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Part of that plan was to target a number of airlines for each


of the Malev routes. This meant that a management team at the airport while coping with the immediate consequences of the collapse were at the same time actively drumming up business from alternative carriers. “On the day of the collapse we had already in place two or three commitments, notably from Air Berlin, who agreed to start flying from the airport on the following Monday” [three days after Malev folded], says Jandu. “Lufthansa also agreed to start routes and there were a number of other airlines as well. One of these was Ryan Air, who according to Jandu “turned up in one of its 737s with just six people saying we are here to save Hungarian aviation.” Low cost carriers tend to divide opinion but according to Budapest Airport’s experience, their business model, gives them some particular advantages when new routes need to be established quickly. “Love them or hate them, low cost airlines are very agile.” says Jandu. “They do not bury themselves in countless layers of decision making. They can move very quickly. In the case of Ryan Air they ‘park’ 80 aircraft during the winter because it is cheaper for them to do that than fly them - that figure is bigger than many major airlines.” According to Jandu in the months leading up to the collapse of


Malev the management team had approached a number of carriers in order to start building a disaster plan. But this had to be done carefully in order that the struggling national carrier’s ticket stock did not become junk spreading market panic with agents stopping using them. “Where we had a strong relationship with an airline we could have a discussion,” he adds. “It was very publicly known even two years before the collapse that they were struggling. The conversations were very much on a theoretical level along the lines of - if it comes to it do you think there is market demand here and most of the answers were positive. And when it came to the real crisis a lot of those airlines who were first, second and third on our list jumped in fairly quickly.” Despite being able to attract new carriers to the airport very quickly to replace some of the holes left by the collapse of Malev, management were still faced with some very tough decisions required to adapt the new business model to the rapid change in circumstances. One of those decisions centred on whether or not to continue operations with two terminals - the old terminal and the new one that had recently been built at significant cost. ‘Did we need a Euros 100 million shiny terminal?” says Jandu. “The truth was it was never needed even if you added in the new low cost carriers. We didn’t want to have to pay for it and pay for the existing infrastructure. So either we modified our product or we would not be able to establish operations in Budapest.” In the end the airport’s small management team took the decision to close the old one. Terminal one was about 5kms from the newly built terminal 2 but it was closed because the airport


airportfocusinternational.com AF /January 2014/ 37


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