Czech Airlines' Sky Team tie-in boon to carrier

NEW YORK -- Big changes are afoot for Czech Airlines, which joined the Sky Team alliance in March and reopened service at Kennedy Airport there in April after operating exclusively from Newark for the last five years.

The airline offers daily flights from Kennedy and three flights per week from Newark; all service is on Airbus 310-300s.

"We moved from Kennedy to Newark in 1996 when we had a code share with Continental. But this was not such a strong alliance; there was no joint marketing involved," said president Miroslav Belovsky.

He added this is not the case with Sky Team partner Delta, whose New York hub is Kennedy.

"Delta will be promoting Czech Airlines to its corporate clients as the only carrier that goes nonstop between the U.S. and the Czech Republic," Belovsky said.

"We serve 18 destinations in eastern Europe out of Prague, some twice a day, so Delta's corporate clients have the option of a seamless transfer if they are doing business in that part of the world."

The executive is not worried about expanding too fast.

"Our load factor was 86% last year; we needed to increase flights," he said.

Another advantage for the carrier is the five-year renovation of Prague's Ruzyne Airport.

The overhaul, begun in 2000, already has transformed Ruzyne from a modest airport into one of Europe's more appealing transportation hubs.

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