With the bankruptcy of oneworld member Malév Hungarian Airlines on 03 February, 2012, Hungary was left without a national air carrier. About 18 months later, this (temporary) status seems to come to an end with the rise of a new Hungarian air carrier: SÓLYOM Hungarian Airways.
In 2012, the market reacted quickly to fill the missing capacity left behind by the collapse of Malév, with Ryanair moving into the Hungarian market within days, Wizzair placing more aircraft to Budapest, and other carriers raising capacity and/or frequency soon after. The classical European airlines raised prices as they practically inherited a monopoly between their respective hubs and Budapest, especially among the business travelers. All long-haul operations from Budapest have also been suspended soon after Malév stopped flying. There were brave and not so brave initiatives among ex-Malév colleagues and outsiders to start a new airline in the last year or so, but they all proved to be a speculation or more of an “idea” by enthusiastic amateurs.
Then in early July 2013, one of the Hungarian newspapers reported that a new Airline is being formed, under the name of Sólyom. Many Hungarians rushed to comment about the name being hard to pronounce for foreigners, the fleet plans being too optimistic over the coming years, the business model being outdated and such, but interest was definitely raised among aviation enthusiasts in the country.
Then week in and out, more and more pieces of the puzzle “leaked” into the domestic media, which now seem to (more or less) come together. A few weeks later, the new CEO (Mr. József Vágó) also changed his approach towards the media and replaced his “no, I can’t answer this as it is still under negotiation” approach to revealing more and more details of his plans. The airline also held their first public news conference a week ago. So what we know so far:
- overall plan is to have 50 aircraft by 2017 (6 in 2013, 25 by 2014, 50 by 2017): 10 wide-body, 20 mid-size and 20 regional
- Starting with 6 aircraft leased from European Aviation Group, to be handed over between 18th of August and the end of September this year
- First 6 aircraft: Boeing 737-500 with CFM56-3C-1 engines, with 110 seats in two cabin classes: 12 in business, 98 in economy
- First regional aircraft to be taken over in September 2013 as well: Avro RJ 85
- FLYING: International ICAO code has been awarded: “HUN” (Hotel-Uniform-November), full length call sign: “Hungarian”
- First routes from Budapest: Amsterdam, Brussels, Frankfurt, London, Milan, Paris and Stockholm. No airports were mentioned (yet). Plan is to have these operating by the end of September, but needs further confirmation.
- Long-haul to start in the summer schedule of 2014 – with “North-American” destinations. New York is likely, but nothing is confirmed yet.
- Booking any of the flights is not yet open at this stage.
- The parent company in the Sólyom Airways Holding is owned by three Hungarian citizens (fact). Multiple fully owned subsidiary companies have been founded to deal with different areas of the operations.
- Money is coming from Middle-East investors, from Oman and the Emirates (as confirmed by the owners). Lot of speculation is flying around about the (potential) identity of these secret investors, we would not like to comment on that as nothing has been confirmed.
- BUSINESS MODEL:
- classical, full service airline – they claim they will have a higher on-board service standard than most of the European airlines. NOT low-cost.
- Point-to-point as well as transfer passengers. Revitalizing Budapest Liszt Ferenc Airport as a Hub.
- WEBSITE: http://solyomairways.com for the Airlines and http://solyomair.com for the Holding (launched today, both only in Hungarian)
- RECRUITING: Hiring started today (01AUG) by launching the above website and posting the first 35 positions where the company is hiring (only a few job descriptions available in English at the last page of the list) – You can imagine all the buzz among ex-Malev colleagues right now…
We are waiting for more details to be unveiled over the coming days/weeks/months, and are giving up our initial skepticism as well by writing this first post about Sólyom on this blog. We are wishing good luck and success for the new Hungarian Airways, and hope to have more and more international passengers learning how to pronounce “Sólyom” in the near future! After our first flight (hopefully sooner rather than later) we will make sure to post a Flight Review here!