Julian Moxon/BUDAPEST

Malev's new chief executive, Ferencs Kovacs, is planning major fleet rationalisation as the Hungarian airline prepares for privatisation and entry into a global alliance.

"I inherited an airline with five different types," he says. If things go according to plan that will be reduced to Boeing 737s , 767s and ATR turboprops.

The effort comes as part of an initiative to boost the airline's appeal to business passengers, which Kovacs says "means we have to increase frequencies". Emphasis is also being placed on growing feeder services from neighbouring countries to Budapest's Ferihegy Airport, which is being marketed as the ideal location for an east European hub suitable for a global alliance. Kovacs says there are no plans for significant changes to the carrier's medium- and long-range route structure, however.

The Hungarian flag carrier operates one Boeing 737-200, eleven 300/400/500s, a pair of Boeing 767-200ERs, six Fokker 70s and six Tupolev Tu-154s. The latter are used exclusively for Malév's growing charter operations. Immediate plans call for retirement of the last 737-200 in September and all of the Tupolevs by April 2001. The Tupolevs will be replaced by two Boeing 737-400s initially. "We carry 300,000 charter passengers a year," says Kovacs. "That is increasing and we're looking at further additions to the fleet."

Another 767-200ER will be added later this year, enabling frequencies to increase on long-haul routes to Beijing, Toronto, New York and Bangkok. "We have no plans to change those destinations - they serve us very well," says Kovacs. The Fokker 70s will be replaced with four ATR 72 turboprops which Kovacs says "are cheaper to operate and better suited to the development of feeder services to the new hub".

A 49% sale of state-owned Malév has been approved by the Hungarian Government, which will take place "once we have become profitable", says Kovacs. Last year the carrier made a provisional operating loss of forints 3.5 billion ($13.2 million) on turnover of forints 90 billion. A global alliance partner will be chosen in the middle of the year, he says. Air France/ Delta have been mooted as the favoured partnership (Flight International, 28 March - 3 April).

Source: Flight International