BUD Cargo team keeps its word

At the BUD Cargo Forum on 27-28 September 2023, cargo director Jozsef Kossuth (JK) and his managers were betting that BUD would handle more than 200,000 tons in 2023 for the first time in the airport’s history. A year before, it was a total of 194,000 tons. In the end, the figure was 201,300 tons, which corresponds to an average increase of 3.8% year-on-year. Their estimate, based on half-year figures, was therefore correct.

Jozsef Kossuth is Cargo Director of Budapest Airport and Board Member of the local Logistic Centers Association (MLSZKSZ)  –  photo: CFG/hs

Even more pleasing: cargo continued to grow in Q1, 2024, with 62,000 tons handled in the first three months, including 23,720 tons in March. These were the strongest figures ever achieved into the start to a year and in a single month.

Changing of the guard
BUD has thus become the most challenging cargo competitor in Eastern Europe, where 43,800 tons were handled at Prague Airport in 2023, vs. 245,000 tons at Vienna Airport, according to their websites. However, compared to 2019 when VIE reported 283,000 tons, the current figure appears rather sober.

The longer-term trend reveals a changing of the guard in the cargo ranking of airports between Germany’s eastern border and the Black Sea region. At no other airport has cargo grown as dynamically as at Budapest Liszt Ferenc International (+120% increase from 2015 to 2023, or 48.5% increase from 2019 to 2023).

Cargo comes first
The reasons are widely known. First and foremost, it is due to the management’s clear focus and commitment to the cargo business.

Visible proof is its Cargo City, which was inaugurated in 2019 and extended by 10,000 m² in FEB24 (+30% handling capacity increase), thanks in part to a multi-million-euro investment by the airport and also co-operation with ground handlers and main tenants, Celebi Ground Handling Hungary and Menzies Aviation Cargo.

Another advantage that plays into BUD’s hands is the fact that there is no airport in Eastern Europe with hub status, except for Vienna, home of Lufthansa subsidiary, Austrian Airlines.

Investing in ground Infrastructure
Meanwhile, BUD’s expansion continues. During the upcoming second development phase of the Cargo City, additional warehouses will be erected, and cargo airlines offered new freighter stands right in front of the building, speeding up loading and unloading of the aircraft. This infrastructural enlargement aims to elevate the airport’s annual cargo capacity to 300,000 tons, which translates into a 40% capacity increase of BUD Cargo City. With these developments, Mr. Kossuth is optimistic that more freight carriers will choose BUD as their cargo airport of choice:

Main deck capacity spurs growth

JK: Besides the development of cargo infrastructure and the efficient cargo operational environment, the steadily expanding cargo connectivity is the third key element to the success. In our case, the strong presence of full freighters at BUD are the backbone to our growing volumes, complemented by an extensive belly cargo and RFS network. In bold figures: about 60 weekly full freighter flights accounted for a total of 120,000 tons of cargo in 2023. Many of our existing airline partners (DHL, UPS, FedEx, Turkish Cargo, Qatar Airways, Cargolux, Hungary Air Cargo / Wizz Air), increased capacities, and newcomers e.g. from China entered the market (Sichuan Airlines, SF Express, My Freighter Airlines, and some others).”

The Cargo City, opened at the end of 2019, spurred cargo growth at BUD, as the chart shows – Courtesy Budapest Airport Cargo

Speed requires no witchcraft
In addition to handling general cargo, the e-commerce sector is experiencing a remarkable ascent at Budapest as well. All major integrators have been operating there long-term: DHL Express, UPS, and FedEx. During the last 2-3 years, more new service providers started co-operation with large e-commerce companies, Meanwhile, BUD has gained the status of a regional air freight gateway for Alibaba, Shein or Temu, amongst others.

When it comes to handling express shipments, BUD is considered a very fast airport. Director of Cargo, Kossuth explains why this is the case:

Air beats ocean, rail, and road

JK: “e-commerce consigners use all transport modalities, sea, rail, air for their intercontinental transports, but prefer air solutions due to speed, security and reliability reasons. Large numbers of e-commerce volumes can be handled at an airport if professional service providers manage ground operations. BUD offers the market plenty of capacities on the airside and landside, allowing for the rapid processing of shipments. Important to mention is also that the customs authority has digitized processes allowing ground handling agents the fast throughput of large numbers of consignments based on strict safety controls.”

One final question to the Cargo Chief remains: How many tons does BUD expect to handle in 2024?

JK: “It is advisable to be cautious when you talk about the future – this is what we have learned especially during the last 5 years.We started Q1 with more than 20k tons per month. Provided this trend goes on, we will close the year with around 240,000 tons.”

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