Czech Airlines j.s.c. (abbreviation: ČSA, Czech: České aerolinie, a.s.) is the national airline of the Czech Republic. Its head office is on the grounds of 6th district Prague, Vokovice. The airline’s hub is at Václav Havel Airport Prague. The company operates mainly scheduled flights.
The airline runs a frequent flyer programme called “OK Plus” in reference to the airline’s International Air Transport Associationdesignation, as well as the term of approval; OK also featured prominently in its previous livery, and is the prefix for the Czech Republic on aircraft registrations. It is a member of the SkyTeam alliance. Privately owned Czech airline company Smartwings owns 97.74% of the airline , with the remaining 2.26% owned by insurance company Česká Pojišťovna.
In summer season, ČSA flies to 50 destinations in Asia and Europe. Czech Airlines carried 2.26 million passengers in 2016, which was a 13% increase compared to 2015. Czech Airlines Technics is responsible for aircraft maintenance.
ČSA is the fifth oldest still operating airline in the world, after Dutch KLM (1919), Colombian Avianca (1919), Australian Qantas(1920), and Soviet/Russian Aeroflot (1923). It was the first airline in the world to fly regular jet-only routes (between Prague and Moscow).
ČSA was founded on 6 October 1923, by the Czechoslovak government as ČSA Československé státní aerolinie (Czechoslovak State Airlines). Twenty-three days later its first transport flight took place, flying between Prague and Bratislava. It operated only domestic services until its first international flight from Prague to Bratislava and on to Zagreb in Yugoslavia in 1930. After the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia in 1939 with the country splitting up into three parts, the airline was terminated.
Following a coup in February 1948, the Communist Party suspended some western European and Middle Eastern routes, and also gradually replaced much of the fleet with Soviet-built airliners, due to the embargo imposed by the West on the western-built aircraft spares and other equipment. The Ilyushin Il-14 was updated and built under licence in Czechoslovakia as the Avia-14.
In 1950, ČSA became the world’s first victim of a mass hijacking. Three Czechoslovak Douglas DC-3 airliners flown to an American air base in Erding, near Munich, stirred the world on both sides of the “burnt through” Iron Curtain and the case intensified the Cold War between East and West overnight. On the morning of 24 March the three aircraft landed near Munich instead of at Prague; the first from Brno, at 08:20, the second from Moravská Ostrava at 08:40, and the third one from Bratislava at 09:20. Two-thirds of the people on board were involuntary passengers who later returned to Czechoslovakia. The Czechoslovak Communist government commissioned a ‘flight to freedom’ book, stage play, and film (all bearing the name Kidnap to Erding) which celebrated the kidnapped returnees as heroes who had not allowed themselves to be swayed by promises of capitalist opulence. The non returnees who requested political asylum in West Germany were, on the other hand, proclaimed criminals and the Prague government vigorously requested their extradition – although in vain. The pilot from Brno was Josef Klesnil, a former Royal Air Force pilot with 311 squadron, who flew from Brno to Erding with a pistol at his head.
In 1957 ČSA became the third of the world’s airlines to fly jet services, taking delivery/putting in service the first Tupolev Tu-104A in 1957. ČSA was the only airline other than Aeroflot to operate the Tu-104. The service operated by the Tu-104A from 1957 between Prague and Moscow was the first jet-only connection (other airlines used both jets and piston/turboprop aircraft simultaneously). The first transatlantic services started on 3 February 1962 with a flight to Havana, using a Bristol Britannia turboprop leased from Cubana de Aviación. CSA’s transatlantic flights were code-shared with Cubana’s own services to Prague, and Cubana’s crews provided initial training and assistance in the operation of the Britannias.
1960 to 1990
From the late 1960s, CSA used a range of Soviet-built aircraft, and modifications of them, for its extensive European and intercontinental services which totalled some 50 international and 15 domestic destinations. The Britannia was replaced with long-range Ilyushin Il-18Dturboprops at this time, and transatlantic routes were established to Montreal and New York City, besides Havana. Apart from the Il-18D, other aircraft in CSA’s fleet included the short-range Tupolev Tu-134, the medium-range Tupolev Tu-154, and the long-range Ilyushin Il-62. As was the case in several other countries, the Il-62 was the first long-range jet airliner to be put into operation by CSA (which was also the first foreign customer to buy Il-62s from Russia). CSA operated a fleet of 21 Il-62s between 1969 and 1997 including 15 Il-62s and six Il-62Ms. A CSA-registered Il-62 and three Il-62Ms were used as official Czech government transports between 1974 and 1996.
After absorbing the “heavier” part of Slov-air and taking its Let L-410A Turbolet turboprop commuters into its fleet in the early 1970s, the ČSA partner Slov-air became the world’s first airline whose captain, Ján Mičica, was slain at the controls by a hijacker, the event happening during a hijacking to West Germany. The aircraft involved, OK-ADN is nowadays displayed in an open-air aircraft museum in Martin, Slovakia.
The 1990s and 2000s
After the breakup of the Czechoslovak Federation, the airline adopted its present name in May 1995. By the late 1990s, most of the Soviet aircraft were either sold on to other airlines or retired (a number were preserved), and replaced with Western ones such as the Boeing 737, the Airbus A310 and the Airbus A320. CSA became a full member of the SkyTeam alliance on 18 October 2000. As of March 2007 the airline, with 5,440 employees, was owned by the Czech Ministry of Finance (56.92%), Czech Consolidation Agency (34.59%), and other Czech institutions.
On 1 January 2010, the whole non-office ground staff of CSA was transferred to the subsidiary ČSA Support, now named Czech airlines handling s.r.o. In February 2010, ČSA a.s. sold off its duty-free shops to another entity.
EU competition regulators began an investigation into Czech Airlines on 23 February 2011, stating that it doubted the loss-making concern could return to viability and comply with European Union state aid regulations.
In late 2012, CSA Czech Airlines announced plans for expansion and to resume long-haul flights from summer 2013 with Airbus A330 aircraft between Prague and Seoul. Since March 2013, the company operates direct flights from Prague to Perm, Nice, Munich, Zurich, Seoul, and Florence.
Upon the completion of stock sales to Korean Air on 10 April 2013, CSA Czech airlines was owned by Czech Aeroholdings, a.s. (56%) and Korean Air Lines Co., Ltd. (44%). On May 14, 2013, Czech Airlines Extraordinary General shareholders’ meeting elected Cho Won-tae as a new member of its Supervisory Board. Cho replaced Petr Matousek, who resigned from his position in the Supervisory Board. This personnel change took effect on 1 June 2013 as a result of Korean Air’s equity purchase.
In April 2015 Travel Service Group bought 34% of the airline, over which Korean Air had an option.In 2016 the airline returned to profit for the first time in many years.
On 6 October 2017, Korean Air announced the sale of its 44-percent stake in Czech Airlines, which it held for four years, to Travel Service. Travel Service then owned 78.9 percent of CSA. The Czech state company Prisko owned 20 percent of CSA. Travel Service later also acquired Prisko’s stake, enabling Travel Service a 97.74% stake in the airline.
In March 2019, Smartwings announced that CSA will transition its fleet, with the Airbus A319 and ATR 72 aircraft to be retired.
In 2016, Czech Airlines head office moved to Evropská street in 6th district, Prague, district Vokovice. Main reason was a lower price. Czech Airlines formerly had its head office, the APC Building, on the grounds of Václav Havel Airport Prague in Ruzyně, 6th district, Prague. On 30 December 2009 CSA announced that it will sell its head office to the airport for CZK 607 million.
Since its transformation to a joint stock company in August 1992, ČSA has never paid dividends. The sale of a minority share to Air France was a fiasco leading to withdrawal of the French airline. Subsequently, Antonín Jakubše and Miroslav Kůla stabilised the company and enlarged its fleet. In September 2003, Miroslav Kůla was fired. New CEO, ex-minister Jaroslav Tvrdík, agreed with the unions to increase wages by a third and announced “unprecedented” enlargement of the fleet.
In 2005, the financial situation sharply deteriorated. Although the sale of two ATR aircraft improved the operating result by CZK 198 million, the operating loss was almost half a billion Czech crowns and the Government of Jiří Paroubek replaced Jaroslav Tvrdík with Radomír Lašák. The airline generated further operating losses, despite revenue of CZK 2.1 bn from the sale of almost all real estate and CZK 1.2 bn from sales of aircraft. In 2005-2010, ČSA generated an operating loss of CZK 3.4 bn; without long-term asset sales revenues, the operating loss would have been twice as large. The gross margin did not even cover the personnel expenses.
In 2016, the airline handled 2.7 million passengers and announced a net profit of 241 million crowns.
|Cost of sales||(18.3)||(18.6)||(18.7)||(18.7)||(18.1)||(14.3)||(12.8)||(12.1)||(10.0)||(8.8)||(150.4)|
|Disposals of LT assets||0.2||0.2||0.6||1.4||0.4||0.8||0.3||(0.2)||0.1||0.0||3.8|
|Other (depreciation etc.)||(0.0)||(0.8)||(0.7)||(0.6)||(0.7)||(0.3)||(0.4)||(0.1)||(0.1)||(0.0)||(3.7)|
- CSA Services provides services in personnel consultancy, job placement, organization of specialized courses and training and other educational activities, resp. telemarketing services.
- Czech Airlines Handling provides ground handling or passenger and aircraft handling for many airlines operating flights from Prague.
- Czech Airlines Technics provides aircraft maintenance and regular certified servicing for the Czech Airlines fleet and other airlines.
- Czech Aviation Training Centre provides training to future aircrew members, as well as refresher and further training to existing crews operated by the state-owned enterprise Air Navigation Services of the Czech Republic. In addition to Czech Airlines, services of the training centre are also used by other airlines. Furthermore, courses “Flying without Fear” and “Stewardess/Steward Try-outs” are offered, as well as the adventure course “Flying for Fun”. These special trainings are also open to the public.
- Holidays Czech Airlines was a now defunct charter subsidiary focused mainly on flying to holiday destinations.
As of the summer season 2019, Czech Airlines flies to 27 year-round and 5 seasonal destinations in 24 countries. Flights are operated mainly in Europe, with a small number of Asian destinations Beirut, Seoul–Incheon and Riyadh. Including codeshare partners, CSA flies to more than 110 destinations and 45 countries from Prague.
Before major cuts to its network, Czech Airlines used to operated 32 monopoly routes from Prague, including one domestic route to Ostrava which does not exist anymore, alongside the feeder route from Košice in Slovakia. These 32 routes represented about 40% of total flights and just over 30% of total capacity.
Czech Airlines codeshares with the following airlines:
- Air Europa
- Air France
- Air Malta
- Azerbaijan Airlines
- Bulgaria Air
- China Airlines
- China Southern Airlines
- Delta Air Lines
- Etihad Airways
- Hainan Airlines
- Korean Air
- Middle East Airlines
- Ural Airlines
- Vietnam Airlines
In June 2007, CSA signed a contract with Exim Tours, the largest Czech travel agency, extending their contract for another three years. In May 2010, CSA withdrew its last Airbus A310 and Exim Tours signed a new contract with Travel Service Airlines from winter 2010/2011. Foreign tour operators, as well as sports teams and companies, use Czech Airlines’ charter flights, with 40 percent of charter flights being for foreign clients. Czech Airlines charter flights carried 797,299 passengers last year.
As of July 2019, the Czech Airlines fleet consists of the following aircraft:
|Airbus A319-100||6||—||8||132||140||To be replaced by Airbus A320neo|
|Airbus A320neo||—||7||Deliveries start in 2021|
|Airbus A330-300||1||—||24||252||276||Leased from Korean Air|
|ATR 72-500||6||—||—||70||70||4 aircraft to be retired by 2019|
|Boeing 737-800||1||—||—||—||189||Leased from SmartWings|
Czech or Czechoslovak Airlines operated these aircraft types in the past:
- Aero A.14 Brandenburg
- Airbus A310-300
- Airbus A320-200
- Airbus A321-200
- ATR 42-300
- ATR 42-420
- ATR 42-500
- ATR 72-202
- Boeing 737-400
- Boeing 737-500
- Bristol Britannia
- Douglas DC-3
- de Havilland DH.50
- Fokker F.XVIII
- Ford Trimotor
- Let L-410 Turbolet
- Lisunov Li-2
- Ilyushin Il-12
- Avia II-14
- Ilyushin Il-18
- Ilyushin Il-62
- Ilyushin Il-62M
- Junkers Ju 352
- Junkers Ju 52
- Saab 340B
- Saro Cloud
- Savoia-Marchetti S.73
- Tupolev Tu-104A
- Tupolev Tu-124
- Tupolev Tu-134A
- Tupolev Tu-154M
- Let L-410M
- Let L-200 Morava
- Yakovlev Yak-40
Czech Airlines offers buy on board service on some flights in addition to free service.
The OK Plus frequent flyer programme gives passengers “OK Plus Miles” for flights with Czech Airlines, SkyTeam member airlines, other partner airlines or non-airline partners such as hotels, car rentals, banks etc. OK Plus membership cards are available with the following tier levels: OK Plus membership, OK Plus Silver, OK Plus Gold, and OK Plus Platinum. The higher the card level, the greater the number of benefits passengers receive.
Accidents and incidents
- On August 12, 1930 a ČSA Ford 5-AT-C Trimotor (registration OK-FOR) crashed near Jihlava (Iglau) while attempting to avoid a thunderstorm. The aircraft struck the ground in poor visibility after a sharp turn to avoid a chimney and caught fire, killing 12 of 13 on board.
- On August 13, 1938 a ČSA Savoia-Marchetti S.73 (registration OK-BAG) struck a wooded mountain near Oberkirch on approach to Strasbourg en route from Prague via Paris, killing all 17 on board, the stewardess survived, but died a day later.
- On March 5, 1946 a ČSA Junkers Ju 52/3m (registration OK-ZDN) crashed near Prague after two landing attempts, killing 10 of 15 on board. The aircraft was operating a Paris-Strasbourg-Prague passenger service.
- On November 9, 1946 a ČSA Douglas C-47A (registration OK-XDG) force-landed near Dobrovíz after running out of fuel while in a holding pattern due to bad weather; all 18 on board survived, but the aircraft was written off.
- On January 25, 1947 a ČSA Douglas C-47A (registration OK-WDB) was struck by a crashing Douglas Dakota while parked at Croydon Airport; there were no casualties, but the aircraft was written off. See 1947 Croydon Dakota accident.
- On February 13, 1947 a ČSA Douglas C-47A (registration OK-XDU) crashed shortly after takeoff from Ruzyne Airport while on a training flight, killing all three on board; improper maintenance was blamed, leading to a five-day crew strike.
- On December 21, 1948 ČSA Flight 584 (a Douglas C-47A, registration OK-WDN) was shot down near Pilos, Greece after the pilot became disorientated due to cloudy weather; when the pilot transmitted a flare, this was taken as a threat from military forces engaged in an exercise on the ground and the aircraft was fired upon from the ground and crashed, killing all 24 on board. The aircraft was operating a passenger service from Czechoslovakia to Israel.
- On February 27, 1950 a ČSA Douglas C-47A (registration OK-WDY) struck Praded Mountain en route to Prague from Ostrava, killing six of 25 on board.
- On March 24, 1950 three Douglas DC-3s from Czechoslovakia were simultaneously hijacked. All three aircraft landed at the US Air Force Base at Erding, West Germany. In all, 26 of 85 passengers chose to stay in West Germany to escape Communist rule in Czechoslovakia.
- On March 23, 1952 a ČSA Douglas C-47 was hijacked by four people who demanded to be taken to Germany. The aircraft landed safely at Frankfurt with no casualties.
- On January 12, 1954 a ČSA Douglas C-47A (registration OK-WDS) struck a chimney and power lines and crashed near Prague after nearly failing to take off, killing all 13 on board.
- On January 18, 1956 a ČSA Douglas C-47A (registration OK-WDZ) struck Mount Skapova after the aircraft was blown off course by strong winds, killing 22 of 26 on board.
- On November 24, 1956 a ČSA Ilyushin Il-12 (registration OK-DBP) crashed into a field near Egislau, Switzerland, killing all 23 on board.
- On January 2, 1961 a ČSA Avia 14 (registration OK-MCZ) crashed on climbout from Prague during a pilot training flight after failing to gain height on takeoff, killing all 10 on board.
- On March 28, 1961 ČSA Flight 511 (an Ilyushin Il-18V) crashed in Gräfenberg near Nürnberg during a Prague-Zurich service due to structural failure, killing all 52 on board.
- On July 12, 1961 ČSA Flight 511 (an Ilyushin Il-18V, registration OK-PAF) crashed near Anfa Airport due to possible crew error, killing all 72 on board.
- On October 10, 1962, ČSA Flight 306 (an Avia 14, registration OK-MCT) crashed near Slavkov while on approach to Brno, killing 13 of 42 on board.
- On March 16, 1963 a ČSA Tupolev Tu-104A (registration OK-LDB) caught fire and burned out while being refueled at Santa Cruz Airport, India; the casualty count was unknown.
- On September 5, 1967 ČSA Flight 523, an Ilyushin Il-18D (registration OK-WAI), crashed on climbout from Gander International Airport while on a Prague-Shannon-Gander-Havana passenger service, killing 37 of 69 on board; the cause was never determined.
- On October 11, 1968 a ČSA Avia 14-32A (registration OK-MCJ, named Svit Gottwaldov) crashed near Ptice shortly after takeoff from Prague, killing 11 of 40 on board.
- On June 1, 1970, a ČSA Tupolev Tu-104A (registration OK-NDD, named Plzen) crashed after two attempted approaches to Tripoli International Airport, killing all 13 on board.
- On August 18, 1970 ČSA Flight 744, a Tupolev Tu-124V (registration OK-TEB, named Centrotex), landed wheels-up at Kloten Airport after the crew became preoccupied with cabin pressurization problems; all 20 on board survived, but the aircraft was written off.
- On August 29, 1973 ČSA Flight 531, a Tupolev Tu-104A (registration OK-MDE) slid off the runway while landing at Nicosia Airport; all 70 on board survived, but the aircraft was written off.
- On August 20, 1975 ČSA Flight 540, an Ilyushin Il-62 (registration OK-DBF, named Brno Trade Fair) flew into the ground during a night-time approach to Damascus International Airport due to a mis-understanding between the pilots and the control tower that resulted in an incorrect altimeter setting, killing 126 of 128 on board in Syria’s worst ever air disaster.
- On July 28, 1976 ČSA Flight 001, an Ilyushin Il-18V (registration OK-NAB, named Košice), which was operating as a scheduled domestic passenger flight from Prague’s Ruzyně airport to Bratislava-Ivanka Airport, both in Czechoslovakia, which crashed into the Zlaté Piesky (Golden Sands) lake while attempting to land in Bratislava. All 6 crew members and 70 out of 73 passengers died.
- On January 2, 1977 a ČSA Tupolev Tu-134A (registration OK-CFD) collided on the runway at Ruzyne Airport with a ČSA Ilyushin Il-18 (OK-NAA) that was taking off; all 48 on board the Tu-134 survived, but it was written off; the Il-18 (all six on board survived) was substantially damaged but was repaired and returned to service, it was retired in 1981 and is now in a museum.
- On February 11, 1977 a ČSA Avia 14T (registration OK-OCA) struck trees and crashed near Ivanka Airport due to crew error, killing four of five on board.
- On October 11, 1988, a ČSA Tupolev Tu-134A (registration OK-AFB) landed hard at Ruzyne Airport; there were no casualties, but the aircraft was written off and flown to Piešťany where it served as a restaurant.
- On June 9, 2012 a Czech Airlines ATR 42-500 (registration OK-KFM) was destroyed in a hangar explosion and fire at Ruzyne International Airport. A second ATR 42 (OK-JFK) was also damaged by the fire. Two Czech Airlines Technics employees were working with an explosive liquid. The liquid was sucked into a heavy technic vehicle, which then blew up near the aircraft and caused the fire.
|Founded||6 October 1923|
|Hubs||Václav Havel Airport Prague|
|Frequent-flyer program||OK Plus|
|Company slogan||At home in the skies|
|Parent company||Smartwings (97,74 %)|
|Headquarters||Vokovice, Prague, Czech Republic|
|Revenue||CZK 9.5 bn (2014)|
|Operating income||CZK 285 m (2016)|
|Total assets||CZK 2.2 bn (2014)|
|Total equity||CZK (0.3) bn (2014)|
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- Accounting statements of Český Aeroholding, a.s. for 2014, page 11, auditor Deloitte Audit s.r.o.
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Letiště Ruzyně, Prague 6 160 08, Czech republic
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