Sri Lankan-backed Hungarian Airline Taxiing for Takeoff
A Sri Lankan-based company with a 50-year history in tourism is launching what it calls “the newest Hungarian airline to take to the skies”: RonanAir.
“RonanAir is a scheduled Hungarian airline set to commence operations in summer 2019,” Rihaab Mowlana, media & marketing consultant for the company told the Budapest Business Journal.
“Initial phases will see RonanAir fly to approximately 11 European destinations, and consecutive phases will eventually include Asia, the Middle East and the Americas.”
Although no schedule has yet been published, the airline’s website (ronanair.com) lists cities in Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, France, Italy, Romania, Switzerland and Ukraine among its “featured destinations”.
RonanAir Kft. is owned by the Sri Lanka-based R-Group, which traces its roots back to 1945 and the establishment of Ceylon Carriers by the late Charles Nanayakkara. According to the group’s website (rgroup-intl.com), Ceylon Carriers handled both goods and tourists, and partnered with many operators in this region, including Ibsuz in Hungary.
R-Group is now chaired by Charles’ eldest son, Rohan Nanayakkara, who is also an Honorary Consul of Hungary, a post he has held for 25 years.
The business model will be for a full service airline, rather than a low cost operation. Although unable to give exact fares at this stage, Mowlana says ticket prices will “certainly be competitive”, and are expected to go on sale “within the next three-four months”.
The airline will fly Bombardier and Airbus aircraft, the spokesman told the BBJ, with staff recruitment currently under way. Although based in Hungary and registered in this country, back office support will be provided in Sri Lanka “in order to facilitate Ronan Air with the know-how and backup of R-Group assets etc. that have been built since 1945.”
Nanayakkara is clealy well connected in Hungary. The R-Group website says its chairman is receiving “massive support from [the] Hungarian government in promoting Hungary within and beyond Sri Lankan territory”. That seems to be a two-way street. “We will engage in actively promoting Hungarian culture, cuisine and products in the destinations we will be flying to,” Mowlana told the BBJ.
The last attempt to launch a Hungarian airline was Sólyom Hungarian Airways Ltd. (sólyom being the Hungarian for “falcon”), which was founded in 2013 with service initially due to start in August of that year. Its business model was openly questioned by analysts, finance from Oman never materialized, the company declared itself bankrupt in October 2013, and it was sold to Hungarians based in Africa the following month. In March 2014, the new owner apparently shot himself dead as police searched his property. Sólyom Airways has never flown commercially.
Hungary’s state-owned flag carrier, MALÉV Hungarian Airlines, collapsed under the weight of its debts in February 2012 after 66 years of continuous operation.
The only recent Hungarian aviation success story is Wizz Air Hungary Ltd., which describes itself as CEE’s largest low-cost airline. With its head office in Budapest, it was established in September 2003 and made its first flight in 2004 (from Poland). Its boss, József Váradi, is a former CEO of MALÉV. According to its website (wizzair.com), it carried 2,548,062 passengers in February 2019.
Ronan Air Kft.
According to Opten Kft.’s company information database, Ronan Air Kft. was established on August 19, 2014, with its offices in Vecsés. It had zero net revenue listed for 2017 (the latest date for which figures are available), and an after tax loss of HUF 1.364 million. Its own capital was put at HUF 5.476 million. There were no employees, with the owner and managing director given as Godaliyanage Rohan Nanayakkara.
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