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Hungary: Goodbye, Malév!

Malév, Hungary's state airline since 1946, ceased operation on February 3, 2012, due to bankruptcy. According to news reports [hu], even the airline's employees were informed about the shutdown just an hour or so in advance. Some passengers learned the news when they tried to check in at the Budapest Liszt Ferenc Airport.

Hungarian citizens were shocked by the news, because even though the national carrier’s bad financial situation was well-known, Malév's rescue plans were being negotiated during the past few weeks. Many claimed the cause of the company's ill fate was bad financial management. In January, even the 2007-2010 state financial aid to the airline was deemed illegal by the European Commission. Eventually, business partners lost their trust in the company, and this tipped the balance on Friday when Dublin and Tel Aviv airports refused to give take-off permissions to Malév flights.


A Malév commercial, music composed by Gábor Presser

According to A REPÜLÉS Szakmai blog (THE AVIATION Professional blog) [hu], the last Malév flight landed in Budapest on Friday at 08:46 UTC (09:46 AM in Hungary), arriving from Helsinki. The words that the pilot said to the air traffic controllers have been shared by Hungarian netizens on many sound- and video-sharing sites:

Pilot: On behalf of the last Malév flight’s crew, we would like to thank you for the good, several-decade-long cooperation. See you.
Air Traffic Controller: We also thank you and wish you a good rest, I hope we will meet.
Pilot: Hope so, under some different name.

According to AIRportal.hu [hu], on Friday evening 14 Malév planes were returned to their lessor ILFC at an airport in Ireland. (See here for Malcolm Nason's photos of the Malév planes at Shannon Airport in Ireland.)

Csaba Demeter, a pilot who was among those flying the planes back, shared his story on Facebook [hu]:

[...] Around midnight we arrived to EINN [airport code for Shannon Airport, Ireland], landed one after another and rolled nicely, to salute in this way the past period. We stopped one after another, on rolling-roads, on parking spaces, we stopped them, unpacked and turned off the lights, our planes were in the darkness. It was an awful feeling, WE HAD TO LEAVE THEM THERE. We were hoping for a call [saying] COME HOME WITH THE PLANES this was just a dream or a bad joke. But nothing like that came. THEY STAYED THERE. All of them. :-( [...]

People shared their thoughts on the sad fate of the national carrier. Csaba’s memories on Fékszárny blog [hu] tell the best what Malév meant for the citizens of this small Central European country:

I flew a lot with them, I have many good and many bad experiences as well. I wouldn’t tell about those because there is nothing special among them. Why I very much loved to fly with Malév and it always enjoyed priority in contrast to the others is that they were OURS. After being away from home for a long time they were the first signs of coming home. The mentioned white-blue painting with the Hungarian tricolor, the greeting at the door and the Hungarian newspapers. I usually spent 2-3 weeks abroad and not in cities and comfortable hotels, but in deserts and other great places. So coming home was always a big joy and its first messenger was the crew of the Malév flight. After a long, stressful trip even my eyes filled with tears when landing at the Ferihegy [airport]. It was a very bad [feeling] to look at the pictures and read the news on the internet. Let’s hope not all is lost, it would be good to see the red-white-green planes again.

Csaba

According to Véleményvezér blog [hu], the national carrier “got into the perfect storm” of Hungary's economic dynamics:

[...] Malév got into the perfect storm from this perspective: it should have survived almost a decade of economic stagnation and almost a decade of mismanagement; whilst the two phenomena amplified each other. It did not survive and this is yet another nail in the coffin of our dreams and illusions about the leading position of Budapest and Hungary in the region.

Until a new Hungarian carrier is founded, Origo news site reports [hu] the pilots of the “Malév Hungarian Airlines Virtual” will keep on “flying” with the Malév call signs.

Thumbnail and featured image show Malév airplane, by Flickr user hugovk (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

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