(Pestbuda.hu) Is there anybody not familiar with the story of MALÉV, the Hungarian airline? Bunches of tourists travelled by MALÉV, many remember its commercials, or, at least, have heard about it. On 3 February 2012, MALÉV was shut down.
The long history of MALÉV started after the WWII. Its predecessor, the Hungarian-Soviet Civil Air Transport Joint Stock Company (Maszovlet) was established in 1946 after the shutdown of three smaller Hungarian airlines. That summer, the company purchased the first passenger planes, each capable of transporting 21 passengers, for domestic transportation. Yes, it may sound incredible, but back then, there were flights within Hungary from Budapest to Szeged, Debrecen, Szombathely and Győr. Today, you can get to these towns by travelling two hours by car.
The first international flight left to Bucharest in 1947, the first one on schedule left to Prague. In November, 1954, Hungary purchased the company from the Soviet Union, and named it MALÉV (Magyar Légiközlekedési Vállalat). The company launched its first flights to Western Europe, more precisely to Vienna, in 1956. Barely one month later, Ferihegy airport was opened (at that time, only with one terminal). The Revolution of 1956 reached MALÉV as well: the Soviets banned air traffic. It was permitted again in January 1957 between Budapest-Miskolc-Debrecen.
In 1960, the Budapest-Szeged flight ceased, but in 1963, the first MALÉV plane flew to Cairo. The majority of the domestic flights were ended in the same year, because the old aeroplanes were scrapped, and the airports were not able to serve the new ones.
The next milestone was in 1966, when the first MALÉV plane flew over the Equator. Two years later, the company purchased a jet-propelled plane. This was the TU-134, a two-engined, jet airliner, which made further countries reachable. By 1979, the passenger traffic of the Hungarian airport and the domestic airline had reached 1 million passengers per year.
Up to 1988, the majority of the fleet had been built up of Soviet planes. The first rented American Boeing 737 arrived in November 1988. Later, this became the main type of the fleet. Since the mid 30s no more Tu-airliners transported passengers, and in 2003, Boeing airliners were replaced with 737-NGs.
According to the survey of the Association of European Airlines, MALÉV was the third most punctual airline in Europe. In the summer period of 2011, it launched flights to 52 settlements of 32 countries, and its passenger traffic reached three million annually.
Regarding its operation, after the End of Communism in Hungary, until 2007, only a minor part of the company was owned by the Hungarian state. By 2010, the company had taken on debts, and had become completely state-owned. Moreover, by this time, low-cost airlines had already appeared, among which it was Wizzair which initiated investigation on MALÉV at the European Committee, because the laws of the European Union prohibit the support of airlines from the budget.
In January 2012, the Committee decided that MALÉV being completely state-owned is unlawful, and it bound MALÉV to pay back the support given between 2007 and 2010. In addition, it prohibited Hungary to provide any kind of support to the airline.
Finally, on 3 February 2012, MALÉV stopped flying.
Copy editor: bm