“Black Tuesday” for airlines: what the Czech manoeuvre and limit on flights with Russia bring to
Why Prague wasn’t satisfied with flight terms of Czech Airlines over Siberia and why it threatens Russian passengers
Prague unilaterally banned flights of Russian airlines to the Czech Republic on 2 July morning — because of the dissatisfaction with the terms provided by the Russian Ministry of Transport for Trans-Siberian routes for the country’s national airline Czech Airlines (from Moscow to Seoul). Aeroflot, Pobeda, Ural Airlines had to cancel the flights in a hurry. The flights renewed after 9 hours of Czech-Russian talks, but the permission is valid until 7 July, that’s to say, till the end of the week. Realnoe Vremya newspaper found out how this affected the flights from Kazan Airport to Prague — a Czech airline closely connected with Czech Airlines operates it, the manoeuvre was performed because of the latter. Our newspaper also tried to find out if it was easy for a usual passenger to learn about the current state of a flight (call the Prague office and probably speak English!) and if it was possible to get compensation if a flight was cancelled due to force majeure, that’s to say, which wasn’t the airline’s fault.
“Black Tuesday”, or how Prague bans Aeroflot
It became known on 2 July morning about the cancellation of Russian flights to Prague and back scheduled for 2 July. The reason is the revocation of permissions granted by authorities of the Czech Republic. Aeroflot was first to report on the cancellation of its flights that cancelled the flights SU2010/2011, SU2014/2015, SU2016/2017 and SU2018/2019 but promised to continue operating the flights SU2012/2013 and SU2024/2025. According to the airline, though Aeroflot has all technical capabilities to operate the flights, the Czech aviation authorities made a decision to revoke the flight permission. The company is going to transport the passengers of the cancelled flights with SU2012/2013 and SU2024/2025, and they will also be handed over to other airlines’ flights. At the same time, the passengers who booked flights between Moscow and Prague on 2 July (including the flight SU2017 on 3 July) are offered to get the ticket without fees back or change the route for an alternative point in Europe without charging a fee for changing the route. It became known later that the Czech authorities revoked the flight permissions for Pobeda airline from Moscow to Karlovy Vary from 2 July.
Czechs not happy with terms of the Trans-Siberian flight to Korea for Czech Airlines
According to a letter of the Ministry of Transport of the Czech Republic, the decision was made “due to unilateral restrictions of the Russian side on flights to Russia and above its territory”. Ural Airlines also suspended their Prague flights (the flights from Yekaterinburg to Prague and back renewed several hours — the planes on 2 July took off with a delay because of the expectation of permission to fly).
Having known about the Czechs’ “manoeuvre”, the Russian Ministry of Transport accused Prague of violating the air communication agreement signed between the countries but claimed that “the talks between Russian and Czech authorities went on”. At the same time, a number of anonymous sources said about the dissatisfaction of Prague, which allegedly didn’t like the flight terms over Siberia for the national carrier Czech Airlines: the same Russian Ministry of Transport didn’t agree on the flight en route Moscow — Seoul. The restrictions were imposed by the Russian side on 30 June, so the Czechs simply replied to Moscow’s manoeuvre on 2 July. Ban for ban.
Most popular “Czech season” for Kazan is in the past, but one can fly to Prague anyway
It should be noted that according to aviasales.ru, the key option to fly from Kazan to Prague (two-way ticket) is with a connection whose price varies from the season from 9,300 to 18,400 rubles. Turkish Airlines with a connection in Istanbul (from 9,377 rubles) offered the lowest price.
Smartwings will provide the cheapest flight from Kazan to Prague in December 2019 (4,000 rubles). In July, the price for a one-way ticket from Kazan to Prague will be 6,300 rubles on average. It is a flight by Smartwings airline from the Czech Republic on 10 July at 3.35 a.m. However, the route Kazan-Prague is especially popular in spring: in March, April, May when the ticket is 17,000 rubles on average. According to Kazan Airport, the next flight to Prague is expected on 3 July, as well as from the Czech airline Smartwings — the QS 907 flight is to take off at 7.15 a.m. (Terminal 1A). When this report was written, the information on the online board didn’t change, the departure time was indicated as “on time”, that’s to say, the flight wasn’t cancelled. The Tatarstan airline UVT Aero doesn’t have direct flights from Kazan to Prague. It should be reminded that Tatarstan airline, which was declared bankrupt in 2014, did have direct flights to Prague: so the flight Kazan — Prague — Kazan opened in 2010, another flight Prague — Perm — Prague was launched by Tatarstan in 2011.
Company in cooperation with Czech Airlines carries citizens of Kazan to Prague
Realnoe Vremya newspaper turned to Kazan Airport for a comment but hasn’t received a reply yet. Moreover, we sent a request to the Prague office of Smartwings about the suspension of the flights Kazan — Prague about which nothing has been said. In addition, we tried to call the airline’s office in Prague as a Russian-speaking client (there is no other), however, the voicemail repeatedly said “a Russian-speaking operator wasn’t available at the moment”, that’s to say, a panicking citizen of Kazan couldn’t learn about the situation at the moment, if the flight was cancelled or not. Meanwhile, Smartwings is a big Czech airline and considered one of the fastest growing airlines in Central Europe, it is a part of Smartwings Group. Smartwings offers regular and charter flights and private flights on a business jet. It is interesting that most flights are operated under a code-sharing agreement with Czech Airlines, which also comes under Smartwings Group — that airline that wasn’t happy with the terms of the Trans-Siberian route for Prague — Seoul flight. We can presuppose that the Czechs won’t shoot themselves in the foot anyway.
How Russian authorities themselves cancelled flights and why
We will remind that cancellation of flights is quite popular leverage that particularly Russian authorities love to use. So Russian authorities suspended flights to Istanbul and other Turkish cities in the past, at the height of the cold war with Turkey. The flights renewed after a thaw in political relations. And President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin banned flights to Georgia due to “Russophobic moods” in the blink of an eye: Russian authorities didn’t like anti-Russian rallies in Tbilisi because of which particularly the parliamentary delegation of Russia had to leave Georgia.
Is it possible to refund the ticket price if the flight is cancelled due to force majeure?
According to Russian legislation, in case a flight is cancelled, a passenger has the right to use services at the airport: to get drinks two hours after the scheduled departure, hot meal — after four hours, hotel and transport — after eight hours in the daytime or six hours at night. Secondly, a person has the right to get compensation of 25 rubles per hour of delay but not more than a half price of the ticket and compensation of losses. However, the losses will be offset only… if the flight was cancelled or delayed because of the airline. In other words, in case of cancellation of a flight because of the same Prague, a Russian airline can cite force majeure. The airline must provide the effect of force majeure (for instance, bad weather or a rally). In this case, the airline doesn’t have to pay compensation but is obliged to carry and person and provide services at the airport or give the full price of the ticket if the passenger refuses to fly. The “limitation of flights at the state’s initiative” is precisely among force majeure cases. Finally, a passenger has the right to take another flight in case a flight is cancelled without additional payment if the airline offers it (like in the case of Aeroflot, see above) or refuse to fly and get the full price of the unused part of the ticket. In case a Russian citizen is delayed at the airport of Prague, he or she has the right to get compensation due to overbooking or if the flight was cancelled or delayed because of the airline from €125 to 600; if the flight was cancelled or substituted for another one less than 14 days before the departure. In addition, in Europe, a passenger of the cancelled flight has the right to refuse the flight and get the full cost of the unused part of the ticket — “in any case if a flight is cancelled”.
When this report was published, the Ministry of Russia had already granted Czech Airlines permission to operate flights but it will be valid until 7 July, the Ministry of Transport of the Czech Republic said. Immediately after that, Prague commenced the reciprocal procedure against Russian airlines, but flights from Russia to the Czech Republic will also be permitted until 7 July: “Prague does not intend to block the air traffic between the two countries, but it must defend legitimate interests of its air carriers,” said the Czech side. In other words, the flight of Smartwings on 10 July, which we mentioned above, is, in fact, under question so far.