“This is the end
This is the end
My only friend, the end
Of our elaborate plans, the end
Of everything that stands, the end
No safety or surprise, the end
I’ll never look into your eyes…again”
(The Doors – The End)
So it happened finally. Our national airline went bankrupt and we are mourning. Our favorite Blue Nose stopped operating yesterday. It was a long agony, though. When I joined the company in 2001 I was told that it might go bankuprt any time. During the five years I spent there we had some hard days. The end was always very close, the sword of democles was hanging there all the time. But somehow we always survived, mostly due to the intervention of the state. When Hungary joined the EU in 2004 we knew there can be no more state interventions, but we believed in privatization and the chance an alliance membership could have brought to us.
“Look mummy, there’s an aeroplane up in the sky”
(Pink Floyd – Goodbye Blue Sky)
I am using Sky Scanner app on my iPhone. One of the best apps for aviation enthusiasts. It is an augmented reality app, if you point your phone to a plane in the sky it shows you the airline, the flight number, the destination and the plane type. It has been fun to watch the descending Malev flights outside the building during smoke breaks. Yesterday there were no planes, just silence. I felt I lost a friend of mine.
In 2003 Malev changed its Boeing fleet. We had shiny new B737-600s, 700s and 800s. When the first plane arrived, there was a huge party in a hangar at the airport. A lot of people from all departments, food, music, everything, it was a nice social event. At one point, Malev’s music started tp play and the doors of the hangar opened. The new plane stood there with its blue nose facing us. I was busy taking photos, but when I stopped and looked around I saw hundreds of people standing there with tears in their eyes. At that point I understood this company was much more to its employees than just a company. It was a family where these “birds” as they called them were like kids or cute dogs, the most loved members of the family. The music composed by a famous Hungarian pop musician Gaborn Presser was so symbolic in this country that there are hardly any people who don’t know it. When I walk in the streets I can hear it as ringtones of cell phones.
“I’ve done a lot, God knows I’ve tried
To find the truth, I’ve even lied
But all I know is down inside I’m bleeding.”
(Rocky Horror Picture Show – Super Heroes)
Yesterday we lost a good friend. It was killed. It wasn’t an Agatha Christie style murderer, there will be no crime scene investigation. This company is the victim of high level politics. All governments and most CEOs in the past 12 (or so) years were involved. We know that the state is not a good owner. Manager came and managers went without understanding the aviation business, making decisions that caused damages. It was not just them however, but also the union, the Russian owner after privatization, and last but not least the politicians. There is just one person I have to mention from all these people – and don’t get me wrong he is not the only one responsible. But from all these people he was the only one who did not shut his mouth up yesterday. His name is Jozsef (Joe) Varadi, the CEO of Wizzair. Yesterday he told one of the news portals that “nothing special happened in Hungary today”. Well, in the next days I will tell you the Wizzair story in this blog, so you will understand his role in this case. (Nice one).
“My soul is painted like the wings of butterflies
Fairytales of yesterday will grow but never die
I can fly – my friends”
(Queen – The show must go on)
Yesterday evening the planes were directed back to Shannon Ireland, the base of ILFC, the leasing company that was accidentally founded by a Hungarian guy called Steven Udvar-Házy. At the moment they are parked up for repainting.
And what’s next? Malev’s staff still believes there will be a new flag carrier in Hungary, most people still hope the story will go on like Swiss’ (former Swiss Air) or SN Brussels’ (former Sabena). But I am more sceptic. I think the Malev story has come to an end. The rights will be inherited by Wizzair and Ryanair and maybe some others. The space will be filled up very soon and new planes and new carriers will take over the empoty skies. Is it good for Hungary? No, it isn’t. It will have an effect on economy, on international relations, on GDP and everything. But we’ll see.
Finally I wish all my former colleagues the best, I hope they will receive their salary for January, find a new job quickly and that they will find their peace of mind in this world outside Malev.