PRAGUE – National carrier Czech Airlines (CSA) chose the head of Prague Airport to be its new chief executive and drive through a turnaround plan for the loss-making airline.
The moves came after weeks of prolonged wrangling with the carrier’s pilots over wage cuts, and before a decision expected this week on whether the state will accept a lone privatisation bid that analysts see as too low.
The CSA supervisory board on Monday appointed head of Prague Airport Miroslav Dvorak as the new chairman of the board and CEO. Dvorak will remain chief executive at the airport, a separate state-owned company.
The board also appointed economist and state adviser Miroslav Zamecnik as its supervisory board chairman, replacing Vaclav Novak, who resigned after his plan to turn around the loss-making airline was rejected.
Finance minister Eduard Janota said the choice of Dvorak, and his current position at Prague Airport ‘guarantee that there is a solution to CSA’s situation with a long-term perspective’.
The Czech carrier slipped into deep losses after a poorly executed expansion plan in the past years, worsened by a more than 10 percent fall in traffic amid the global economic slump.
Dvorak will replace Radomir Lasak, who took over running the airline in 2006 and sold real estate and other operations in a bid to streamline the airline and get it back to into the black.
Czech media have speculated the ministry may look at combining CSA and Prague Airport. Officials have denied this.
CSA posted a $99.6 million loss in the first half as revenue dropped by 30 percent to $487 million.
Both Novak and Lasak had presented restructuring plans this month pegged on tough wage cuts over the next two to three years, but ran into opposition from the CSA’s pilots, who demand smaller pay decreases for only next year.
A consortium of closely-held Czech firm Unimex and its arm Travel Service, a charter and low-cost carrier in which Icelandair holds a stake, bid 1 billion crowns ($57.87 million) for CSA last month, but said its bid was dependent on CSA not having negative equity value.
Under Czech accounting standards, the airline had a negative equity value of 708 million crowns at the end of June, according to documents quoted by analysts and media.
The finance ministry, which has been due to decide on the bid by Oct 20, said on Monday it was still evaluating the offer.
Zamecnik said the new appointments did not mean the sale could not go through, although analysts have said the government would likely halt privatisation for now.