06. 10. 2008 - Czech Airlines Celebrates 85th Anniversary of its Operations

Prague, 6 October 2008

Today Czech Airlines celebrates the 85th anniversary of its establishment.  The first flight of an aircraft in the colours of Czechoslovak State Airlines, an Aero A-14 Brandenburg, was flown by the field pilot Karel Brabenec, even three weeks after the company establishment and during the celebration of the fifth anniversary of the new state, on 28 October 1923.  Due to the adverse meteorological conditions, it was only a symbolic flight around the Kbely Airport.  The first real flight with the first passenger took place one day later, on 29 October, when the weather improved significantly, from Prague-Kbely to the Bratislava Vajnory Airport.

On this damp and chilly day, the rookies of the Czechoslovak Aviation Regiment No. 1 stood in formation, waiting to be sworn in.  With them, there were other protagonists, too: military dignitaries, representatives of industrial, business, and economic life, airport staff, mechanics, pilots, and also crowds of eagerly waiting people, who had come to see with their own eyes the still thrilling invention – the airplane – and to be the witnesses of a truly historical event – the ceremonial launch of the operations of Czechoslovak State Airlines …
Cited from the book: “Czech Airlines for 80 years at home in the skies”, by Libor Zeman

At first, the Airline operated with a winter break.  In the first year of its operations, i.e., from 28 October to 30 November 1923, Czechoslovak State Airlines carried a total of 13 passengers on the Prague – Bratislava route, and seven passengers on the occasion of a show flight in České Budějovice.

The main milestone of the 1930s was the relocation of air operations from Kbely to the newly opened Ruzyně Airport in 1937.  In its time, the new Ruzyně Airport was one of the most modern airports, boasting not only all of the equipment and lighting for night-time operations, but also radio equipment. Czechoslovak Airlines started operating from the new airport on the very day of its grand opening, i.e., on 5 April 1937, on the Prague - Brno route.

The promising development of civil aviation was interrupted by the Second World War and again, after the war, by the 1948 political putsch.  In spite of that, in the 1950s, Czechoslovak Airlines became on of the first airlines in the world to use jet aircraft, when Tupolev TU 104s joined its fleet.

In August 1960, a Czechoslovak Airlines aircraft crossed the equator for the first time in the airline’s history, on the 15-hour flight from Prague – Cairo – Bahrain – Bombay – Rangoon – Phnom Penh – Jakarta.  The airline’s first transatlantic flight, with the leased Bristol Britannia BB-318 aircraft, took place in 1962, flying from Prague to Havana.  In 1964, Czechoslovak Airlines carried more than one million passengers for the first time in its history, but primarily on national routes.

In 1970, Czechoslovak Airlines finally realised the plans born shortly after the war and launched a scheduled service on the Prague – Montreal – New York route, operated by Iljushin Il-62s.  At that time, Czechoslovak Airlines aircraft also first crossed the Arctic Circle, on the Prague – Helsinki – Rovaniemi route.

The early 1980s were marked by a worsening economic situation in the world, which was also reflected in the operations of Czechoslovak Airlines.  National flights were significantly cut back, including the most heavily used Prague – Brno route, following the completion of the D1 Motorway.  Service was also reduced to a number of countries in Europe, Africa, and the Far East.  On the other hand, in 1983, Czechoslovak Airlines introduced a Business Class on board its aircraft which meant an improvement in the quality of the service provided.

The 1989 revolution meant that Czechoslovak Airlines no longer had to follow a political dictate, concerning among other things the renewal of the aircraft fleet.  In 1991, the first western-produced aircraft, an Airbus 310, joined its fleet.  On the other hand, the collapse of the Eastern Bloc entailed the disintegration of established markets and caused a significant drop in the number of passengers.  Air France became a strategic partner for Czechoslovak Airlines.  The cooperation did make possible the renewal of the airline’s fleet, but failed to live up to financial expectations and was terminated after two years.

The start of a new millennium was attended by a major economic decline.  Under the present management, the Airline was successfully revitalised and has again generated a profit since 2007, in spite of the record growth in oil prices.  After years, the Airline can again afford to plan its development.
Between 2006 and 2008, the medium-haul fleet underwent a major modernisation.  The older Boeing 737 aircraft were gradually replaced by 12 of the most modern new-generation Airbus A320/319s.  The improving results allowed for the upgrades to continue, and Czech Airlines has already taken advantage of an option for the supply of another eight Airbus A319s between 2011 and 2012.
The Airline has launched work on three development projects with a major yield potential.  At the end of this year, it will deploy MRO - a new integrated information system for aircraft maintenance, administration, and management.  The new method for managing and planning maintenance, and keeping track of and administering aircraft units and spare parts, will significantly reduce costs and improve the functioning of the Czech Airlines Technical Division, which provides for the repair and maintenance of the airline’s own aircraft equipment and also provides its services to external companies.  Also, a new comprehensive airline system is being prepared (SAS) for supporting key sales activities, such as bookings, pricing, ticketing, passenger and baggage handling, and Internet sales, as well as a transition to a modern pricing method, called O&D.  All these projects will yield savings in the order of hundreds of millions, and a further increase in profitability.

Presently, Czech Airlines operates a fleet of 50 aircraft.  On long-haul flights, it deploys Airbus A310s; on medium-haul flights, Airbus A320s and Boeing 737s; and on short-haul flights, ATR42/72 aircraft.  Czech Airlines, in association with its code-share partners, offers connections to 135 destinations in 48 countries.

Daniela Hupáková
Communications Director
Czech Airlines Press Spokesperson