As I used to be  a MALEV (Hungarian Airlines) employee it was very advantageous for family to travel - specially abroad, to far-away countries because we had an employee  travel discount from MALEV. Indeed, countries because we had an employee  travel discount from MALEV. it  sounds very good, there was this opportunity, but it had a negative side as well. Probably it was the reason why  many of my colleagues did not use this opportunity. Actually, what was the underlying issue? The basic problem was that our tickets issued by Malev for foreign airlines were valid only, if the seats were not sold out on the plane, or when paying passengers did not show up,  so there were remaining empty seats. This fact became sureonly at the "check in" counter: namely  whether we could travel or whether we had to go  back to the hotel. If the flight was full, we had to wait on a shameful dunce’s seat and became "standby" passengers. After this, we had to wait until 20 minutes before the closing of the check-in desk. It was followed by exciting moments whether our tickets got printed out or not by a rather unreliable plan. But this was not yet the end of the story, because besides us there were usually waiting five other passengers with free tickets for the travel opportunity, so it has increased the excitement. This situation can be discribed as if the sword of Damocles was threatening our journey, and the seemingly favorable conditions could be in jeopardyin any moment. This unusual, constant danger was a permanent situation in our flights, such a sin the case offlying home from Bangkok from the late night to Europe.

Hrrrrrrrr, there were horrible moments...

But as every cloud has a silver lining– there was something good in the situation as well. If an airline issued ticket  for a given flight - and there were no seats available, because of the peak season- it was a chance that an alliance airline would accept tickets online. This practice has worked quite well, but of course there were sweating moments and hassle  at the airport, and sometimes when we had to beg the alliance company, that in most casesshowed sympathy towards us. Actually alliance airlines were not obliged to help in this situation.For example the MALÉV in 2007 joined one of the greatest airline alliance called Oneworld and it was probably the largest and most successful alliance, and its members of any part of the world could accept our tickets, register for free sites mentioned above. Finally- thanks to God- we were able to fly every time we wanted by this opportunity..


Since 1969, every year at least once we were traveling to near or far destinations -  of course for a minimum ticket price and airport tax fee. The airport charges were extremally low in the  1970’s compared to today's costs.

The following fees are extra surcharges which are not very liked by the passengers:

Airport tax:

Airport tax is a form of a fee, which is to be paid when purchasing a ticket. The levy covers the costs of the relevant road services at airports and the maintenance costs (such as security services, aircraft maintenance and repair), plus fuel surcharge and insurance fee transactions. The airport tax covers expenses of departing and destination airports, as well as the transfer zones costs. These charges are paid basically the passenger.Besides the ticket price and airport tax, handling costs are also added to the price. Of course, this amount varies from  country to country and airport to airport. In this regard, the high class  places in the following airports: London, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, New York-JFK, Tokyo and I could list dozens. Of course, the quality of service is comparable  with this fee, because it is not negotiable. It should be mentioned that this amount also depends if somebody flies directly to the destination or he/she is a  transit passenger. Each airlane charges a different amount as an airport tax. The  so called „Low-cost airlines”, which are not necessarily comply with their names.   The ticket price charged  by the low-cost airlines on the website is deceptive because such airlines usually land far from our favorite our town airport, where  landing and other fees are most cheaper. But the extra costs are for the passenger to get to the city of destination, not to mention other costs even after. One might ask the question: is it worth it?


In the 70’s traveling abroad it was not easy, and today's  young generation- thanks to God-  cannot imagine all the difficulties encountered in the socialist era.

 There were two basic "categories", one  was the trip to the communist bloc countries, namely the Eastern Bloc travel.

This  one would say that relatively smoothly operated, and the other one was called the travel to the west block countries, to the "damned capitalist countries".

These difficulties were encountered  by almost every  Hungarian  citizen, but there have been exceptions, of course. My family was not one of the exceptions, so if you have not considered socialist relations for travel destinations, you certainly had to fight for every opportunity.

At the time, the Malev airline had its own travel agency, known as Malév Air Tours, which operated as an independent division within the company, their destinations were mostly of European cities, to which there were  regular flights,  according to schedule. In addition to employee benefits validated by Air Tours , there were special travel offerings  such that the cost of airfare was  deducted from the total travel costs. What an incredibly great employer was the MALÉV at that time, someone might think concerning travelling. It is beyond doubt that this was a great opportunity, for those employees who would loved to travel. However, a large part of the workforce never took advantage of this discount, which is due to a variety of causes. Among the reasons were very often featured political reasons, since the communist state simply did not allow its citizens to travel to the so called  "capitalists" states. We were to heed to Prague, Berlin, I mean, on one side of Berlin, I think everyone knows that, which side.

So there was a wide travel range, but all travel destinations were in  Eastern block countries. This meant visiting  beautiful cities and countries- no one disputes it- but to travel to Prague for the fifth time  was not too much fun  in spite of having a famous  "U Fleku" beer there. Maybe it is not really a good example, because Pragueis indeed a beautiful city, with plenty of places to visitand one should go there many times.

Facilities have been already mentionedin the introduction, namely that we preferred to travel with our family, not only  to  the so-called Eastern "bloc" countries, but also to more distant destinations. We were curious to see the world ,but besides enjoying the free ticket opportunity recieved from MALÉV, politics also intervened hard. It was quite common then not to get a legal right to travel, which is unimaginable for the today’s young generation. Let's us consider the political situation  in Hungary in the 70-80’s  from a touristic point of view and analyze the social situation as well.

After the Second World War people of the world became compassionate  in a very short period, which was a huge step. The golden age  of trains (1830-1930) has expired, the transport of cars took the leading role. Soon after aviation eclipsed and became more dominant that travelling by ship, and it became a leading far distance transportation  when the first Boeing aircraft was released. In 1970’s, a new form tourism appeared. The aircrafts are made possible to reach another continent  relatively rapidly and safely. For Western world, a fast growing form of  tourism flourished, what we envied in Eastern block countries and were dreaming about a Mexican vacation. (Actually such a vacation is still a dream for most Hungarians, but I repeat that I was considering all this as a  former pilot of  MALÉV, the current year is 2015).

After the war, the socialist countries were in isolation from the world. Only political diplomacy could travel freely , the  ordinary the people had no permission to travel outside the eastern "block" countries.

The only form of leisure tourism domestic tourism was organized by government or trade unions (SZOT resorts)  with significant state support. After the 1956 Hungarian Revolution the communist system has become a bit softer and some democratic processes started. It effected  visits and group tourist trips as well. Hungary and Czechoslovakia in 1963, signed a visa waiver agreement. This allowed tourists to travel individually, but thepreferred form of journey was still organized tourism which was regulated by bilateral agreements between countries, and the travel agencies took part in  the organization.

The so called Rome Conference of United Nations in 1963 made recommendations  for international journeys and  tourism started to develop between the eastern and western countries, which practically  meant only organized group travel for western guests, as citizens of the former Comecon countries needed visa (which was very hard to obtain)  and the western currencies were restricted , so it was inaccessible for many people at that time.

Socialist countries of the region had dual price system .For  the domestic guests to services  were offered at lower prices than to  foreigners with a "hard currency". Domestic tourism in the Comecon countries were characterized by the so called  social tourism, while the western touristic relations organized forms were favored. In addition to the development of tourism in Yugoslavia, Hungary has achieved remarkable results. In 1979, it adopted the new tourism policy, which significantly liberalized participation in tourism and the domestic private sector in the development of the western countries ("zimmer frei" – room for rent  -era).

In the second half of the decade, there were visible signs that the economy was in trouble during the Kádár regime, Hungary could not repay the western loan, so the country needed hard currency. The black people living in Hungary were allowed to legalize the currency which helped to the government. That ridiculous amount of  a few dollars, which was allowed to by from the state , was not enough to organize a typical holiday trip. In those days it was an extraordinary privileg  if someone had a hard currency bank account( BC account) conducted at IBUSZ (travel agency account), which was introduced in the legal currency of individuals. It was a response for the  needs of the domestic population and their curiosity to travel to the west  to see unaccustomed goods and take a look into the consumer society.

The purpose of the relative freedom to travel into socialist countries  was deliberate political move from the government. It served to satisfy people and make them symphatetic with the political regime. People could travel to the communist bloc countries (with the exception of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia) with red passport  andwithout a visa. On the other hand, blue passport was issued to travel to the Western countries every three years - using minimal currency frame –to those whom the system is considered reliable citizens.

Nevertheless, the Hungarian people felt that it was not worth tostruggleand sacrifice - but the "goulash communism" (Khrushchev’s expression) flourished compared to the other socialist countries. Hungarians saw a more livable country. These options and the newly obtained  "small rights for freedoms" people turned to the private sector from politics. The "Kadar's era" phylosophy was to survive life and stay away from politics.

So tourism in Hungary from the mid 70’s till the early 80’s began to develop dynamically. Taking the advantage of this opportunity, Hungarian citizens traveled abroad for opportunities instead of domestic trips because they were tremendously ”hungry” fot  travel. Since then this system modified travel regulations to western countries. First people were allowed to travel  onlyonce in every three years, and later tthey could go once a year.

It is interesting to mention as an example the case of one family, when a family when we were visiting relatives in Sweden, where the authorities did not give me a visa for my child, only for us adults, because in those times many families emigrated to the west.

Later, our country's visa waiver agreements went into effect earlier with Austria, with west Germany –followed by other Western countries.

In spite of the above mentioned obstacles, we started to organize our tripsin the early 70s.

Returning to the travel opportunities, our family decided to go visit Egypt(in 1977), which was perhaps one of the world's most interesting country. Of course  this can be a subjective opinion, but we thought that we should  start from the ancient civilization and  monumental buildings and we could take the advantage of Malev  Air Tours cheap offer.Unfortunately we could not travel together as a family, because my daughter who was 10 years old then, did not get a visa to Egypt, because the government was afraid of emigration. Today it sounds ridiculous, but in those times they were afraid that we stay in Egypt and may ask for a work  permit as a "cameleer". Surely these were hard times, but eventually had our first major journey to Egypt without our daughter.






Q: How do you know that carrots are good for your eyesight?

A: Have you ever seen a rabbit with glasses?