Airside excellence at Budapest Airport marred by sub-standard landside experience

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Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.

Budapest Airport is one of my favourite airports in the world. Airside that is.

Landside it is one of my least favourites.

Why the contrast? That’s a question that no doubt vexes airport management, their commercial concessionaires (led by Heinemann Duty Free) and, not least, airport passengers.

I was in Budapest recently to attend the Grand Opening of the impressively revamped Heinemann Duty Free & Travel Value store, together with some important changes to its speciality retail offer  that includes a new multi-brand fashion & accessories store and a Tommy Hilfiger boutique.

On just about every level it’s an impressive shopping offer. Key to that attraction, at least to me, is a virtually unrivalled focus on local products.

“Besides the presentation of international brands, our aim is to create an unparalleled local Sense of Place,” said Heinemann Executive Director Raoul Spanger. “The regional Hungarian products like Szamos Marcipan, Pick Salami or Zwack Unicum are bestsellers.”

“I’m proud that 20.5% of our duty free and Travel Value turnover at Budapest Airport is from regional products – wines, chocolates, food and other items. This is actually the highest percentage across all of our operations.

“Budapest is a beautiful city in a beautiful country. And when you come home from such a beautiful place it’s much more logical to buy something regional than anything else.”

Beautifully put. And Raoul’s words were echoed by Budapest Airport CEO Jost Lammers, who said: “I am amazed and very impressed to hear that this store has the highest percentage of local products across the Heinemann network, given that it is a global player. This is wonderful news for Hungary that the richness, quality and attractiveness of Hungarian products is so popular with our visitors. It really showcases Hungarian products to the world.”

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Raoul Spanger (left) and Jost Lammers celebrate the opening in traditional style

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The day after the opening, I got to the airport early so that I could take a second, slower look at the fantastic shopping offer. Ah but how the best-laid plans of travel retail publishers can be wrecked by airport check-in and security systems.

The pictures and video on this page tell their own wretched story. Dwell time is being killed at Budapest by check-in staff who just don’t seem to care (the British Airways queue system was a joke) and an absolutely haphazard security system.

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British don’t care ways more like it

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One’s heart sinks as, having escaped check-in, the security queue looms (and looms and looms…)

Now, as always, it must be pointed out that these are not airport-controlled operations. But somehow the airport must find a way of doing something about them. It has one of the best commercial offers of any small airport in the world, a beautiful (SkyCourt) terminal (pictured below), a resurgent passenger base, top-class management and about the most professional and committed lead retail tenant you could care to name.

The airport company also has a deeply refreshing (perhaps unrivalled) attitude to supporting its retailers, championing with absolute commitment a series of successful ‘Trinity’ promotion (it embraces the term Trinity constantly in its communications).

IMG_7141The commercial results of recent times have been deeply impressive (Heinemann’s total turnover at the airport grew from €45.7 million in 2014 to €53.8 million in 2015 with a target to exceed €60 million this year). But just how much more impressive might they be if passengers could actually reach the commercial zone quicker and in a mental state that isn’t fed-up, frustrated, frazzled and fuming?

Another great combination of the Trinity approach and strong localisation

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