Hungarian national carrier Malev has folded after over 65 years of operations. The board of directors made the decision to ground aircraft on 3 February after mounting losses. The European Commission had ordered the beleaguered airline to repay EUR 130 million of state aid it bad received between 2007 and 2010.
Moving quickly into the gap left by Malev’s collapse, low-cost carrier Wizz Air has announced it is expanding its operations from Budapest, including the acquisition of two Airbus A320 airplanes this March. The budget airline said it would invest HUF 25 billion (EUR 76 million) in two new Airbus A320 planes to be based in the Hungarian capital. Wizz Air is also planning to add a new Bucharest-Budapest route to its schedule that will initially operate three times a week.
Romania’s national airline Tarom also scrambled to capitalize on the demise of Malev, announcing that it would introduce a second daily flight between Bucharest and Budapest later this week.
Malev has 2,600 employees, and the airline accounted for almost half of all traffic at Budapest Liszt Ferenc airport, reported the BBC.
Apologizing to passengers, Malev CEO Lorant Limburger blamed a loss of trust from partners due to negative reports in recent days, saying suppliers had started to ask for payment in advance. “This speeded up the cash outflow and the situation of the airline became untenable. It is also known that the owner, despite the best intentions, is unable to provide additional financial resources to operate after the EU decision,” he said.
Coach company Eurolines has announced an offer to provide free tickets to stranded Malev passengers.