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Hungary's Malév officially joins oneworld airline alliance

Hungarian air carrier Malév on Thursday joined the oneworld airline alliance at a ceremony at Budapest airport, joining carriers such as American Airlines, British Airways and Quantas.

Royal Jordanian and Japan Airlines are also new members of the international alliance of airlines, which allows members to collaborate on frequent flyer schemes as well as on ticketing and scheduling. Membership of the alliance is expected to boost Malév's performance, which has been poor in recent years. Despite Malév's debts of over $100 million, the airline was last month sold at the seventh time of asking to the AirBridge consortium, a Hungarian firm backed by Russia's fourth-largest airline KrasAir. The new head of Malév, Boris Abramovich, welcomed the membership of the alliance. „I am sure that Malév will use its membership well,” he said. AirBridge agreed to buy the airline for Ft 200 million ($1.04 million) plus a huge capital injection and a commitment to pay off the airline's debts.

The consortium has committed to injecting €50 million ($65.84 million) into the debt-ridden airline, with 20 million of this to come in the first installment. The consortium has promised to either pay back or refinance loans worth a combined Ft 13 billion by the end of 2007, when a state guarantee on the loans expires. The contract also specifies that AirBridge must provide a €32 million bank guarantee for another Ft 20 billion loan underwritten by the government.
On Thursday AirBridge signed a deal with Russia's Vnesheconombank to finance €82 million, which AirBridge officials said meant that all the financial requirements could be met. Abramovich has promised to bring the airline into the black within two years. (news.monstersandcritics.com)