Prague-based SmartWings grows in Greece; parent company Travel Service active in ACMI market
Launched on 1 May 2004 (on the day the Czech Republic joined the EU) with flights from Prague to Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Madrid, Paris CDG and Zurich, SmartWings was the Czech Republic’s first LCC. A subsidiary of Travel Service, which operates charter flights across Central Europe and provides ACMI services across the world, SmartWings now operates scheduled services from Prague, Ostrava and Brno. In reply to queries from anna.aero, an airline spokesperson revealed that Travel Service will operate 33 aircraft this winter (a mix of 737-700s, 737-800s and A320s) from bases in the Canary Islands, Czech Republic, France, Hungary and Poland, as well as ACMI operations for carriers such as Air Transat, Sunwing Airlines and Oman Air. In 2013 Travel Service carried more than 5.1 million passengers.
Analysis of schedule data for SmartWings’ scheduled services reveals extraordinary seasonality. While the number of flights operated in winter has remained relatively stable, the number of flights operated in the peak summer months of July and August has grown significantly in recent years.
In 2011, SmartWings operated around 4.3 times as many flights in August as in February. Since then, this ratio has increased to 12.6 in 2012, 14.6 in 2013 and 17.1 in 2014. As a result the airline’s seasonality rivals that of other leisure airlines across Europe such as Jet2.com, Monarch Airlines and Volotea.
Greece is #1 market and fastest-growing in 2014
Analysis of schedule data reveals that Greece has been the airline’s leading country market in each of the last two summers. Across the airline’s three bases in the Czech Republic, the number of flights to Greek destinations has risen 22% this summer while the total number of flights has risen by just 2%.
The only other country markets registering an increase in flights this summer are Bulgaria and Croatia. A total of 12 country markets have been served by SmartWings in each of the last two summers, with Malta replacing Ireland in 2014. A total of 46 airports were served by SmartWings’ scheduled services in summer 2014. Not surprisingly, the airline’s three bases offered the most flights with Prague (144 weekly departures) having five times as many flights as Brno (29) and Ostrava (27). The most regularly served destinations were Bourgas (with 26 weekly flights) followed by Heraklion (23), Antalya (19), Rhodes (18), Kos (16), Palma de Mallorca (12) and Zakynthos (ten).
Who owns Travel Service?
For an airline that operated a fleet of 43 aircraft in the summer of 2014 (according to the airline itself), Travel Service is not a high profile carrier. In 2007, Icelandair bought shares in Travel Service and increased its shareholding to 80% in 2008. However, it then gradually reduced its stake in the company before selling its remaining 30% minority stake in February 2013 for USD 3.7 million. These shares were apparently sold to the airline’s existing shareholders. According to the spokesperson the airline’s current shareholders are Global Trade Opportunities (G.T.O.) AB (a Swedish company), Roman Vik (the airline’s CEO), and Canaria Travel (a major Czech tour operator).