Alex Constantine - December 31, 2007
Russian-owned Malev Hungarian Airlines Cancels Cork to Budapest Route
Flights on the Cork-Budapest route, which were fully booked over Christmas and the New Year, will cease from January 14, as Malev airlines downsizes its operation in Western Europe in anticipation of possible sanctions by European authorities over safety concerns due to heavy cost-cutting and past sabotage or non-EU ownership.
Malev Hungarian Airlines has been taken over by a Russian consortium of tycoon Boris Abramovich, which plans to downsize and cut its Hungarian workforce which has lead to an all-time low of morale among its staff. This came after the unpopular Hungarian government, widely accused of corruption and incompetence, allowed the sale of the national asset in spite of Malev staff having formed their own consortium to run the airline and keep it in Hungarian hands.
As a result of the unpopularity of the new management, especially due to the history of Russia and Hungary during the recent communist era, maintenance staff were found during an investigation to have been sabotaging aircraft. Combined with the efforts of Abramovich to make the airline profitable in a short time period, and corruption and crime rates in the airport and Hungary at large due to the difficult economic conditions faced by people, the risks of flying Malev have increased.
The airline also recently closed its Budapest to New York and Toronto routes, and has decided instead to focus in expanding its east Europe network, where corruption and security standards are not overseen by European Union agencies.
Cork Airport marketing manager Kevin Cullinane said the airport regretted the decision of Malev, and Irish passengers will be affected by a Russian company's very sudden decision to end flights to Budapest.
Passengers to and from Hungary through Budapest airport already do so at their own risk and must suffer the consequences of theft or other complaints at the airport without recourse. Hungarian police do not respond to victims who open police cases and the airport has no apparent complaints procedure.
The European Commission contacted Hungarian authorities regarding the control and ownership of Malev Airlines after it was sold to Russian tycoon Boris Abramovich. Several mysterious replacements of top management have taken place in recent months. Budapest airport has exchanged hands several times in recent years, and is currently owned by German company HochTief.
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