Posts Tagged 'Malev'

Sólyom Hungarian Airways Preparing For Launch

Solyom Hungarian Airways LogoWith 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hard to pronounce for foreigners, the fleet plans being too optimistic over the coming years, the business model being outdated and such, but interest was definitely raised among aviation enthusiasts in the country.

Artist's rendering of Sólyom Hungarian Airways B737-500 livery - from radarfigyelo.hu

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:

  • FLEET:
    • 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”
  • NETWORK:
    • 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.
  • BUSINESS:
    • 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!

by balint01

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The Last Malev Ad

Today’s free Metropol ‘newspaper’ – distributed in public areas across Hungary – features the last Ad by Malév Hungarian Airlines on its last page – featuring portraits of current and ex-employees. It was paid for by the employees, who chose this extraordinary way to say goodbye to the passengers. Márta Róna, communications director said: “The employees of Malév would like to thank the passengers with this symbolic last ad purchased by themselves. We keep all those lots of happy moments of 66 years spent together in hearts!” Malév ceased operations exactly one week ago, last Friday on February 3, 2012.

Exact translation:

“We Thank You!

We hereby thank all Malév passengers who chose to fly with the national airline in the last 66 years, for flying with us.

Much love,

The Employees of Malév

The last Malév ad was published from money collected by the employees of Malév with the support of this newspaper.”

by balint01

R.I.P. Malév – by balint01

2012 is supposed to be the end of the world – according to the Mayas. I do not believe in that. But 2012 actually turns out to be the end, for at least a part of the world: for those of us who have ever worked at Malév Hungarian Airlines or somewhere in the Hungarian Aviation Industry.

3rd of February, 2012. The date when Malév – the 66 year old Hungarian Airlines – disappeared from the skies. At some point in its history it was part of the North-American skies, the Asian skies, the Middle-Eastern skies and the African skies. But most importantly, Malév was always part of the European skies. And it was proud of it. Malev was also proud to become a European Union flag carrier in 2004 – but ironically this status put the latest nail in its coffin. A coffin that was started to be built about 20 years ago, sometime in the early 1990’s, after the political change in this part of the world.

One thing you need to know though: while the politicians were working hard on building this coffin, most of the employees (I’m sorry, but I can’t say ‘all of the employees’, only ‘most’ at best) were working against it. So most of the employees believed in a Hungarian National Airline, and believed that it can be operated in a professional, profitable way. Maybe even an efficient way. So what went wrong then? you may ask. I believe that the 20 year old last chapter in its history – that ended with the complete disappearance of Malév yesterday – had one root problem: ever changing top management. 21 years – 17 CEO’s!! (But this will most likely be a different post in this blog in the near future.)

Anyway, while growing up, I built about 70 plastic planes, and watched airliners at Budapest Ferihegy Airport Terminal 1 observation deck a few times. I was really jealous of my father visiting his best friend in Stockholm with an SAS DC-9. Then at the age of 8, my parents couldn’t take me away from the observation deck of the Frankfurt Airport for more than two hours… I was amazed by seeing so many planes and identifying each flag carrier by their tail design. Then at 11, I flew for the first time in my life – and like most of the Hungarians older than 15 – I had my first flying experience aboard Malév. It was a Tupolev Tu-154. I was so excited about this flight, that I threw up – funnily after we landed in Rome… I can still remember that the flight attendants on that flight were extremely nice and helpful. Really.

Then I flew about 10 times with them before I joined Malév in 2003. On my first interview (with Szafi) I was told that we would try to save the airline with the new e-business solutions, but it may not be flying in one year. I convinced myself that it was a great opportunity to be a member of the team that may save the Hungarian National Flag Carrier – especially being fresh out of the university, without a family to support, just starting my carrier. And I’m glad I convinced myself of this risk, as I had enjoyed 3 great years there – plus I met so many wonderful people, including my wife!

I really had the privilege of getting to know so many people across the whole company while working with the BPR part of the team who introduced online booking – and later e-ticketing. I became friends with colleagues at the Pricing Department, Scheduling, Domestic and International Sales, the Ticketing offices, the Call Center, Finance, Marketing, Legal, Communications, Airport Operations in Budapest and at a number of stations we flew to – just to mention a few. As an aviation enthusiast employee, I had of course met and talked to a number of Malév pilots and flight attendants as well. Some of these people have moved on over the years and are now working at other companies, but some of them just lost their jobs – yesterday. I truly share their feelings as much as possible and wish them strength and all the best in the coming days, weeks!

On the other hand, we must also talk about realities. I hate to say this, but such an airline with so many CEO’s and ever changing strategy over decades, was destined to die. We all knew this. We just didn’t want to believe it. And we were all shocked when as an employee first heard the ‘rumours’ that we may not get our next salary. Then the ‘old folks’ told us ‘Don’t worry, this has been happening at least once a year for the last decade, there is always a solution!‘ And we tried to believe them, but then waited for the next salary with nervousness. And it was transferred. Then a few months later it happened again. It got transferred again. For the third time I already felt like the ‘old folks’ – no worries, this is just a small panic. And it would probably go on like this for the latest newcomers for years to come – only if the EU would not rule out financial help by the state. They say this is to protect competition. From the Budapest flight market one thing has disappeared yesterday: the main competitor. Meaning that there will be no real competition from now on, as the other flag carriers flying to Budapest will be the sole carriers on their respective routes. Who will stop Lufthansa to raise their fares to Hamburg or Frankfurt, or BA to London, or Air France to Paris – when there is no other airline flying there from Budapest? What will the EU say now? Also, if there is no state-aid for the Air Carriers, why can be state-aid for banks when they are in trouble? Or for car manufacturers when they are in trouble? Why not for Air Carriers when they are in trouble? Like Spanair a week ago and now Malév. Who will be next in a week’s time? CSA Czech Airlines? LOT? SAS? Is the EU protecting competition, or is it protecting the three large European Airline conglomerates (Lufthansa group, Air France-KLM group and BA-Iberia group) and low-cost carriers?

Malev is now gone. From the skies. Physically it only remains in the Airplane Museum at the Budapest Liszt Ferenc Airport – unfortunately no Boeing 737 NG planes will ever be exhibited there, as they were all flown back to the lessor ILFC last night already. But it remains in the hearts of those who ever worked there. And for those who are just now joining the world outside of Malév, I can guarantee one thing: You will continue to talk about Malév as ‘us’ and ‘we’ for decades to come. Trust me, I know, because I do that all the time, too.

Rest In Peace, Blue-Nosed, Malév Hungarian Airlines!

by balint01

R.I.P. Malev – by Szafi

“This is the end
Beautiful friend
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.

You can take a last look at these kind pets in the photostream submitted today on Flickr.

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.

By Szafi

 

Vote For Malev’s New Q400 Livery

After all the bad news we read earlier about Bombardier’s Q400 – also called Dash 8, now there’s some fun about them.

Malev, the Hungarian airline company initiated an aircraft livery design contest. The finalists were selected by a smaller jury that includes Mr Laszlo Zsoter, the designer of the present Malev livery. Malev’s planes are sometimes called Blue Nose among planespotters. If you take a look at this picture, you will understand why.

Malev Q400

Malev Q400

Now you can visit Malev’s site and vote for the design you like the most. Don’t miss it, it’s fun! Here are some examples:

By Nora Vera Csovari

By Nora Vera Csovari

By Szabolcs Kozicz

By Szabolcs Kozicz

By Gabor Tamas Nemeth

By Gabor Tamas Nemeth

By Szafi

Malev Hungarian Airlines Orders Sukhoi Superjets

The 2009 Paris Air Show has just begun today, with the expectation of no major aircraft orders due to the current economic crisis. Airbus and Boeing are still in the net cancellations for 2009, and they are not expecting any major orders this week.

But the economic crisis may be helping smaller, upcoming aircraft manufacturers to record some orders – as they can probably stay cheaper than the two major global companies. One of them is the new Russian Sukhoi Superjet, that has reportedly gained 30 orders from Malév Hungarian Airlines today. Sukhoi Superjet International has announced that it closed a deal with oneworld member Malev for 30 Sukhoi Superjet 100s (15 firm + 15 options), as Martin Gauss, CEO of Malév and Alessandro Franzoni, CEO of Superjet International have signed a letter of intent today at Le Bourget. It is not yet known whether it’s a complete purchase or a leasing deal, but the deal’s value is said to be in excess of 1 billion USD. According to the plans, the first aircraft would arrive at Malév in 2011, and 6 would follow each year. The Hungarians are the first known “Western” customers for the type, which marks its entry into the skies of the European Union – therefore it is a very important announcement for Sukhoi.

Sukhoi Superjet Revealed - by Reuters

The Superjet was revealed in September 2007, but then fell behind original plans and got delayed, similar to other new aircrafts in the 21st century, but finally took to the skies on its first flight in June 2008. Malev has been tied with a possible order earlier, but this seems to be confirmed today.

Malév Hungarian Airlines currently operates a short-haul fleet with 18 Boeing 737 NGs making up most of the fleet and the turboprop Bombardier Q400 taking the regional role (replacing Fokker-70’s as those are being phased out). The question unanswered at the moment is whether the two-class configured SJJ100’s would be introduced as the third aircraft type or would replace either the 737s or the Q400s. We hope these 30 will be additional, as the 98 seat Superjet would not be able to take the role of the 737-700 and -800s that can carry up to 140 and 180 passengers respectively.

The deal itself may sound a surprise to some, but given the fact that the Russian state-owned Vnyesekonombank holds a minority stake in Malév and has been postponing its promised capital injection, this order for the Russian aircraft type may be part of the behind-the-scenes inter-government deal pushed down the throat of the ailing Hungarian state carrier.

by balint01

Flight Review: British Airways

We have been considering writing flight reviews for some time, and now finally here is the first one.

British Airways Logo

Route: BUDAPEST-London/Gatwick-ATLANTA
Operating Airlines: oneworld: British Airways and Malev Hungarian Airlines
Travel Date: 06NOV2007

Ticket Purchase

I have bought the ticket through www.ba.com, which was a very nice experience. The website provides you with lowest price options on and around the days you have searched for showing the options in an easy-to-understand, coloured format. After selecting (confirming) your travel dates, it gives you a detailed list of all the available flight combinations, also colored so that you can easily recognize the cheapest option. What I really liked about the flight descriptions, that it explicitly tells you operational information after or between the concerned flights. For example it would tell you “Warning – your connection will involve travel between airports by coach or bus, the cost of which is not included in your fare.” And this text would be displayed between those two flights, where one arrives at Heathrow, while the other leaves from Gatwick. Really easy to understand, and very visual. After selecting your flights and providing passenger details you can pay for your trip with your credit card and upon successful payment, you receive a confirmation email immediately (as expected). The site also takes you immediately to the “Manage My Booking” section, that provides very usefull information and allows you to manage your booking. For example you can save time at the airport by filling out the APIS data (required for entry to the USA) online, you can also add frequent flier number if you forgot to add it at the time of the booking, and can change or upgrade your flights right from here, but can check the online entertainment options, including the movies you will be offered, too.

Offsetting Carbon Emissions 

You can also follow a link from the “Manage My Booking” page to offset your carbon-dioxide emissions with Climate Care (http://www.climatecare.org/britishairways/calculators/) using a pollution calculator. For this particular return flight my emmission is 1,86 t of CO2, which costed me EUR 20,75 to offset. Climate Care has also sent me a British Airways co-branded Certificate to certify that I have offset the CO2 generated by my return flight.
(Being curious I have also checked the Lufthansa website partnered with myclimate.org, launched a few months ago, and to my surprise for the same route it calculated: 1,705 t of CO2, and suggested a compensation of EUR 34. Where the difference comes from, I don’t know…)

Check-In

To be in control of my seats, I chose to check-in online. It opens 24 hours before the actual flight (each flight opens individually). Unfortunately check-in for the BUD-LGW segment was not available on the BA website, as it is operated by Malev Hungarian Airlines. But for the British Airways flight, I could check-in flawlessly, where I got a pre-assigned seat, which I could change while using a seat-map of the actual aircraft that I was going to fly. The process is very straight forward, and easy to understand I think. After the successful transaction I printed my boarding pass on a normal A4 size paper, that included a bar code for later identification at the airport. The website also gave me check-in summary after completing it. Unlike some other airlines, BA did not replace this home-printed paper with a magnetic stripe “traditional” boarding pass at the airport, this was the only boarding paper I used to get on my flight.

Due to the above mentioned situation I also used the check-in desks at Budapest, where they checked me in quickly for the Budapest-London segment, but they had no information of my other already self-checked-in segment. They could not confirm if I actually have 35A as my seat or not, but she said she can not do anything with my second flight (the systems blocks her) and suggested that I look for a BA transfer desk at Gatwick. She could check-in my luggage all the way, though. Upon arrival to Gatwick I contacted BA Ticket desk in the transit area, and the lady there was also very nice, told me that indeed I have 35A, but even though my luggage was checked-in all the way in Budapest already, she does not see it in the system. So I gave her my bag-tag, which then she recorded in their system.

Malev B737-700 (HA-LOL)

1. BUDAPEST – LONDON GATWICK (BA 4450 operated by Malev: MA 612)

Aircraft: Boeing 737-700NG (HA-LOL), new, clean, comfortable aircraft operated by Malev Hungarian Airlines
Class: Economy
Punctuality: Flight took off 10 minutes late, arrived exactly on time.
Boarding: After a long-long queue at the security (airport’s responsibility) I had to rush to the gate, otherwise it was OK
Seats: Full leather seats in both classes, with average legroom
Flight Attendants: There were 4 of them, 3 young girls and 1 older purser. Two of the girls were very good looking, all of them were very friendly.
Meals: We got hot breakfast of scrambled eggs, beans and a wurst as well as freshly warmed/heated buns. Also got orange juice and tea, could have gotten a wide variety of soft drinks, or wine or beer.
Entertainment: There are LCD screens above the seats per every three-four rows in the aircraft, which play Malev and Hungary PR material throughout the whole flight.

G-VIIF Boeing 777

2. LONDON GATWICK – ATLANTA (BA 2227)

Aircraft: Boeing 777-200 (G-VIIF), not so new, at some places worn-down aircraft operated by British Airways
Class: Economy
Punctuality: Flight took off 10 minutes late, arrived 30 minutes ahead of schedule.
Boarding: The security at Gatwick was very long, I was happy I had a three hour layover so I didn’t have to run, and I could relax while standing in the line. It was confusing that when finally they put up on the screens that we need to go to gate 55, while walking there I caught the last few words of an announcement saying that passenger flying to Atlanta should proceed to gate 59. It doesn’t sound that bad, but the gates are on two different sides of Gatwick, so it would have caused a running excercise if the announcement proves true. As I wasn’t sure if it was about my flight (there was another flight to Atlanta about an hour after mine) I went to the gate which was on the screens – it was a good decision as that was our gate. After the gate-boarding pass check-in there were seats available for only about half of the passengers, so either be there early or arrive late! Other than that, boarding went smoothly.
Seats: Full leather seats with proper legroom, as comfortable as a regular economy seat can get. Tip: if legroom is important for you don’t get a window seat, as the entertainment cables go on the window seat’s chairleg, which reduces free legroom. It doesn’t really leave you the option to put a laptop bag under the seat in front of you for example.
Flight Attendants: They really did their job of serving meals and overlooking the passengers for security. That’s all they did. No special smile or service, dry English manner.

Main meal on BA2227  Snack Meal on BA 2227

Meals: Not so long after take-off we received a small pack of snacks with drinks and later on the main meal. The choice was chicken or pasta, I took the chicken with assorted vegetables (potatoes, broccoli and mashed carrots). The taste was good, just like that of the standard salad (with fish) and the blackberry pie. The Twix chocolate bar tasted as everywhere around the world. The bun was not fresh and not warmed, not tasty at all. The white wine was OK, but it’s probably not award winning, either. Shortly before landing we got another “meal” which was a small pre-packed sandwhich with a small carrot-cake with raisins and a pack of dried fruits. Drinks were served once again. During the flight if somebody wanted to get snacks or extra drinks, the kitchen in the back of the plane was always “open”.

Dangling armrest on BA   Dangling armrest on BA 2.

Entertainment: Every passenger in economy has their own LCD screen and built-in remote control in the armrest. My armrest was really worn-down and actually broken. The dirty looking plastic cover was living it’s own life, as you can see on the pictures above. It should be dangling around like this, it was annoying. Just like the fact that I tried 2 headphones where each had only one side working, then I put on my own headphones which just worked properly. As it is a Skype enabled one, the flight attendants spotted it and brought a third one to try, which finally worked on both sides! It may only be me, but I always get a half- or non-working headphone set on my long-haul flights at first… On the other hand, the radio stations were OK, and the movies, too. The movies start at un-announced times, all movies starting at the same time. I watched three of them: Die Hard 4, Ocean’s Thirteen and Knocked Up.
Amenities: Each economy passenger received a bag of socks, and toothbrush-toothpaste.

Overall Experience

Despite the minor glitches on the BA flight with the entertainment (armrest and headphones) I would take this flight again, I had a good time onboard both oneworld flights. A big advantage was the convenient schedule (leaving Budapest at 7:10 and arriving in Atlanta at 16:25) and the pricetag: this return flight costed USD 1072, with the purchase taking place exactly one week before the departure (so relatively late).

by balint01


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