Two and a half months after the collapse of Malév Hungarian Airlines the nation’s travelers are losing out on many connections, with the beneficiaries being Vienna and Prague because of a lack of Hungarian aviation agreements in certain markets.
While there are indications that a formal tender on these routes will be under way soon, airlines wishing to operate and Budapest Airport are losing tens of thousands of passengers each month.
Vienna has 7.6 times more weekly flights to Turkey than Budapest and the Hungarian capital is lagging far behind Prague in the number of air connections to Russia. In fact Budapest has just 14 flights per week to Russia whereas Prague has no less than 90. Both the Austrian and Czech governments have capitalised in recent years on liberalising flights between their countries and these non-European Union markets.
With the demise of Malév over 80 per cent of the lost point-to-point traffic has been recovered, however there are certain destinations where Budapest Airport alone cannot introduce new carriers without properly modified traffic-right agreements. This has a very adverse effect on the Hungarian economy because fewer tourists are able to visit Hungary from these markets because there are just not enough flights. In addition about four jobs have been lost for each week that has elapsed since Malév was grounded and no new airlines have been designated.
In the European Union due to the liberalised aviation market any EU-carrier may start services between any EU destinations if there are free slots available at the airports. This is the so-called “Open Sky” policy. However in certain non-EU destinations bilateral aviation agreements regulate the number of flights, the carriers that operate, etc.
In the case of Budapest, important countries such as Russia, Ukraine, Israel and Turkey could be serviced only on the basis of these agreements. While Malév existed these routes were served by two carriers, now there is only one left for each destination, such as Aeroflot, Turkish Airlines, El Al or Aerosvit.
Budapest Airport and some possible carriers have urged the modification of the bilateral aviation agreements for months and there has been no tangible progress to date. These routes that are served by only one carrier now have a very strong impact on the traffic at Budapest Airport.
Kam Jandu, aviation director of the airport, says: “These routes are bringing tens of thousands of important business passengers and tourists to Hungary every year. It is astonishing that there are so many more flights between Austria and the Czech Republic to these regulated markets when compared to Hungary.
“Also a lack of competition on these routes will lead to higher prices for passengers and less options for travelers to choose from. We see great potential in these routes and think that Hungary should not delay any decisions further, as there is a significant negative impact on Hungarian aviation while our neighbours continue to capitalise on this delay.”
Better service from Russia, Ukraine, Israel and Turkey will also boost the job market in the hotel and tourism industry in Hungary that has suffered a severe blow from the bankruptcy of Malév.
– Mihály Hardy is the communication director for Budapest Airport.
Budapest Airport an international concern
Budapest Airport Plc., the operator of Ferenc Liszt International Airport is owned by a consortium of German (KfW IPEX-Bank 4%) Canadian (Caisse de depôt et placement de Québec 18.17%), American (Aero Investment 10%) and Singaporean (Malton Investments Pte Ltd. 18.17%) investors led by HOCHTIEF AirPort GmbH (49.67%). Currently, the two terminals of the airport are home to 31 airlines, which transported nearly 8.9 million passengers to more than 92 destinations in 40 countries in 2011.
Dare to compare
Weekly flights from Budapest, Vienna and Prague:
To: Turkey Russia Israel Ukraine
Budapest 10 14 7 11
Vienna 76 80 24 55
Prague 14 90 18 35