|No immediate return to the former Yugoslav market for Czech Airlines|
ČSA Czech Airlines has ruled out the possibility of resuming flights to the former Yugoslavia in the near future, more than three years after the carrier suspended services to Belgrade, Zagreb, Ljubljana and Skopje. Czech Airlines spokesperson, Daniel Šabík, tells EX-YU Aviation News that while the carrier is constantly evaluating new markets, including those in the former Yugoslavia, new routes must be economically viable, adding that none of the airline's studies have so far confirmed this for any city on the EX-YU market. Currently, both Adria Airways and Air Serbia serve the Czech capital from their respective hubs. However, ČSA is not considering codesharing with these airlines in the coming period, "Firstly we would like to analyse and decide on Czech Airlines' trade policy in the former Yugoslav markets and then we can consider codesharing on some routes", Mr Šabík says.
Czech Airlines began its withdrawal from the former Yugoslavia in 2011 when it terminated its double daily flights to Belgrade. It followed suite with the closure of its six weekly Prague - Skopje service in 2012. Shortly after it relegated its flights to Zagreb and Ljubljana to its regional partner Central Connect Airlines (CCA). However, in the summer of 2012, CCA declared bankruptcy and ceased all operations. Zagreb was ČSA’s first international destination, launched back in 1930, with services operating on and off until 2012. Last year, Zagreb Airport's former Managing Director, Gonzalve de Cordoue, said the airport was in talks with the Czech carrier over its possible return to the Croatian capital.
All of ČSA’s routes in the former Yugoslavia were suspended in an attempt to curb losses, as the airline started putting a greater emphasis on point to point passengers rather than those transferring through Prague. Mr Šabík explains that Czech Airlines, as it is known today, cannot be compared to the airline it was a few years ago. "Czech Airlines in 2010 or 2011, when it used to operate scheduled flights from Prague to Ljubljana, Zagreb, Belgrade and Skopje, and Czech Airlines in 2015, are two different companies with different destination networks. Czech Airlines has undertaken a long and difficult restructuring, which has been approved and monitored by the European Commission. At the time, the company closed most of its unprofitable routes or those that no longer made sense and did not coincide with its plans. Czech Airlines used to focus on passengers transferring in Prague. Those travellers made up 75% of all passengers carried. During restructuring, Czech Airlines' passenger structure changed, as the company began to focus on point to point passengers. That’s why flights such as Skopje - Prague, which were fed mostly by transfer passengers, no longer made sense and were the first to be suspended", Mr Šabík explains. In 2013, the Czech government sold a 44% stake in ČSA to Korean Air. Earlier this year, Travel Service, the Czech Republic's largest airline, purchased a further 34% share in ČSA. Czech Airlines lost some one billion crowns in 2013 and layed off half of its workforce last year. It also lowered wages and lost one fifth of its passengers following the turmoil in Ukraine and instability on the Russian market in 2014.