The first phase of designing and construction between 1939 and 1944
In 1938 the conception of building a new airport in Budapest entered on the agenda. The area in the boundary of three settlements, Pestszentlőrinc-Rákoshegy-Vecsés, was assigned as the area of the new airport. The Airport was intended as one jointly for civil-military-sporting purposes. Civil facilities were designed to be built up in the north-western and military ones in the south-western section. Just as for each building, a public tender was invited for the designing and construction of the traffic building.
In December 1939, upon announcement of the results of the tender invited in September that year, the designs of Károly Dávid jr. (1903-1973) proved to be the most feasible for implementation. The designer, who was one of the originators of modern Hungarian architectural art, dreamt of a building which resembled of a large aircraft from the top-side view. The works were commenced in 1942. For approaching the airport in 16 km from the City a high-speed road was constructed between 1940 and 1943. The end of the high-speed road contacted into main road 4 in the vicinity by a concrete road alongside the western side of the airport. After several improvements and enlargements, this road provides for accessibility of Budapest Airport by road even nowadays.
The military buildings were constructed parallel to the civil construction from 1940, however, due to the war situation, at a faster pace. Active aviation started in at the airport around 1943. In the wartime, the civil construction slowed down and then it entirely stopped in the beginning of 1944. Towards the end of World War II, the great part of the airport buildings already finished and semi-finished were in ruins or strongly damaged. By the end 1944, Budapest and its airport were under soviet occupation.
The period of reconstruction 1947-50
In 1947 it was decided that the airport would be reconstructed for civil aviation purposes. Under the three-year plan 40 million forints were voted for those works. The solemn opening ceremony was held on Sunday, 7 May 1950 and the sections finished allowed Magyar-Szovjet Polgári Légiforgalmi Rt. (Hungarian-Soviet Civil Aviation Co. Ltd. – MASZOVLET) established in 1946 to operate here.
At that time the airlines operated only a few foreign flights, in particular those in Prague, Bucharest, Warsaw and Sophia. In initial times, Budapest Airport was used only by regular flight aircrafts of countries pursuing a policy similar to that of Hungary.
When Magyar Légiforgalmi Vállalat (Hungarian Airlines – Malév) was established on 25 November 1954, these activities were merged into that new company established only with Hungarian participation. The first regular flight taking off from the airport to the West was the Malév’s flight into Vienna in summer 1956. The first Western airline which launched a flight to Budapest was KLM Royal Dutch Airlines in 1957. The traffic building was entirely finished in this period and the lengthening works of the 2500 m runway were started due to appearance of larger crafts. At the end of 1958 the runway lengthened to 3010 m and taxiway D was also finished.
Continued growth: 1960-1980
With respect to Budapest Airport’s traffic, the number of landings at Hungary’s single international airport has increased from 4,786 at opening to 17,133 and in passenger traffic from 49,955 to 359,338 by 1960. Regular and occasional passenger and cargo transport aircrafts departed to more and more countries.
In 1965, an overall study was elaborated on development of the airport, which was implemented with more than a 10-year delay as from the end of the 1970s. Aviation, airport and flight control all called for more capacities and new infrastructure.
The Aviation and Airport Directorate (LRI) was established on 1 January 1973 in order to carry out extended tasks and to separate its activities performed as an airline company, a trade company and an authority as well as its investment, operator and air navigation tasks.
In 1974, the passenger traffic of Budapest Airport reached one million. Due to the speedy increase in the number of aircrafts flying through the country, several new projects are realized. In 1977, the new control tower was built as well as a second runway parallel to the old one and a technical base intended for maintaining the MALÉV aircrafts. Use of the new 3,707 m runway was started in September 1983.
New infrastructure for growing demand: 1980-2000
In 1980, the number of landing aircrafts and passengers served reached 32,642 and 1,780,000, respectively. The growing number of passengers called for extended capacities in handling the traffic. A new terminal was decided upon. The foundation-stone of the new passenger traffic building to be built was laid down on 16 November 1983. As from 1 November 1985, passengers are received in Terminal 2, a facility in an area of 24 thousand square meters implemented from Austrian loans under general contracting. It was used by the aircrafts and passengers of Malév and then by those of Lufthansa, Air France and Swissair. Due to its large-sized apron, its stands near and remote from the building, and its six passenger bridges, Budapest Airport has become one of the up-to-date airports again. The old terminal has continued to transact the traffic of the airlines of other countries under a new name, Terminal 1.
In 1990 more than 40 thousand take-offs and landings were registered, 2.5 million passengers were served and 75 thousand aircrafts were navigated in Hungary’s airspace, which number has increased manifold up to over 350 thousand by the end of 1995.
As from 1993 summer, Malév launched the airport’s first Hungarian overseas flight to New York. The development of aviation has not stopped and, due to the changes that took place in the country, new improvements have been commenced. According to the traffic figures forecasted for the millennium, the two terminals serving 4 million passengers a year promised to be insufficient. The construction of Terminal 2B was started in 1997. The new building of an area of more than 30 thousand m2, together with the appurtenant traffic apron, was opened on 8 December 1998 and all the foreign airlines moved there. It can receive 3.5 million passengers a year with its seven stands near the building provided with passenger bridges and five remote stands.
Budapest Airport Zrt. – From public to public-private ownership
As from January 2002, a new chapter started in the life of the airport again. In lieu of the liquidated Aviation and Airport Directorate two new organizations were established. HungaroControl became responsible for air navigation and Budapest Airport Zrt. for operation of the airport.
It should set up a modern and economic airport which provides services coming up to European standards and connects our country closely with other regions of the world. The task had become a decisive one though, as passenger figures were exploding and it was hard to keep pace with the demanding growth of the aviation industry. Within 1998 and 2005 alone, passenger figures at Budapest Airport doubled – from 3.9 million to 7.9 million. Again, major investments were called for.
This time, the Hungarian State, sole owner of the airport so far, opted for a partial privatization. The integration of a private strategic partner with international experience was said to have a positive effect on the future development of the airport and was hoped to provide for new transport connections to the city, new car parking and shopping facilities, new terminal capacities and a quicker and better service.
In June 2005, the State’s privatization agency initiated a tender for a concession. 75 percent minus one vote of Budapest Airport Zrt.’s shares were to be given to new private owners. The tender was successfully finalized by the end of the year and the British company BAA, owner and operator of the major British airports, took over the management of the airport company.
Only one and half years later, in June 2007, there was a change in the management when the new owner of BAA decided to dispose of its complete shares and sell them to the German company HOCHTIEF AirPort and three financial partners.