William Malcolm

Smartwings Group Sees Passenger Volume Drop 82% In 2020

The Smartwings Group, which includes the Smartwings and CSA brands, transported 1.8 million passengers in 2020, an 81.5 percent decline from the previous year. The coronavirus crisis caused a dramatic decrease. The group’s sales fell by 90 percent.

Last year, the group laid off 600 employees and sought relief by filing for an extraordinary moratorium under Czech law to defer its debt payments.

On scheduled flights and charter flights under the Smartwings and CSA brands, the group carried more than 1.3 million passengers, down 83.7 percent year-on-year. Another 451,000 passengers flew on chartered flights. Last year, air traffic dropped sharply, by 78.4 percent year on year to about 13,500 flights.

At the beginning of last year, the airline was doing well, according to Smartwings CEO Roman Vik, originally on track for their best result in its history. In the spring, however, they instead had to face an unprecedented crisis in aviation. “Due to the drastic decline in demand caused by extraordinary circumstances, we were forced to implement very drastic austerity measures and take many major steps,” said Vik.

In the spring, the group stopped all its flights from the Czech Republic. Although the operation was gradually renewed during the year, it has not yet returned to the pre-crisis level. Also, further flight cancellations occurred in the autumn. Due to the drop in sales, the company got into economic trouble, due to which it asked the state for help. Specifically, it negotiated with the government a loan or a guarantee for a loan worth approximately 900 million crowns, but in the end, the company did not receive targeted support. As part of austerity measures, the group decided to gradually lay off up to 600 employees, almost a quarter of the total number of employees. This involved pilots, stewards, and administrative staff. At the end of last summer, the company requested an extraordinary moratorium, deferral of debts due to coronavirus, made possible by a law called Lex covid to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus epidemic.

“Now, the key to returning to travel is successfully mastering the vaccination population. Our goal is to be a major player in the European air transport market and a competitive airline,” added Vik.

Last year, in addition to the Czech Republic, the group also flew from France, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, and the Canary Islands. In addition to commercial operations, last year, the airline also participated in transporting medical supplies from China and the repatriation of Czech citizens from some remote places. The group also solved operational problems the year before last, then due to Boeing 737 MAX airplanes’ forced shutdown. These should gradually return to operation during this year.

Smartwings Group is a part of the Unimex Group, owned by Jiří Šimáně and Jaromír Šmejkal. The Chinese investment company Citic Europe holds a 49.9 percent stake in the carrier.