Budapest airport sees no scope for a homegrown successor to former flag carrier Malev, but believes there is potential for a regional operator to build a route network from the Hungarian capital.

Ryanair and Wizz Air absorbed most of Malev’s traffic when the Hungarian carrier collapsed in February 2012. The Irish budget airline based five Boeing 737s in Budapest and established 32 routes from there in 2012, although much of that capacity has already been cut, with just two aircraft remaining part of the operation today, said the airport’s head of airline business development Balazs Bogats at the Routes Europe summit in Marseille.

Central European low-cost carrier Wizz Air has meanwhile maintained its capacity growth and will add another aircraft to its local base operation during the summer 2014 season, bringing the total number to eight.

Last year, local businessmen tried to set up new national carrier Solyom Hungarian Airways. A leased 737-500 was delivered sporting the new livery and name – which means falcon – but the start-up disappeared again without commencing regular operations.

Bogats says there is no scope for a local mainline carrier that would have to compete against Ryanair and Wizz Air. Just before Malev collapsed, the flag carrier generated 42% of passengers at Budapest airport. But by the end of 2012, the hub’s passenger volume had declined by just under 5%.

However, there is room for a regional operator with aircraft in the 70-100 seat capacity, which could revive routes previously served by Malev’s regional division, he says. This could cover flights, such as Budapest-Sofia, which have not been available since Malev’s demise and generate not enough traffic to fill the budget airlines’ narrowbodies. Budapest is negotiating with a number of foreign regional airlines, Bogats says.

The airport also wants to attract more long-haul operators. American Airlines and Delta Air Lines had operated direct flights from New York, but both carriers stopped their services after Malev’s collapse. Bogats says negotiations are under way with a number of airlines about direct flights from North America. “But it takes time,” he warns.

Meanwhile, negotiations appear to be progressing faster with the Gulf carriers. Qatar Airways is flying to Budapest from its Doha base, and the airport is also talking to Emirates, although a route to Dubai has “not yet” been finalised, says Bogats.

Source: Cirium Dashboard