Czech EU presidency to be plagued by limited travel links

Brussels Airlines currently flies twice a day from Prague to Brussels Zaventem airport, EURACTIV Czech Republic’s media partner Aktuálně.cz reports. The other carrier that connects the two cities is low-cost airline Ryanair, but its flights only go to the airport in Charleroi, seventy kilometres from the capital. [Shutterstock/Jaromir Chalabala]

Czechs who need to travel frequently due to the upcoming EU Council presidency in June will likely face flight problems as only one company currently operates two direct flights from Prague to Brussels Zaventem airport.

Brussels Airlines currently flies twice a day from Prague to Brussels Zaventem airport, EURACTIV Czech Republic’s media partner Aktuálně.cz reports. The other carrier that connects the two cities is low-cost airline Ryanair, but its flights only go to the airport in Charleroi, seventy kilometres from the capital.

This is a relatively new situation. Until Easter, Czech Airlines (CSA) also operated a route to Zaventem  However, in mid-April, CSA, which has been bankrupt since last March, radically cut its flight schedule, and Brussels was one of the cancelled routes  Brussels Airlines, therefore, has a monopoly on the direct Prague – Zaventem route and has reacted by increasing prices.

This poses a problem for the incoming Czech EU Presidency. From July, politicians, officials, business people and their teams are expected to fly daily between Prague and Brussels for meetings, threatening a shortage of tickets.

The problem directly concerns the ministers of the Czech government, who, until now, have been flying primarily on commercial flights. They have been advised to buy their tickets as soon as possible for any meetings in Brussels where they already have a date.

The government has now decided to get directly involved in the matter. Next week, a meeting is planned with the owner of the Smartwings group, the parent company of CSA. According to Aktuálně.cz, the government would like to agree with the company on flights to Brussels several times a week. However, higher ticket prices could be a problem, as the Presidency budget for such costs.

There are few alternatives to air travel. There is no direct train connection between Prague and the Belgian capital, and the night train initially planned for this summer has been postponed. This leaves a nine-hour journey by car.

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