Travel Service: purchase of majority stake in CSA Czech Airlines shows fast growing group's ambition

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Travel Service, which has been operating since 1998, is the Czech Republic's biggest airline company. It operates scheduled flights under the SmartWings brand, as well as offering charter and ACMI flights and business jet hire. Scheduled flights are generating an increasing proportion of its revenue and raising its profile. Travel Service has subsidiary airlines in Slovakia, Poland and Hungary.

Travel Service's network is strongly focused on leisure routes and its schedule is more seasonally skewed than those of almost any other European airline, with 270 scheduled routes this summer and only 39 this winter. It makes use of wet leases (both in and out) to smooth out the seasonal demand fluctuations. Trading as SmartWings, Travel Service has leading market positions on its biggest scheduled summer routes. However, although profitable for the past five years, the airline has slim margins.

In Oct-2017 Travel Service agreed to increase its stake in the national flag carrier CSA Czech Airlines, from 44% to almost 98%. Although Travel Service Group carries fewer scheduled passengers than CSA, its overall operation is much larger, as evidenced by its fleet of 34 Boeing 737s, compared with CSA's 18-strong fleet. The fast growing group has ambitions to operate a fleet of 70-80 aircraft.

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