He’s back! CCO Kam Jandu on Budapest’s “bouncebackability” and smart growth strategy
After a very successful 11-year tenure at Budapest Airport, Kam Jandu decided towards the end of 2020 to take a sabbatical. He’d delivered everything he set out to since first joining the airport in 2009, including a precise doubling of throughput to 16.2 million by the end of 2019.
Over the next four months he spent time travelling and recharging in Costa Rica, India, the UK and Germany. Then, five months after leaving Budapest, Jandu was recruited by Munich Airport International. “They wanted to set up an international operational management department, because they’re very good at general aviation consulting on new terminals, ORAT, new airports and aviation strategy, but still pretty new to actually operating airports or terminals outside of Germany and therefore on the look-out for airport executives with broad international experience,” he explains.
Indeed, Munich Airport International’s engagements include an exotic mix including operating the new domestic Terminal A at New York’s Newark Liberty International Airport, as well as Sofia Airport as part of the ‘SOF Connect’ consortium.
“I was brought in to set up an international department and manage the staff in those markets, which was great,” says Jandu. “It’s a different kind of assignment to the hands-on operational and commercial management, which is my background, and it was an enriching experience.”
But Jandu was lured back to Hungary by Chris Dinsdale, who had subsequently taken over as CEO at Budapest Airport several months earlier, and the board fully supported his return as Chief Commercial Officer. “The big appeal was the new corporate strategy focused on several pillars including sustainability, terminal development, service quality and naturally smart growth. All the stars aligned and I’m really excited to be back here and to help create new memories.”
Since returning on 1 July 2022, his key priority has been to spend as much time as possible with internal and external stakeholders to understand their challenges, and where they see the opportunities. “That’s been the core focus I’ve adopted in the few weeks that I’ve been back, and will continue to do so for the rest of the summer – to show them I’ve not just returned, but I’m back with a new mission to drive Budapest Airport to be even more solid partners with them and to reconnect with the amazing Commercial team and colleagues across the organisation.”
“Proven unserved demand to North America”
Jandu reflects that Budapest Airport is in a different phase now. Whereas before the focus was largely about fast growth, the new vision is to deliver stable growth, with an increased focus on sustainability and service quality. “Now we’re looking at growth from a smart perspective, aiming to grow outside our peaks and very much in certain targeted regions.”
The current traffic figures are overwhelmingly positive – 1.3 million passengers handled in July and 1.2 million in June – signalling a strong recovery. “Bouncebackability was always my mantra for Budapest,” says Jandu. “This has always been a vibrant destination that works well and it’s going to continue to work well in this new era. The figures for June and July are more than 80% of those in the corresponding months in 2019, which is amazing. As we don’t have domestic traffic, that’s all international. I always said Budapest would continue to have the enduring appeal to bounce back quickly from a business, and certainly from a leisure perspective too, and these figures starkly bear that out.”
While Budapest’s core strength has historically been intra-European travel, pre-COVID it was experiencing a significant increase in long-haul services, growing to five Chinese destinations in 2019 for example. Jandu therefore identifies long-haul recovery as presenting the biggest unserved route opportunities. “The team are in active discussions with transatlantic airlines, the three main US carriers in particular, as we know they can prosper by having direct connectivity from Budapest to their hubs,” he says. “I think the underlying message is there’s proven demand to North America, which right now is only indirectly served.”
Japan, Korea and Thailand are other Asian markets with potential, and Jandu notes the higher demand from the Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabia, in the past couple of years. “Inbound tourism from the region is growing and we need to tap into that new market.”
(Perfect) 10th BUD Runway Run
The 10th Budapest Airport-anna.aero Runway Run takes place on 3 September 2022 and, as the founder of the air transport industry’s best-known charity-sportive, Jandu has competed in all 10. “From the second year onwards, we saw the bigger opportunity for the Runway Run, which was to market it to our international audience and our aviation partners and also create something which raises a lot of money for good causes – a true win-win which has hit all its objectives while generating a lot of healthy fun along the way.”
Uniquely, the run this year takes place at sunset, which Jandu says means “it will generate the best Instagram photos”.
All entry fees are entirely donated to international child cancer charity Anthony Nolan and the SUHANJ! Foundation, a Hungarian charity assisting with the inclusion of handicapped people in sports.
“The main hope I have for the event is that everyone enjoys themselves, knowing that it’s for two great causes,” says Jandu. “Whether you’ve been to our Runway Run before or not, come and experience the camaraderie, the ambience, and the hospitality. Celebrating the 10th anniversary is very special, so sign up please.”
Click here to contact us and register for the Budapest Airport-anna.aero Runway Run
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