Czech Airlines is celebrating its 70th anniversary at Prague Ruzyne Airport.After the airline’s establishment in 1923 and until the opening of the new Ruzyne Airport in 1937, the State airfield in Prague - Kbely served as the home base of the, at that time, Czechoslovak State Airlines. At the time of its opening, the Ruzyn? Airport was one of the most modern airports in existence and it featured not just the latest equipment and lighting for night-time operations, it also had aircraft radio communication equipment. CSA started flights out of the new airport on the day of its official opening, April 5, 1937, with a service between Prague and Brno.
Apart from the Prague-Brno connection, the airline also operated Prague-Brussels, Prague-Bratislava-Pie??any-Ko?ice-Uzhgorod or Pie??any-Zl’n-Brno flights. In the summer season, CSA also offered Prague-Karlovy Vary-Mariánské Lázn?, Prague-Bratislava-Zagreb-Susak (today’s Rijeka) and Prague-Uzhgorod-Kluz-Bucharest services. Prague-Bratislava-Klagenfurt-Trieste-Venice and Prague-Moscow flights were also offered during the summer months.
After the opening of the new airport in Prague in 1937, CSA introduced into service its new Savoia Marchetti SM 73 aircraft with a seating capacity of 17 passengers and a maximum speed of almost 300 km/h. Other aircraft used by CSA at that time were a Fokker F-VIIb-3m, F-IXD, Airspeed Envoy and a Saunders Roe A.19 Cloud.
This year, CSA is also commemorating another anniversary. 70 years ago in 1937, first flight attendants appeared on board CSA flights. The very first pioneering flight attendant was Ms. Mája Stará from Nov?ý Byd?ov. This year, 70 years after CSA introduced its first flight attendants, the airline’s air crews as well as ground staff have also received, after nine years, newly designed, elegant uniforms.
The original Czechoslovak State Airlines started out long before the opening of the Ruzyn? Airport. The airline began operations on October 28, 1923 at the State airfield in Prague - Kbely. The airline’s very first inaugural flight was a flight from Prague to the Bratislava - Vajnory airport, with an Aero A-14 Brandenburg piloted by Karel Brabenec. During its early years, the airline used to close down its operations in winters. In its first year, in the short period from October 28 through November 30, 1923, the new Czechoslovak State Airlines carried a total of only 13 passengers on its Prague-Bratislava route and only 7 passengers during a demonstration flight in ?eské Bud?jovice.
Starting July 1, 1930, CSA began offering its first international flights. The first international service connected Prague and Zagreb and the flights were operated using a Ford 5 AT-C Trimotor aircraft, which sat 14 passengers and had a 2-member crew. Later on, the service was extended all the way to Susak. Besides this international service, the airline also offered Prague-Brno-Bratislava-Ko?ice-Uzhgorod and Prague-Mariánské Lázn? flights.
In 1935, CSA started offering flights on a Saunders Roe A.19 Cloud amphibious aircraft with retractable landing gear. It had a seating capacity of 8 passengers. The plane was used for the last leg of the service from Zagreb to Susak in Yugoslavia. When the weather conditions permitted and the sea wasn’t too rough, the plane landed on the water as a flying boat.
In 1936, the CSA emblem first appeared on the uniforms of the air crews, pilots and radiotelegraph operators. At that time, CSA offered the option to order in-flight refreshments, which the passengers were served before they boarded their flights.
The evolution of air transportation in Czechoslovakia was interrupted by World War II. On August 17, 1939, the airline, which was already operating under the name “Czech State Airlines”, ended up in temporary liquidation. The carrier’s aircraft were either taken over by the German carrier Lufthansa or they were dismantled. After the war, CSA restarted regular service in March of 1946. The airline used DC-3 aircraft, which the government had purchased from the wartime surplus of the US Army. After February 1948, international flights were greatly restricted as a result of the iron curtain that had fallen over Europe.
However, these difficult times didn’t deter CSA. For example, the airline was one of the world’s first passenger carriers to use jet-powered airplanes. The Soviet-made TU 104 jet aircraft opened the door for the Czechoslovak Airlines to enter into the jet age. The first plane of this type started flying under the CSA banner in late 1957 and CSA became the very first foreign purchaser of these Russian planes. By 1963, CSA’s fleet had 6 of such aircraft. In the late 1950’s, the TU 104 was the only regularly operating passenger jet aircraft in the world.
CSA did not start to upgrade its fleet with Western aircraft until the 1990’s. The first Western-produced aircraft - an Airbus A310 - was acquired by the airline in 1991. The last Soviet-made plane - a TU 154 - was retired from service by CSA in 1999.