Air Transport World

Attitude Czech.

After reinventing itself, CSA is mulling moves to sustain profitability as the restructuring process goes onward

PRAGUE--Quality-driven Czech Airlines-whose bold red-and-blue CSA logo was an early 1990s symbol of privatization gone awry in Central Europe--has regained qualified profitability since reverting to state ownership and restructuring. But clearly, it still is a carrier in transition.

Most important: A top-to-bottom "attitude check" largely has overcome a residue of dusty Communist era managerial mind-set when no one knew, or cared, how many tickets were sold from one day to the next and yield management was a puzzling foreign concept.

CSA now exudes new pride in being competitive--conforming in a sense with its OK identifier letter code. "We had to demolish a lot of stereotypes about being a former Iron Curtain airline and prove ourselves," declared a veteran airline manager--similar to the challenges that faced Malev in Hungary and LOT in Poland. "We just had to be better."

As another executive put it candidly: "We do have stringent cost controls but internally, we still need to 'dis-integrate' various functions in the interest of sustained profitability. So far, internal discussions have not been conclusive."

The ultimate aim would be to convert activities such as CSA Catering, duty-free sales and CSA's multifaceted airport service operations into independent profit centers; today, OK has no profit centers as such.

Going that route wouldn't be easy," he admitted. "It would mean having to convince certain top managers to let go, that is, relinquish some of their power."

Gone, however, are the testy days when CSA asked government regulators to curb flights by villainous Western airlines using Prague's Ruzyne Airport partly as an add-on to lure lucrative long-distance travelers. With the Czech Republic positioning itself for full EU membership, open competition flourishes at Ruzyne, this time often to the detriment of CSA because of restrictive bilaterals.

Thirty-five scheduled carriers, including Delta Air Lines (daily to New York JFK) serve the airport, which recorded 4. …

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