After 72 years of service, Czech airline CSA will withdraw from the UK market at the end of October.
The shock decision comes at a time when the loss-making Czech national carrier is being forced to slim down its European network in order to save money.
It means that besides the complete axing of flights from Prague to London Heathrow and Manchester, Skyteam member CSA will be reducing flight frequency on other European routes too.
In a statement issued to Business Traveller, Philippe Moreels, CSA’s VP for sales, marketing and finance says, “Our flight schedule for the winter season reflects the next stage on the path to creating a more flexible, efficient airline. Unlike previous approaches to restructuring, which were based primarily on cost cuts, the main point of the strategy now is a new network concept where the least profitable flights are cut.”
A further and not well translated statement issued by CSA’s head office notes “As of the upcoming winter season, the CSA network does not count [sic] on a presence in the UK market, ie the operation of flights to London and Manchester.”
CSA’s UK network has been trimmed in recent years in face of stiffer price competition not just from British Airways but also from budget carriers like Easyjet, Bmibaby and Wizzair.
In its heyday CSA served no fewer than seven UK airports: London Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted plus Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow and Edinburgh.
Its current schedule covers just Heathrow and Manchester and with timings that are not particularly convenient for business travellers.
Withdrawing from Europe’s largest single travel market does not seem to be a sensible move. But it is understood that CSA’s decision was influenced by the fact it can earn many millions of dollars from the sale of its Heathrow slots.
At the time of writing CSA’s UK website continues to display flight schedules from November 1. But a CSA spokeswomen verbally confirmed to Business Traveller that the carrier’s UK flights will cease from the start of the winter timetable.
For more information visit czechairlines.co.uk.
Report by Alex McWhirter