Tried & Tested

Malev B737-700 business

1 Sep 2005 by Tom Otley

FIRST IMPRESSIONS There was no queue at the business class desk of Malev check-in at Terminal 2 Heathrow when I arrived at 1100 for my 1245 flight. A slight problem with my ticket (I had lost it) was sorted out with minimum fuss, and I went through security. As Malev moves towards joining the Oneworld alliance, gradually e-ticketing is being introduced (so far on Berlin, Tel Aviv and Madrid), and will be on this route by the end of the year. There is much competition on this route, with around 17 flights daily (see below for list of carriers). Malev flights are as follows: 0715 MA617 (LHR) daily, 0840 MA613 (STN) Monday to Saturday, 1245 MA611 (LHR) daily.

BOARDING Malev shares a lounge with Alitalia, next to Gate 3 from which my flight was departing. There is no wifi access but free access from a machine, which was vacant during the hour I was in the lounge. The lounge had a good choice of newspapers and magazines. I left just before the flight was called because after the ticket incident I didn't want to be late. The departure lounge was uncrowded, and we filed onto the plane, business class last. There was a choice of Hungarian and English newspapers.

THE FLIGHT Malev operates one of Europe's youngest fleets of planes, and this 737-700 was spotless. The plane has five or six rows of business class, although if it is not full, the curtain is moved forward and some lucky economy class passengers will enjoy the extended leg room (87.5cm compared with 77.5cm in economy, with a seat width of 46cm compared to 43cm and a 2-2 configuration as opposed to 3-3). Economy is still roomy on these 737 planes, however, with only 119 seats compared with up to 149 seats on SkyEurope and up to 156 on Easyjet. A meal service appeared, consisting of four courses. Pre-booked options included vegetarian, kosher, oriental, diet, kid's menu and lactose-free. Wines included the Hilltop Neszmély red and white wines, chosen with the assistance of the National Council of Wine Communities and the Hungarian Wine Academy.

ARRIVAL We had departed 20 minutes late but arrived on time. At busy times, buses are used at Ferihegy Airport, and this was the case here, but the bus journey was fast – as was immigration and retrieval of luggage.

VERDICT An excellent service, though as usual on short haul, the question remains whether the extra cost of business class can be justified. In favour, the baggage allowance is more generous (35kg as opposed to 20kg in the hold, and two bags of up to 10kg and 8kg instead of one of 10kg), and lounge access is useful.

Malev business class, Budapest-London Stansted

FIRST IMPRESSIONS There was no queue at check in at Terminal 2A and I was quickly through security. Malev has two lounges, a large SkyClub lounge, which is shared with other airlines (with the BA lounge next door), and a smaller Duna Club frequent flyer lounge, which is where I headed.

BOARDING Lounge staff were helpful, re-booting the computer so I could check

my emails (I think it was my fault it needed re-booting) and also check the flight time, which I had imagined was 1825, but in fact had been changed some weeks earlier to 1905 (arriving at 2035).

THE FLIGHT A good service, with an enjoyable meal (which is the same in economy and business, but served on porcelain in business). We arrived on time, were whisked into the terminal and our luggage arrived before we did, being on the carousel as we walked from immigration. I overheard someone remark to his colleague: "Incredible, I've never seen that before." Neither had I.

PRICE Fares start at £88 return in economy from Heathrow and £84 return from Stansted. Business class starts at £554 from Heathrow and £550 from Stansted.

Tom Otley

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