Malév phases out Tu-154 amid strategy revamp

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Gabor Szekeres/BUDAPEST

Malev Hungarian Airlines has phased out its five remaining Tupolev Tu-154s as the troubled airline undergoes a fleet and operational reorganisation.

The airline operated its last Tu-154 flight on 30 March after 29 years in service, and the retirement of the type marks the end of its operation with Russian-built aircraft. The last five B-2 models of the airline's fleet of 18 Tu-154s are being offered for sale at $320,000-550,000 each. Several potential buyers, mainly from CIS countries, are believed to be interested.

Malév's fleet now comprises primarily Boeing aircraft - 13 737-300/400/500s, two 767-200ER and one -300ER - and six Fokker 70s. Recently, the Russian tri-jets have been operated primarily on charter flights around Europe, and will be replaced by leased 737s.

A two-year reorganisation plan which is expected to involve fleet and network cutbacks will go before the board this month. The Hungarian Government recently approved a package to help the troubled national airline, by providing an immediate 3 billion Forint ($10 million) cash injection. A 20 billion Forint loan guarantee was also provided.

As a first step, direct flights between Budapest and Beijing ceased at the end of March and will be followed by the suspension of Bangkok services. This is expected to see the airline's single 767-300ER returned to leasing company Pembroke.