More than a dozen Hungarian racehorses were waiting for boarding in a ground handler’s air cargo warehouse at Budapest Airport, in special freight containers, prepared with great care for the long journey to Beijing and then to Wuhan. They were placed in the cargo hold of Cargolux’s modern Boeing 747-8F (the F stands for freighter, i.e. a cargo aircraft); animals of this size can only be transported by air over such long distances, and only on board large aircraft types. From the Hungarian capital, they first made their way to Luxembourg, Cargolux’s home base, where they were prepared for the 12-hour flight to Beijing at the airline’s live animal station.
According to Hungarian equestrian website lovasok.hu, since the 2008 Olympics and the economic upturn, horseback riding has become increasingly popular in China, with more than half a million Chinese riding on a regular basis per year. Demand for sport and breading horses and, accordingly, the market for importing horses are growing dynamically as well. Hungary is now able to appear on this market, after it received the permit required for the aerial transportation of horses, at the beginning of last year. Since then, this was the first live horse shipment from Budapest Airport to China.
Cargolux flies to Budapest three times a week. Chris Nielen, VP Sales for Cargolux, commented: “The transport of animals is an important part of our core activities. We have an unparalleled expertise and a team of highly qualified professionals to ensure the welfare of the horses. We invested in new horse stalls that guarantee the wellbeing of the animals and a state of the art of transport.”
Dénes Szigeti, air freight manager for Hellmann Worldwide Logistics in Hungary, which organized the transportation of the 14 horses, said: „These were unforgettable moments in our company’s life and we are really proud of this success story. We were making history, no forwarder has ever transported horses from Budapest Airport to China directly by regular flight. Our whole special live animal team was working on this transportation project side by side which was a great success. Special thanks to the Hungarian live animal team for their dedication and hard work and also special thanks to all of the involved parties who helped us. Our dream has come true.”
Budapest Airport handled more than 72 000 tons of cargo until July this year, which is an increase of nearly 20% compared to last year. Property director René Droese stated that given the growth in live animal exports, they plan to build facilities dedicated specifically for animals in the new cargo base to be constructed over the coming years at Budapest Airport. Thus, in a few years’ time, it will be possible to fly practically any animals requiring special treatment or care from Budapest, to any part of the world.