Budapest schedule, as a new destination. easyJet is increasing the frequency of its Budapest-Paris flights, and will also operate to Basel twice a week. Qatar Airways is increasing the frequency on its Doha-Budapest flight, and the Emirates service to Dubai will also operate more frequently. Lufthansa has announced the relaunch of its Munich flight, while the TAROM service between Budapest and Bucharest and the Budapest-Paris flight by Air France are also available again.
“We are delighted to see that the vaccination of the population is progressing at an adequate rate globally, and especially in Hungary. The gradual reopening of Hungary and the other countries gives us hope that aviation passenger traffic will recover soon as well. Budapest Airport and all those working at the airport are excited to be able to soon welcome back moderate levels of passengers,” highlighted Chris Dinsdale, the CEO of Budapest Airport. “As an airport operator, our task and responsibility is to be fully prepared for scenarios in the coming period, and to create safe, secure and healthy conditions for travelers going forward,” he added.