Czech Airlines Orders A321XLR & A220-300

Filed Under: Other Airlines

Czech Airlines has just announced quite a bold aircraft order, which makes me wonder what exactly their plan is.

Czech Airlines’ Current Fleet

The Prague-based SkyTeam member airline currently has a fleet of 14 aircraft, including:

  • Six ATR72s
  • Six A319s
  • One 737-800
  • One A330-300

The A330 is leased from Korean Air, and is used for their sole long haul flight between Prague and Seoul.

Czech Airlines Orders A220 & A321XLR

Czech Airlines has just revealed their future fleet plans. The airline initially had seven A320neos on order, but they’ve now completely swapped out that order for seven other Airbus aircraft.

Czech Airlines has placed an order for four Airbus A220-300 aircraft, as well as three A321XLR aircraft:

  • The A220-300 will feature 149 seats
  • The A321XLR will feature 195 seats in a two class layout

Petr Kudela, Chairman of the Board of Czech Airlines, says that this order will fit well with their strategy in terms of network expansion:

“The A220 and A321XLR fit well with our long-term business strategy in terms of network expansion. These aircraft will definitely give Czech Airlines a competitive advantage, and will increase the capacity of our regular flights. I believe that this step will be appreciated by our passengers, as the aircraft offer best in class comfort even during long haul flights thanks to a brand new cabin configuration.”

What Should We Expect From Czech Airlines?

The A220 order makes perfect sense and doesn’t require much explanation. It’s an incredibly fuel efficient and versatile aircraft. If anything, I’d say that I’m surprised they didn’t convert all seven of their A320neo orders into A220s.

The curveball here is the A321XLR order. This is Airbus’ new ultra long range A321, which has a range of up to 4,700nm, with 30% lower fuel burn than previous generation competitor aircraft. This was just launched a few months ago, and has already proven very popular.

Here’s a map showing the rough range of the A321XLR from Prague:

Czech’s only current long haul destination is Seoul, and that’s just barely within the range without factoring in reserves or headwinds. It seems highly unlikely that they could operate that flight nonstop with the A321XLR with headwinds in the westbound direction.

However, the US is easily within range. So is Czech Airlines planning on launching flights to two to three North American destinations, or do they have other long haul destinations in mind, whether it’s India, Africa, or somewhere else?

I also find their stated configuration for the aircraft to be curious. They will have a two class A321XLR featuring 195 seats. Of airlines operating A321LRs in two cabin configurations currently (the fuselage is the same size), the capacity is somewhere around 166-182 seats (this includes Aer Lingus, Air Astana, and TAP Air Portugal).

Aer Lingus A321LR business class

Will they have fully flat beds in business class, and if so, how do they plan on squeezing in more than a dozen additional seats? Maybe they’ll just have an even smaller business class cabin?

Bottom Line

Czech Airlines has swapped their initial A320neo order for four A220-300s and three A321XLRs.

Both of these are fantastic planes, though given Czech’s small fleet size and focus on short haul, I’m surprised to see them pick up A321XLRs. It seems unlikely these will even be able to operate their one long haul flight to Seoul.

That suggests Czech Airlines may be looking at other long haul expansion, perhaps to North America?

What do you make of Czech Airlines’ Airbus order?

Comments
  1. A321 will be used for JED, RUH and Russian destinations. There’s no other strategy, these plans are all made under Smart Wings group. Czech Airlines technically doesn’t exist anymore.

  2. I think that it’s a great way to employ the same amount of money and technically get more. They probably just see the XLR and the neo as the same aircraft pretty much, and that they get better range with the XLR. On the other side of the airbus family there’s the 220, which would work better with some of their intraeuropean routes. So whatever premium they’d pay on “upgrading” to 3 XLRs would be mitigated by “downgrading” 4 neo to 220s.
    I don’t think they plan on launching another longhaul route anytime soon. However, those XLRs might come handy in the future; this way the airline is ready for a transatlantic route right away when they decide to do so.

  3. I would assume North America is a logical option and possibly India as business market. However, the seat count of 195 raises some questions indeed, because they will need a good business product on those premium routes. Otherwise I could only think of leisure routes to places like Seychelles or Sri Lanka…?

  4. Guys, there will definitely not be any flights to India. OK/QS talked about NA bit it will likely happen as US airlines are prioritized and welcomed in PRG even for seasonal.

  5. I guess they’ll launch routes to New York and Beijing.

    Based in Eastern Germany, PRG is currently a really good option for me going east. I bet adding directs services to the US would not only be appreciated by myself.

  6. @Aaron. DL doesn’t offer even a seasonal ATL-PRG. It’s seasonal JFK-PRG only. DTW, ATL, maybe BOS/MSP could work, but I just don’t see them generating enough traffic.

    Maybe if there’s a JV someday ATL or DTW would be added, but I don’t see that happening for a long time, especially when they will have only 6 planes.

  7. AA’s A321neo has 196 seats and there’s already a seat map released, so I’m assuming OK’s will be similar.

  8. @ Leo Guam — Yeah that’s an A321neo for domestic operations, though. Presumably Czech wants to fly these planes long haul.

  9. I can promise you they certainly won’t be launching any new longhauls, especially not to the US or India. Since CSA is owned by LCC Smartwings (most of OK flights are not even operated by their own metal) you can’t expect any exciting development. The XLR’s are just for their Russia flights (that’s why the C cabin) and the hard product won’t be nothing to write home about. Certainly not staggered configuration like Aer Lingus or TAP.

  10. Air Transat operates their A321LR in a 12/187 configuration, though their Club Class resembles US domestic first class more than the average lie-flat product. Starlux has their A321neo in a 8/180 config with lie-flat Diamond seats. With tightened seat pitch, something like a 8/187 or even a 10/185 configuration (with either Diamond or Vantage seats) doesn’t seem too unreasonable.

  11. Aer Lingus’s A321LR seatmap actually displays 184 seats in total, J16 Y168. Replacing last two rows of J with three Y will get to 184 + 18 – 6 = 196. They have been premium-light in their 333 and 319 configs.

  12. When looking at Czech Airlines, you have to consider that the airline has now completely blended with Smartwings, its long-time nemesis that took control of them a couple of years ago.
    Right now, most OK flights are actually operated by QS crews on QS metal (737s), which is an unpleasant surprise for many a traveler. Granted, OK never was a particularly premium airline, but it’s basically become part of an LCC lately.

    We know for a fact that they’ll be phasing out their turboprops in the next year or so, hence the A220 replacement. All but one of the A319s are also on the way out, so the fleet will consist primarily of Smartwings 737s, along with one A319, one leased A330, four A220s and the odd A321XLRs, whose purpose is anybody’s guess at this point. Quite a diverse fleet for a relatively small carrier.

  13. Interesting Wikipedia entry for Smartwings says they were going to transition OK to an all Boeing fleet…

    “In March 2019, Smartwings announced plans to create a German subsidiary by late 2019, and to transition its Czech Airlines subsidiary to an all Boeing 737 fleet.“

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