By early April, Budapest Airport lost approximately 99.3% of its passenger traffic. Earlier, there were 320 aircraft movements, i.e. landings and takeoffs per day on average. Currently, this is just 35, of which only a few aircraft are airliners. In April 2019, the average daily passenger number (arriving and departing) was 44 000; this year, this number is just 275.
In earlier years, the Easter period was always very popular with tourists. In 2019, the airport handled 1311 arriving and departing aircraft during the 4-day long weekend, with a total of nearly 190 000 passengers. This year, there were only 1283 passengers at the airport during the Easter holiday period, between 10 and 13 April. This spring will unfortunately enter aviation history as black spring.
The airport operator has decided, in accordance with the request of several local residents, to carry out the planned, necessary annual maintenance of the runways, taxiways and technical aprons during the medical emergency, when traffic has been reduced to a minimum. Budapest Airport commenced the renovation of runway I on 23 March. Due to the minimal traffic, the company decided to perform the maintenance works not in several phases, as originally planned, but in one single phase. Works were completed by the second week of April. Since then, runway I has been operational again.
Under normal operational conditions, runway closures would affect residential communities to a much greater degree. However, it is important to emphasize that due to the decreased traffic, the runway closure only had a minimal impact on the daily lives of affected residents in nearby communities.
Preparations for refurbishment works for runway II are also under way. However, with consideration for the pandemic, the airport operator is not only responsible for its own employees, but also for the staff of the companies involved. Since the preservation of our health is more important than anything else, Budapest Airport will decide on the commencement of the works on runway II at a later date.
Budapest Airport is using the period of low traffic caused by the pandemic to carry out developments, maintenance and refurbishment works which would be difficult to perform during regular passenger traffic. The various painting, paving and renovation works serve to enhance aviation safety, as well as the passenger experience and convenience, once traffic restarts.
During the traffic-free period, taxiway parts are replaced, the joints between concrete slabs are repaired, water drainage canals and floodlight masts are relocated, whereby taxiways and wide body aircraft stands will become safer.
The waiting areas of bus gates on the airside of Terminal 2A will also be refurbished, once the new, accessible pavement is constructed.
Over the coming weeks, painting works will commence in the terminal building and on the landside of the terminal, with the participation of BUD group employees, and the flooring will also be replaced in several locations in the terminal building.
In addition to the refurbishment projects, the airport’s technical and IT staff members will perform a whole host of important tests and operational checks over the coming weeks, to verify the functioning of systems indispensable for the safe operation of the airport.
The vast majority of airline fleets have been grounded, due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, this forced hiatus does not necessarily mean that aircraft wait for the end of the crisis on the aprons untouched. Parked aircraft are prepared for the restart of operation with regular maintenance and care; engines and air conditioning systems are periodically turned on, in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. Some aircraft are even taken for a so-called “traffic pattern”, a short flight in the airport’s airspace on a regular basis, thus ensuring their operational readiness. Aircraft having to be moved more frequently are allocated to easily accessed stands on the aprons.
Aircraft stored on the concrete for longer periods must be protected from birds and insects. Engine outlets are covered with tarpaulins, whilst other openings are stoppered and parts where sunshine could damage sensitive parts of the aircraft are covered with foil, if necessary.