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Hungary unveils airport development strategy

Hungary unveils airport development strategy

The government’s plan envisages construction of 4-5 large international airports and a dozen of business airstrips

International airports in Hungary are set to double their number under the Orbán government’s new airport development strategy. The ambitious plan was unveiled recently by Levente Magyar, Parliamentary State Secretary and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Local focus

Speaking at a conference in Budapest, the State Secretary said that the projects would take 5 to 8 years to implement, and include construction of 4-5 international airports in the countryside, alongside a dozen airfields for business traffic.

“We do not need large-capacity airports everywhere, but Nyíregyháza (domestic airport) needs a decent 1.5 kilometre-long runway. Thus, if business partners arrive, heading for example to the Záhony region, they will not need to drive over from Budapest or Debrecen,” said Magyar, as quoted by MTI.

He added that the market actors will develop units suitable for receiving cargo transport aircraft, which will bring the transportation of goods in Hungary into a new dimension.

Whetting Orbán’s appetite  

Despite the 2020 pandemic lull, traffic at Budapest’s Ferenc Liszt International Airport is picking up and now disproportionately exceeds that of the 4 other international airfields (Debrecen, Győr-Pér, Hévíz-Balaton, and Pécs-Pogány) combined, according to Hungary Today data.

And, apparently, true to the proverb, appetite comes with eating. Just days ago, Prime Minister Victor Orbán said during a foreign visit that Hungary will buy back Ferenc Liszt International Airport which had been privatized by the Gyurcsány government in 2005.   

Orbán’s words seem to confirm Bloomberg’s story of last week that a consortium led by Hungary’s government has offered about EUR 4 billion for the full control of Budapest Airport. There actually was an earlier bid this year but it was rejected by the owners as undervaluing the airport.

So far, AviAlliance, the airport operator and biggest shareholder, and Hungary’s Innovation and Technology Ministry which is leading the negotiations on behalf of the government, have declined comment. But sources familiar with the talks claim that the government is pressuring the airport owners to clinch the deal before the April 2022 elections, as the opposition has threatened to review all controversial Fidesz contracts if it comes into power.

STARGATE project

Meanwhile, the international consortium that owns Budapest Airport has announced that it has won a total of EUR 25 million from the European Commission in the framework of the STARGATE sustainability project. As part of the project, Budapest Airport will spend EUR 1.53 million to develop and build sustainability solutions for the airport. 70 percent of this amount will be EU funding with the rest provided by the airport itself.

These solutions include a cloud-based, paper-free air cargo handling system as well as smart, multimodal transport hubs, and other projects concerning the terminal which will improve its energy-efficiency and traffic functionality. According to the company statement, the implemented short and medium-term green solutions will set an example for other airports in Europe and elsewhere.

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