I just returned from my four-day trip to Budapest and I thought it would be worth posting it since it's a very unusual trip for me. What's unusual about it? I flew MALEV Hungarian Airlines, an airline I have never flown before and probably won't do so again for a long time, if not never. I do like MALEV, it's a very good airline, but circumstances in my life are such that I probably won't have another occasion to fly that airline. It is the only airline of a former communist country I have flown in my life.
So folks, sit back, relax and enjoy reading the report:
Apr 28th 2004
I arrive more than 2 hours before schedule departure time at the airport, the check-in desk was not open yet, so I have to wait a little bit before I can check my luggage, but time quickly came to check in. I check my luggage to BUD, clear securety screening, and proceed to the gate. I still have time to kill so I decide to attempt going to the BA lounge with my AAdvantate PlAAtinum Card, but it was not accepted. Why not? Because I was not flying American, not even an airline part of One World. Never mind, boarding time was going to be announced shortly.
I board my flight and go to my seat 17A (I had a window without even asking for one!), the flight was very full, there was not a single seat empty. We pull out of the gate on time, taxi to our departure RWY 25R and we take off into the sun set. It was still daylight but the sun was going down at take off time. While climbing, we turn East and proceed on course to BUD, it was quicly getting dark. Dinner is served, a hot meal consisting of beef and penne pastas, it was quite good. I had red wine, I tasted for the first time Hungarian wine, that red Hungarian wine tasted pretty good and it was free of charge. Flight was smooth without the slighest turbulence in the sky. After meal and coffee(I didn't have coffee) was served, the crew announces descent into Budapest. We were still flying on Austrian airspace when we started our descent into Budapest Ferihegy Airport. The skies were cloudy overcast during most of the flight but clearing up in the Budapest area. I had quite a nice view of Budapest at night. After an univentful landing on RWY 13R, we taxied to the gate. After picking up my luggage, a few youngsters that I got to know there(we contacted by e mail before) picked me up and drove me in town.
I enjoyed my stay in Budapest, it's a beautiful city. I did some sightseeing with some friends I met there. And most important, I was part of the festivities held there when Hungary entered the European Union.
May 2nd 2004
After four days, it was unfortunately time to fly back to Brussels. My flight back to BRU was scheduled to leave at 535PM but I got to the airport already at 200PM because other people were going there at that time, so I went with them so that I could share the taxi expenses with the others. Again, it was too early to check in. But fortunately just outsite Terminal 2A I could to some spotting. I spotted a MALEV 767 being pushed back from its gate, it was bound for JFK.
Finally two hours before departure, I checked in my luggage to BRU and was issued my boarding pass for my return flight. This time I had seat 16A, a window seat just over the wing. I still had nearly two hours to kill but I had a great idea: I walked to the MALEV Museum in Ferihegy and stepped into Soviet build types, a TU-154 in MALEV's current livery and her older siter TU-134 in the old livery. I didn't have much Hungarian money left and the lady at the cashier didn't undestand one word of English (I'm sorry but when you work at an airport no matther where in the world you are supposed to know English!) so it was hard negociating with her to pay in Euros. She wanted to charme me 3 Euros but I had four, I didn't have the exact change of 3 Euros, I gave her 2 with little of my Hungarian coins I had left, she wasn't happy, so I gave her 4 Euros and told her to keep the change. I overpaid but this visit near the Tupolev aircraft was really worth it, something I don't see on every trip. I was very happy to see them, not only see them close but step into them. I was very happy because I never had the chance to fly on a Soviet built airliner. I took some pictures of the outside and inside, the cockpit, PAX cabin and the F/A galley on the 154. On the 134, it was intersting to see the cockpit, it's a cockpit designed with the navigator's office under the flight deck. I don't know if you noticed, on the 134 there is a separate window for the navigator. I also saw an IL-18 four engine propeller but I could't get into that one.
After about a half hour at that museum, I walked back (my hear said no but my reasoning said yes, my haert was telling me to stay around the Tupolev aircraft) to Terminal 2A and cleared the security check point right away since I already had my boarding pass. There was not much time left, boarding was soon to be announced. We pulled out of the gate on time and after a quick taxi we were airborne out of RWY 13L, turned West and proceeded on course to BRU. I had nice views of the Hungarian country side. Dinner was served but it wasn't a hot meal, it was just three small slices of ham and a tiny fruit salad. And they call that dinner? I call that a snack! Nevertheless, MALEV is good airline and I would not hesitate to fly with them again although I don't think I will have another occasion to go to Hungary. While in Germain airspace, I spot three airliners flying in opposite direction but can't tell what they are because they are too far. I recognise Frankfurt (never been there but I know what the AB) (FRA / FRF / EDDF), Germany">FRA airport looks like), Liege and the we start our descent to BRU. After landing on RWY 25L we pull into the gate, I grab my luggage and pick up my car. Less than one hour after touch down, I was home.
This was a great trip, especially visiting the retired Soviet built airliners. And as you may have noticed, the aircraft I flew on the return flight was the exact same as the one I flew on the outbound flight. It had the same registration, so obviously it was not just another MALEV 737-800, it was THAT PARTICULAR ONE, HA-LOK, on both flights !!!
The picture below showas that particular aircraft:
Photo © Viktor László - Budapest Aviation Photography