Czech Airlines scores high on service, but at what cost?

Transport is always news here in Prague, one of Europe's most popular tourist destinations. Czech Airlines seems to be doing a good job - although they posted a loss, they did carry the highest number of passengers in their history last year. The carrier took more than 5.2 million passengers to the skies in 2005. Additionally, a new survey by the International Air Transport Association says the Czech national carrier provides the best on-board service in both its economy and first-class seating. Radio Prague's Brian Sabin followed up on the matter, and he joins us in the studio now.

Can you tell us: What does this survey mean?

Effectively, it means that CSA passengers are happy, or at least they say their happy. The survey asked more than twelve thousand passengers of on eleven different carriers in Europe what they thought of their service. Czech Airlines got the best marks, followed by the Hungarian carrier Malev.

The Czech national carrier sees the results as an affirmation that people are still willing to pay for on-board services, especially with all the competition from low-cost carriers such as Smart Wings and SkyEurope. Of course, whether those services can pay for themselves is another matter entirely. As you know, CSA posted a sizeable loss last year to go along with their record number of passengers. To dig themselves out of that hole, the carrier needs to not only increase sales, but also its profits on each ticket sold - which may be tough to do, given the ever-rising costs of fuel.

And how are those sales? Are they growing?

Too early to say, but CSA hopes so. Despite the financial difficulties, the carrier is adding jets to its fleet and increasing its number of flights, particularly to Eastern Europe. I asked CSA's press officer, Daniela Hupakova why the carrier is looking eastward.

"There is a great potential for airlines flying to the east. The network of destinations is not developed. There are no direct flights from Eastern Europe offered. From the new market perspective, in the developing economy there is a lot of potential. A lot of businesspeople are flying and demanding direct flights from the Eastern Europe to Central and Western Europe.

So is that where CSA sees most of its growth in the future?

"I would say its one of the directions that we would like to head. We will be offering new destinations in cooperation with Aeroflot. It's one of our goals that we would like to achieve, to be able to offer sufficient flights to Eastern Europe."

What are CSA's other goals for the future?

"I would say that I'm not able to say that because the new direction of the company, or adjusted strategy is being developed right now. I guess we would like to save that information for later this year."