2022 was an extremely challenging, yet very successful year for the Hungarian capital’s Ferenc Liszt International Airport, the operator company Budapest Airport reports.
The airport recovered 75% of its pre-COVID passenger traffic, added brand new destinations to its schedule and became a regional leader in quality, while air cargo volumes hit unprecedented records.
A number of important sustainability investments were launched, and the value of the airport developments implemented over four years reached 90 billion HUF by the end of the year. Last year, the airport operator continued to prepare for the reopening of Terminal 1 and the construction of Terminal 3, while winning more Hungarian and international awards in the areas of quality, sustainability, HR and communication.
In 2022, not only did the airport operator take big steps forward in the recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, but it also had to deal with unexpected and unforeseen situations, such as the influx of refugees caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the consequences of the economic slowdown, the energy crisis and the spillover effects of the summer disruptions experienced by most European airports. In addition, soaring inflation and the extra profits tax imposed on airlines also had an impact, most notably in the last quarter of 2022 and in 2023.
The first two months of last year transpired as normal and as forecast by Budapest Airport, but the refugee crisis caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine at the end of February generated extraordinary tasks at Ferenc Liszt International Airport. To ensure the smooth handling of evacuation flights, Budapest Airport temporarily reopened Terminal 1, from where more than 8,000 students departed, mainly for India, Nigeria, Ecuador and Morocco, and 3,200 Ukrainian citizens arrived. The airport operator ensured proper care for all refugees together with the authorities, embassies, ministries and aid agencies, while traffic at Terminal 2 continued seamlessly.
In parallel with managing the refugee situation, Budapest Airport was continuously preparing for the increased passenger traffic of the summer months, as it was already apparent in April that the first really strong summer after COVID-19 would be full of challenges for most airports, especially those where staff shortages had reached critical levels. Thanks to the timely preparations for the post-pandemic recovery in terms of human resources, capacity and infrastructure expansion, the higher passenger traffic did not cause any disruptions at the airport. While many European airports experienced severe disruptions, the Ferenc Liszt International Airport continued to operate seamlessly during the summer period, and thanks to several newly introduced processes, ground handling companies also operated without disruptions.
During the summer months, traffic reached 80% of pre-pandemic levels, again exceeding one million passengers per month. However, the announcement in May of an extra profits tax on airlines forced the company to recalculate passenger numbers during the summer, and the soaring inflation in the fall again prompted the airport operator to revise its forecasts. The economic situation in Hungary and internationally caused passenger numbers to start falling again in the fall, the passenger mix at the airport began to change in favor of foreign tourists due to the high euro exchange rate and forecasts showed that the full recovery of pre-pandemic passenger numbers would be delayed by one year, to 2024, due to these impacts.
The fall started with a major commitment: in September, the biggest noise protection program ever, offering the most services and worth a total of HUF 1.2 billion (EUR 3 million), was launched. The program, which has been running for more than ten years, has now been extended to 4000 properties, aims to reduce noise burdens for people living near Ferenc Liszt International Airport by retrofitting or replacing windows in living and bedrooms, insulating roller shutter casings and installing soundproof ventilators.
In addition to all these highlights, Budapest Airport was continuously preparing for the reopening of Terminal 1 in 2022, where the operator is only waiting for the building permit to arrive. According to plans and forecasts, the doubled and refurbished Terminal 1 should open by summer 2025 at the latest, in order to cope with the growing passenger traffic with the usual, high-quality services and to further develop the country’s tourism. A delay in the reopening of Terminal 1 will have a direct and significant impact on the growth of tourism in Hungary. Meanwhile, preparations for the construction of Terminal 3, the first main segments of which are scheduled to be completed in 2030, also continued over the past year. Preparations for the international design competition, phasing and preliminary studies are currently under way, to ensure that construction does not disrupt the operation of Terminal 2.
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