ROUTES EUROPE: Value the low-fare airlines, says BUD CCO

“If Michael O’Leary was here now, I’d publicly thank him.” So declared Budapest Airport chief commercial officer Kam Jandu (pictured), when discussing the value of low-fare airlines during Session 1 of the Routes Europe Strategy Summit at the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre.

Jandu explained how without Ryanair’s involvement after the bankruptcy and closure of Malev, the airport could have been in a default position. “Wizz Air increasing its capacity also helped as the low-fare airline share of capacity at Budapest rose from a percentage in the mid-20s to around 50%,” Jandu remarked.

Asked if Hungary could be seen as a good example of countries not actually needing to have a national carrier, Jandu agreed it could although he did acknowledge that the airport company had been prepared for the loss of Malev having observed its struggles through winter seasons. “We certainly had a plan ready for what eventually happened,” he stated.

Regarding the lack of national carrier, Jandu noted that “it helps to have a destination like Budapest, which is a great attraction for visitors.” He also pointed out that his airport now has 42 carriers operating from it whereas when Malev was there it had 33, such has been the clamour to take a piece of the airport’s, the city’s and the country’s potential.

Discussing the changing landscape among low-fare airlines, including the new customer-friendly Ryanair, Jandu noted, “Ryanair is changing because there are very few ‘free’ airports which can be developed, so the product has to change to get more business passengers. A good example is the way Ryanair is all over Vueling in Rome and Brussels,” he continued, highlighting the way in which Ryanair added the major airports in those cities (Fiumicino and Zaventem respectively) to combat the Spanish carrier although it already had strong bases at Brussels Charleroi and Rome Ciampino.

Asked what he viewed might develop in the air transport industry over the next five years, Jandu remarked, “Airports need to look at what airlines want, in particular low-fare airlines as they are drivers. So I see a lot of airports being more flexible. Airports always want to offer choice, so that will drive change too.”

Bernie Baldwin, editor, Low-Fare & Regional Airlines/
Aberdeen, UK

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