Boom Town

CSA Czech Airlines is reinforcing its position of its Prague hub as a major gate for Eastern Europe ahead of the Czech Republic's accession to European Union in May. February 2004 Jiri Pos, Executive VP Ground Operations, CSA Czech Airlines...

As Andreas Dollhopf, Inform's Project Manager on the work, explains, the project began in November 2003 with the implementation of the RosterControl and PlanControl modules. Both should be ready by the end of March with initial implementation taking place in a pilot area that covers passenger services, check-in and gate planning.

Work on the third and final module, RealTimeControl, will begin in June with full implementation expected by the end of the year, adds Dollhopf. Once the Groundstar modules are fully transitioned, CSA will be better able to optimise its staff and equipment requirements for all self- and third-party handling operations.

"The system will help us get a more detailed picture of our own source needs as well as the cost structure for each customer airline operation at Prague," explains Pos. "We will then be in a better position to support the pricing policy in order to meet break even."

According to Pos, plans are also afoot to strengthen the quality of CSA's actual handling product, with a strong commitment to develop self check-in stands, Internet check-in and general service improvements for loyalty programme passengers.

Meanwhile, back on the ramp, CSA unveiled a spanking new air cargo terminal on 15 January. The new facility, which has a capacity of 60,000 tonnes per year, represents a fundamental change in how CSA conducts its cargo handling operations and is a far cry from the carrier's decrepit old terminal.

CSA's new cargo terminal boasts impressive electronic transfer vehicle technology, essentially an automatic shelf-stowing system for handling and stowing loose cargo & ramp parking for one freighter, a designated terminal leased to DHL, plus dedicated space for Czech Post.

Market competition
Improvements to CSA's handling service and infrastructure are just as well given that the carrier faces stiff competition for third-party handling contracts at Prague. In addition to contending with an arm of UK multinational Menzies, CSA also faces competition from the airport authority following the launch of a handling operation in 2000.

Ground Handling

"In my opinion, having three service providers at Prague is more than enough," believes Pos, citing falling handling rates, appreciation of the Czech currency and greater pressure on quality and standards issues as daily challenges for all three handlers.

The good news for CSA is that it continues to hear the right noises from its own passengers and customer airlines. "I am pleased with how our staff continually meet the expectations and the fact that CSA handling continues to be the quality trademark [at Prague]," says Pos.

Air cargo volumes are expected to grow rapidly

Not surprisingly, he is cheerfully optimistic for the future of CSA and its main hub. Confident that EU accession will attract even more European carriers to Prague, particularly low-cost and charter operations, Pos also points to the growth of CSA and its SkyTeam partners as a clear indication of Prague's developing status as a major gateway to Central and Eastern Europe.

"I also believe that Korean Airlines' launch of direct flights from Seoul will attract other Asian carriers to utilise Prague's unique geographical location as a gateway," he adds.

If the current rate of growth can be maintained, Prague Ruzyne may not have to wait until 2008 to reach the milestone of 10 million passengers per year.

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