The Russian Ministry of Transport unilaterally banned Czech airlines Ceske Aerolinie (CSA) from flying over Siberia on the Prague-Seoul route the Czech Ministry of Transportation said in a statement on July 2. The airline said the ban was “a breach of the existing arrangements” and immediately banned Russian flights into Prague. However, implementation of the bans has been postponed for a week while the two sides try to resolve their differences.
Aeroflot and Ural Airlines operators immediately suspended flights to Prague on July 2, as a response. Later the same day, the Russian ministry changed its mind and said flights over Siberia operated by the Czech airlines would be allowed until July 7. The Czech ministry of transport reciprocated by temporarily suspending its ban with the same deadline.
Both countries are now actively negotiating mutual agreement, the Czech office stressed.
“The Czech side does not intend to block the air traffic between the two countries, but it must defend the legitimate interests of its air carriers,” said the Czech ministry of transport.
“We consider the unilateral step of the Russian side to be completely unprecedented and threatening our business interests on the Prague - Seoul line. The situation is thus a return to the intergovernmental agreement of 1966, which allows only one carrier with frequency and capacity parity to operate on routes to Russia,” said a spokeswoman of Smartwings group which operates CSA Vladimira Dufkova, as quoted by daily iDnes.cz.
"The Czech Republic and Russia want to strike a deal. The current crisis in air transport communication between the Czech Republic and Russia has been a result of the failed agreement between the two countries’ flights departments,” the ministry added, as quoted by Tass. Russia is one of the longest busiest destinations from the Czech Republic.
According to the Smartwings CEO Jiri Simane, the main reason for the unusual trade dispute between the Czech Republic and Russian Federation was an effort to add flights to Russian carriers, as cited in Lidove Noviny. When the Czech ministry disagreed with Russian demand, Russia carried out retaliation and banned the Czech Airlines from flying over Siberia.
As stated by an expert on air transportation Michal Cupa, the situation is made more complicated by the outdated, and in many respects restrictive, agreements between the Czech Republic and Russia. He also admitted that stopping the air traffic between the two countries would impact the Czech Republic worse than Russia, adding that the current situation is causing uncertainty, which may result in a decrease in tourists from Russia to the Czech Republic and thus cause economic losses.
Karlovy Vary Region would be one of the most affected parts of the country, as the only regular flight to the airport is operated by Pobeda, a low-cost subsidiary of Aeroflot. “At the moment, it is a key connection from Karlovy Vary airport to Moscow and the suspension would cause serious problems in the airport economic performance,” said Mayor of Karlovy Vary region Jana Mrackova Vildumetzova (ANO).