Such a network is a boon not only for CSA, but also its SkyTeam alliance partners all of which will be able to access these emerging markets.
CSA's route expansion is mirrored by its continued fleet development. Today, and after a comprehensive fleet renewal programme, CSA operates three main types of aircraft: A310-300s for long-haul flights; B737s for European and Middle Eastern routes; and ATR aircraft for short distance flights. This year will see the arrival of an additional five B737-400s and one ATR-42-500 turboprop aircraft, taking the fleet number to a total of 41 aircraft.
Of course, getting the business right in the air depends largely on getting it right on the ground. For Jiri Pos, CSA's Executive Vice President of Ground Operations, the challenge is threefold: to maintain ground handling standards at a time of significant route and fleet development; to develop an already healthy third-party handling business; and to strengthen CSA's position as the leading handler at Prague in the face of growing competition.
As Pos explains, CSA Ground Handling takes care of, on average, 195 movements per day, although this rises to a maximum of 350 during the peak summer season. In 2003, the carrier handled more than 4.7 million passengers on over 71,000 flights.
The majority of aircraft are narrow-bodied, essentially from the B737 and A320 families, although a handful of widebodies such as B767s and A300s also visit Prague. Regional jets and turboprop aircraft account for approximately 20 percent of the traffic handled.
Some 70 percent of CSA Ground Handling's business involves serving the mother airline, although it also has a growing customer airline operation. The division currently enjoys a 50 percent share of the total third-party ground handling market at the airport. CSA's customer portfolio covers more than 20 mainline carriers and includes major accounts with the likes of British Airways, Aeroflot, SAS and Austrian.
"In terms of the third-party segment, the major target of CSA Handling is to cover 100 percent of the SkyTeam operation at Prague," explains Pos. For now, this involves handling Air France and Alitalia, although both will be joined by Korean Airlines in May when it begins operations from Seoul and, in time, KLM following its merger with Air France.
"Revenue from our services to customer airlines is an important part of company income," confirms Pos. "Naturally, it also helps to optimise the cost and productivity of our self-handling operation."
With the low-cost segment so strong in Prague, it is curious that CSA has not yet targeted it for additional third-party handling business. Pos admits that CSA has yet to get too involved in the segment, but confirms that this will be a goal for the coming seasons.
"There is need for product diversification on the ground," he believes. "For example, we could use differently skilled check-in agents to help lower the cost structure and meet the expectations of low-cost carriers. First, however, we need to get a detailed picture of our own cost structure through the customer portfolio operation and then we will be able to really challenge this market segment."
CSA hopes to achieve this during 2004 thanks in large part to a transition from previously manual ground operations planning to a fully automated system. The carrier has contracted German supplier Inform to supply several modules from its Groundstar suite of solutions.
Groundstar's PlanControl, RosterControl and RealTimeControl modules will improve CSA's resource demand planning, shift planning and resource allocation respectively. Each module will also interface with CSA's own FIS and hub information system.
Development of a new technology enables aircraft to use on-board electric motors to taxi between terminal gates and runways.
The Czech state-run airline CSA will offer new routes between Prague and three European capitals in summer, the carrier said Thursday.
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