Malév Hungarian Airlines
-- the name being an acronym of the
Hungarian Magyar Légiközkeledísi Vállalat
is the national airline
. The accent indicates that the E is long, so the name is pronounced (approximately) Mol-ayv
Malév's international airline code
Malév's origins are somewhat convoluted. Companies like
Aero Rt. (founded 1910),
Magyar Æeroforgalmi Rt. (MAEFORT) and
Magyar Légiforgalmi Rt. (Malert) are clearly spiritual
forebears, but the devastation of World War II temporarily ended all
civil aviation and these companies along with it. Thus, the official
founding date is March 29, 1946, when the Hungarian-Soviet Civil Air
Transport Joint Stock Company (Magyar-Szovjet Légiforgalmi Rt.
aka Maszovlet) was formed. The initial fleet consisted of 21-person
Li-2 passenger aircraft (the Soviet-licensed DC-3)
and 3-person Po-2 "taxis", used for
precision air mail:
sacks of mail were dropped from the aircraft when flying over the
In 1950, Malév's base of operations moved from Budaörs to
the newly opened airport at Ferihegy, where it has remained ever since.
On November 25, 1956, Hungary purchased all the Soviet shares of
Maszovlet and Malév was born. Operations gradually expanded, with
flights extending to nearby countries and, following the 1968 purchase
of jet-propelled Tupolev Tu-134s from the Soviet Union, into
all of Europe and the Middle East as well. After the revolution of 1989
and the advent of democracy, Malév started to ditch all its
Soviet-era planes and it now runs a fleet of
18 Boeings, mostly refurbished 737s but
with two 767-200 ER's for long-haul flights, and a few Fokker 70s
for short hops.
As of December 2001, Malév flies to 43 cities in
35 countries, with 50 to 60 flights daily.
Generally speaking (and excluding budget airlines
like Ryanair), Malév offers the cheapest fares in Europe, its
primary competition being the Czech national carrier CSA.
(For example, the cheapest Helsinki-Zürich and Helsinki-Tel Aviv
flights around are both operated by Malév via Budapest, with CSA's prices
practically the same but all other carriers being 20-30% more
expensive.) The price to pay is in the amenities: movies and music
are available only on intercontinental flights, the food ranges from
underwhelming to pathetic and seating is a bit cramped
(although I've seen much worse). Things are naturally better in
what Malév entitles "Sky Class", but paying for business class pretty much
negates the price advantage... On the plus side, service has come a long
way since the bad old days, and Hungarian wine makes even meals of one
oversized chicken nugget with cold french fries go down much better.
Malév has not joined any of the large airline alliances (yet?), but
has code sharing agreements with KLM, Northwest, Finnair and
others in the oneworld camp. Malév also has its own
frequent-flyer program entitled Duna Club, "Duna" being the
Hungarian name for the Danube river, offering the usual panoply
of bonus flights and executive lounges.
Malév's corporate site www.malev.hu
Malév's onboard magazine Horizon (December 2001)
6 Malév flights during the last half year