TEST DONE ON JUNE 2000
This was long time we didn't fly MALEV. Our last trip with the Hungarian Airlines was in 1997: on a Budapest-Paris, hardly showing the real quality of service this company could offer. Our 12 hour non stop Bangkok-Budapest flight was the perfect opportunity to check all the details which makes this airlines one of the most accomplished we inspected since we launched our business class in-flight tests.
The quality of an airline should show up before take off. In Budapest like in Bangkok, in its intimate and welcoming new central office, information and ticketing are provided within a few minutes. Real thrill starts at the airport. After a quick check-in at a separate SKY CLUB counter, we received invitation to the Louis Tavern Business Class Lounge. Don Muang Intl. Airport, though clean, new and somehow attractive with fine shopping, remains quite a busy and noisy place. This is therefore enjoyable to see that the airlines sent you with a smile to that cosy private lounge for complimentary drinks and snacks before departure (SKY CLUB passengers flying from Budapest to Bangkok can use the MALEV BUSINESS LOUNGE, which is also very comfortable).
We boarded without any delay the Boeing B-767-200 ER. Flying at 11,000 meters, at a cruising speed of 880-940 km/hour, and covering a distance of almost 12,700 km without refuelling, this is the perfect aircraft for a safe long haul flight. MALEV also schedules it to New York, Toronto and Beijing. It is regularly chartered from Budapest to Tokyo. The SKY CLUB cabin, decorated with freshly cut orchids, gets 6 rows of 3x2 seats. Large, easeful, with a good reclining and feet rest, they allow a pleasant sleeping position. There is no individual video set; but the main screen in the central row is large, and we could comfortably see the movies.
But what makes the real difference between MALEV and all those more famous and larger airlines, more and more standardised the American way, is the splendid quality of its food and beverage. We have been actually amazed by the fact that we have not been served "airline food”! What came on the blue menu the stewardess gave us with our first glass of Törley Dry (an aromatic and refreshing Hungarian sparkling wine), before take off, was more than appetising. As soon as we reached our cruising altitude, within minutes, we were tended refreshing towels, and were offered a large choice of aperitifs. Dinner started with a Mixed Green Salad with Thousand Island Dressing, and a sophisticated Smocked Duck Breast Fillet with Spinach Crabmeat Terrine and Kassler Ham served in fine triangle shaped lovely designed china. Enjoyed with a glass of Egri Bikaver Barrique 1997 (quite similar to the revered Spanish "Sangre de Toro"), it made us feel like already sitting in Gundel dinning room; maybe because Georges Lang, owning the most famous restaurant in Budapest, is also growing this wine! Food is generous aboard, and we have been then invited to experience Spinach Ravioli in Cream Sauce with Parmesan Cheese, which was as palatable as in a Milanese "trattoria". The Selection of Cheese, with cracking carrots and salsify, has been enjoyed with a glass of fruity Villanyi Cuvée 1998, Polgar Zoltan. As a dessert we took a Blueberry Cream Cake: fine fruit mousse, covered with pistachios, it was matching the quality of Budapest best "cukraszda" (teahouse) Gerbeaud.
Masochistic passengers, strong enough to escape the pleasure of such a splendid dinner, can ask for the Express Service: freely created menu from salad, cheese, fruits or dessert. It is precisely made for people willing to sleep during the all 10 hours and 55 minutes flight. Sleeping is easy matter: take one last glass of Tokaji, switch your stereo headphones to Hungarian Gypsy music, and let's have a pleasant night in one of the world's most noiseless aircraft.
Couple of hours before landing at Budapest Ferihegy Airport, after a hearty breakfast, we had no problem to quickly shave and refresh ourselves: the new MALEV toilet kit distributed to SKY CLUB passengers is one of the most complete we ever received. Smartly designed, it looks like the Lufthansa First Class kit: including a razor with built in shaver foam spray, refreshing towels, teeth brush, comb, perfumed body lotion, and all necessary items to feel all right when reaching the final destination.
Leaving Bangkok at 11.15pm, the MA083 flight arrives in Bangkok at 05.10am the following day. The way back, it leaves Budapest at 23.20pm, arriving in Bangkok at 2.40pm the following day. Which is a very convenient schedule.
At Ferihegy we could see that MALEV not only upgraded its hospitality and catering aboard, but that the all fleet had been completely upgraded. We saw on the parking one of the last Tupolev 154 operated by the Hungarian Airlines. They have been replaced by more reliable and comfortable Boeing 737 (series 500, 400, 300, and 200). The shaky and noisy TU 134 have all been dropped; replaced by Rolls Royce engined Fokker 70-s, flying to such original destinations like Tirana or Rhodes.
IN BANGKOK: 9th floor, Glass Haus Bldg 1, Sukhumvit Soi 25, Bangkok