Hungary Cargo Airlines is in the starting blocks

The company has been operating under the name Universal Translink Airline Hungary (UTA) since APR21. It has now applied for a name change to Hungary Cargo Airlines. The new name was confirmed by the Budapest Environs Regional Court at the end of MAR24.

The sense of this renaming only becomes clear at second glance, because initially nothing changes. The A330-200 freighter used by UTA continues to fly on a charter basis multiple times per week between Budapest (BUD) and Zhengzhou (CGO). The aircraft originally came from Qatar Airways and was acquired by the Hungarian government during the pandemic for USD 57.5 million. The main aim of the deal was to quickly supply Hungarians with hygiene materials produced in China. As the state is not an airline, the Orban administration transferred the freighter to the Hungarian low-cost airline Wizz Air, which in turn cooperates with UTA, with the latter managing the China flights.

Hungary registered Chinese airline?
The recent name change indicates two things: a shift in the company’s ownership structure and the cargo airline’s expansive plans for the future.

Hungary Air Cargo / Hungary Cargo Airlines – two (different) names for one airline – courtesy Universal Translink Group

According to the local commercial register, the new majority owner of Hungary Cargo Airlines is an investor named Jiang Wu. He originates from China and has acquired Hungarian citizenship. He holds over 50% of the voting rights in the cargo airline, while Universal Translink Airlines Co. Ltd. is now only a minority shareholder.

Secondly, the move signals the stronger integration of Hungary Cargo Airlines into the Chinese Universal Translink Group. This is also indicated by the group’s homepage, in which the carrier is already presented as part of the Translink fleet in a short video clip, although with its name somewhat distorted. Due to the ownership structure, however, the company will continue to be based in Budapest. According to local sources, it will also apply for its own Air Operator Certificate (AOC) in Hungary.

The freight airline is likely to benefit from the close relationship between Budapest and Beijing. After all, the Orban government is the only EU country to have signed China’s Belt & Road Initiative.

Meanwhile, the local cargo community is asking itself, if the freight carrier will only bear a Hungarian registration and manage its business according to own requirements or rather become part of the Translink fleet despite its Hungarian registration. The second version seems to be the more plausible consequence.

BUD not sold yet
As CargoForwarder Global learned on the sidelines, negotiations on the sale of Budapest’s Ferihegy International Airport from the AviAlliance to the Hungarian state or local investors appointed by the Orban government, are dragging on. Originally, the change of ownership was supposed to take place at the end of last year, then the date 29FEB24 was announced. However, nothing has happened until now. Local observers suspect that the financial demands of the two sides are too different.

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