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Budapest: Betting On BUD

Apr 1, 2011
2011 / April 2011

Like the city it serves, Budapest Ferihegy International Airport (BUD) still bears the scars of the Allied bombing raids that destroyed its buildings more than 60 years ago. But with a $345 million modernization program in the works, Hungary’s main hub — home to national carrier Malév — is vying to be the region’s best.

Located in the heart of central Europe, Budapest Airport processed 8.1 million passengers in 2009, behind only Warsaw Chopin and Prague Ruzyne. And though that number represents a decline from previous years, airport officials are betting that with the changes in store — expanded terminals and one new one, refurbished facilities, two new piers and a massive new parking structure — total capacity can reach 15 million by 2015.

At the center of it all is the $264 million SkyCourt, a sleek, five-story space opening this spring. By connecting terminals 2A and 2B, the new, light-filled SkyCourt will bring check-in, security, dining and shopping (including a walk-through duty-free area run by the family-owned Heinemann group, one of Europe’s largest duty-free operators) under a single glass-and-steel roof.

“Passengers will be able to shop right after passing through security,” says Director of Corporate Affairs Hardy Mihaly. “And there will be a special customer service desk where they can pick up items pre-ordered over the Internet.” In addition to the regular selection of perfumes, wines and spirits, he says, passengers can also peruse a special “Hungarian Corner” featuring Tokaj wines, foie gras, salami and paprika, the country’s national spice.

Next door will be a Hungarian wine store offering reds, whites and rosés from some of Hungary’s very best vineyards, and next to that a shop selling porcelain from the town of Herend, long renowned for its hand-painted pieces. High-end fashion stores like Burberry, Ralph Lauren, Hugo Boss, Longchamp and Montblanc have all signed on as SkyCourt tenants as well.

“Altogether, we’re handing over 260,000 square feet of new space for passengers, of which more than 46,000 square feet will be devoted to retail and food and beverage,” says Mihaly.

There’s also the “Airport City” project, a business park adjacent to Terminal 2 planned for completion in late 2013. The project includes a multistory parking deck and a 260-room 4-star hotel offering business travelers well-equipped conference facilities just a short walk from the gate.

The investment is already paying off; Delta is resuming its daily non-stop seasonal service from New York John F. Kennedy International Airport to Budapest on June 1. And American Airlines has announced plans to connect its JFK hub to Budapest Airport with direct daily service as well, demonstrating its belief in BUD as a oneworld hub with a bright future.

“We want to shift the convention of thinking from western hubs to central Europe,” says Mihaly. “And we’re beginning to do that.”

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