Felcsút Travel Club

Foreign Minister’s trips last year on a Dutch luxury jet cost taxpayers HUF 264 million

The Austrian private plane OE-HUG, frequently enjoyed by Lőrinc Mészáros, took a trip to America to the same place at the same time as the Hungarian government delegation. The private jet was not carrying the Foreign Minister and his delegation, much like it did not transport them to their last trip to China either.  Péter Szijjártó and his entourage travelled to the UN conference in New York on another luxury jet instead – a treat for football fans. The Minister flew to Brussels on the PH-AJX plane, and again to New York in September, where the plane waited until the delegation flew to Austin and Houston on another jet.

An article in hvg360, which discovered the OE-HUG-registered plane’s routes, pointed out a series of interesting coincidences. We found yet another peculiarity.

The date and location of the plane’s travel was identical to Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó’s travel schedule in the US last summer. On July 17 and 18, 2023, the Foreign Minister attended meetings of the UN Economic and Social Council, the UN Security Council, and the UN General Assembly in New York, and also met with representatives of UNICEF.

Szijjártó also met for talks with Uzbekistan’s Minister of Economy to discuss an industrial zone near Tashkent that aims to serve Hungarian investments, with a focus on agriculture and pharmaceuticals. They also discussed a direct air link between Hungary and Uzbekistan successfully.

Szijjártó not on board the OE-HUG

During the Foreign Minister’s stay in the US, the OE-HUG was in Washington and in New York, where the aircraft stayed for one more day than Szijjártó did. Data shows that the Minister did not travel on the private plane with Mészáros from Budapest to New York and back.

The private jet left Hungary a few hours after Szijjártó and flew to Washington. It only left for New York the next day, on July 18, when Szijjártó was already at the UN conference.

Roaming military planes

ADS-B Exchange  data showed that none of the military aircrafts travelled to the US on the days Szijjártó travelled. The Falcon 607 took Viktor Orbán to Brussels for the EU-Latin America Summit and then to Bucharest the following day. The Falcon 606 flew to a military airfield near Oxford on the morning of July 17 and returned late in the afternoon.

The Airbus 605 accompanied then-President of the Republic Katalin Novák to Rwanda and then, to Tanzania between July 14 and 20. The 604 Airbus was parked in Hungary during Mr Szijjártó’s trip to the US.

Szijjártó flies in a chartered luxury jet

Based on the Foreign Minister’s social media posts and the air traffic data available at the Liszt Ferenc International Airport, we found that he flew on a private jet with Dutch registration. The aircraft departed on July 17 at 2.30 am and flew uninterrupted to Teterboro Airport near New York.

On the way back, the Minister shared a picture of his arrival in Budapest at dawn on Wednesday, July 19. The other private plane did not arrive until the morning of the following day, 20 July.

An FOIA request informed us that the foreign minister’s Budapest-New York flight cost HUF 95.6 million – HUF 95, 663, 616, to be exact.

The PH-AJX aircraft used by Szijjártó is a Dassault Falcon 7X – similar to the planes he usually opts for, but with a significantly more luxurious interior.

The video below makes it easy for anyone to imagine themselves on board this luxury aircraft, either alongside or instead of the Foreign Minister.

The aircraft, operated by the Dutch private jet company Exxaero, can carry 14 passengers, cover 11,000 kilometres on a single refuelling and reach speeds of up to 1,030 km/h.

The former owner of the private jet was an Ajax fan

The former owner of the luxury private jet was property tycoon Bert Verwellius, an avid Ajax fan. The Ajax links are clear on the plan – it is registered under AJX, and the tailplane has a number 14 painted on in celebration of football legend Johan Cruyff.

The owner of the plane, who enjoyed flying smaller planes as one of his countless hobbies, died in a plane crash in Germany in the summer of 2018. Three years later, in 2021, the PH-AJX entered the fleet of Exxaero, from where it was leased by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to Péter Szijjártó.

Szijjártó used the private plane several times

On July 20, the day after his return from New York, Szijjártó travelled to Brussels to attend the EU Foreign Affairs Council. According to the ADS-B Exchange aircraft tracking site, he used the same Dutch-registered aircraft that he used for the UN meetings in New York.

In response to our request for public information, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that

the Budapest-Brussels-Budapest trip, which was completed in one day, cost HUF 31.9 million.

The same plane also carried the minister two months later, between September 18 and 22, when Szijjártó attended the upcoming UN General Assembly in New York.

The Falcon 606 was also in New York at the time, carrying then-President of the Republic Katalin Novák, who spoke at the UN meeting and headed for Texas and Montana, where she met Elon Musk, among others.

The Foreign Minister’s Budapest-New York-Budapest flight last autumn cost HUF 136.8 million.

This was even more expensive than the same trip this summer, which – as we have shown above – was “only” HUF 95.6 million. The autumn trip cost HUF 41.2 million more, perhaps because the private jet was available to the Hungarian Foreign Minister for longer.

Szijjártó double chartered

While the PH-AJX aircraft – in which the Minister flew from Budapest to America – was waiting in New York for the Minister to fly him back to Budapest, he

Chartered yet another aircraft to Austin and Houston for a further HUF 40.9 million.

The difference between the minister’s Budapest-New York-Budapest trip last summer and last autumn is HUF 41,170,477, partly because the same plane was chartered for more days in September than in July.

This also indicates that the parking time for the aircraft costs millions, which the Foreign Ministry paid for unnecessarily in September – they paid for the availability of the Dutch plane, only to hire another private plane, which Szijjártó used for his trip within the US.

Phajx Belso Exxaero Fb 2021 E1709810551154

The inside of PH-AJX (photo: Exxaero/Facebook)

Who flew with OE-HUG?

The helicopter with the registration OE-XWY, frequently used by Lőrinc Mészáros and his wife, was not at Ferihegy when the Dutch aircraft departed, nor was it there when the plan returned home.

It is therefore unlikely that the Mészáros family used the aircraft. Instead, it must have been a member of the inner circle. We also checked whether the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had chartered the private aircraft, marked OE-HUG, but the reply to our public data request revealed that the Ministry did not have any information on this matter –  the aircraft was not carrying members of the ministerial delegation.

We can only infer the identity of the passenger from Szijjártó’s one meeting on economic and trade issues. However, this does not narrow the field much either, as the ministerial report only highlighted the two main topics of the meeting with the Uzbek Minister of Economy.

Defence aircraft or private jet

This is not the first time that Átlátszó has covered the travels of Péter Szijjártó, who, according to his own estimates, spent almost 830 hours in the air and flew 541,488 km in 2023.

We have previously reported that between 2019 and 2021, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, led by Péter Szijjártó, bought 65 charter flights (private jets through his travel agent) for the minister’s official trips.

We also showed how the Minister used a private jet linked to the government’s favourite protection company Valton-Sec and one of its owners, István Bessenyei, for official travel, which was also used by László Kövér and his delegation. We covered Antal Rogán and his then-wife Cecília Rogán-Gaál’s private trips that they enjoyed as a benefit of their friendship with the Bessenyei-Sarka Kata couple.

We looked at how much delegations that travel with military aircrafts spend on internet and food and drink when aboard. In both categories, Péter Szijjártó’s trips set records: during one of his trips to Cairo, for example, the minister spent HUF 5.5 million on food in the air and another HUF 7 million on internet.

The minister’s intensive use of aircrafts for his travels, which costs billions a year, has inspired us to explore the legal framework for the use of military aircraft and the chartering of special flights for official travel.

On that occasion, we found that, since the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister and the Minister for Foreign Affairs enjoy permanent personal protection, as far as the capacity of the armed forces allows, they can fly on taxpayers’ money in military aircraft wherever and whenever they want. This extends to private trips in addition to the official travels.

Translated by Vanda Mayer. The original, Hungarian version of this story was written by Kornél Brassai and can be found here.