Budapest airport has decided to extend its terminal as passenger numbers in 2014 regained their level before the demise of former flag carrier Malev in early 2012.

Last year, the Hungarian capital's Ferenc Liszt hub served 9.15 million passengers – 7.5% more than in 2013. Numbers had previously peaked at 8.91 million in 2011.

Ryanair has been central to filling the void left by Malev, which was the airport's largest operator providing 37% of passengers, the gateway's commercial chief Kam Jandu told Flightglobal at Routes Europe in Aberdeen. In financial terms, the loss of Malev led to an even larger shortfall as the carrier was the airport's largest tenant.

However, Budapest airport needed to modify its terminal facilities as Ryanair and other low-cost carriers demanded aircraft stands without passenger bridges. Nine months before Malev ceased operations, the airport had inaugurated that terminal, which was geared toward serving as a hub for a classic network carrier.

At that time, Budapest airport was using an older terminal for budget airlines. But since the facility in question was too small to handle the growing low-cost traffic, all airlines were consolidated at the new site.

This led to a conflict: budget airlines did not want to pay for facilities they did not require while network carriers did not want to be charged at higher rates than their low-cost competitors using the same terminal.

As a result, Budapest airport built a simple metal structure to serve as "basic boarding gates" on the apron, which are accessed via a walkway from the main terminal and allow boarding of the aircraft via stairs. Jandu says charges for these gates are 40% lower than for aircraft stands with passenger bridges.

Now, the airport has decided to build an airport pier with eight aircraft stands to open in 2017. The gates can be used for both budget and network carriers. All stands are equipped with passenger bridges on the first floor, but also have separate exits on the ground level for passengers to walk to the aircraft.

The project's investment volume will be in the order of €10 million ($10.6 million), with construction scheduled to begin in 2016.

Catering for different airline demands has become a key part of the airport's business. While low-cost carriers have provided growth on short- to medium-haul flights, the Gulf airlines have been crucial to building up long-haul routes – and demand comfortable facilities and lounges for their customers.

"Airports need to be flexible, particularly in Europe," says Jandu.

Budapest targets 9.65 million passengers for the full year 2015. This is set to rise around 12 million travellers by 2020, says Jandu. But at that point, he adds, the airport will need a new check-in hall.

Source: Cirium Dashboard