PRAGUSA.ONE, Unique New Airline Startup

Filed Under: Other Airlines

It’s anyone’s guess how serious of a concept this is, though this is certainly one of the more unusual airline startups we’ve heard about.


Simple Flying reports on PRAGUSA.ONE, a new European airline startup:

  • The airline plans to launch in June 2021 with four wet leased planes, including two A350-900s and two A330-300s
  • By 2024 the airline hopes to have a permanent fleet of four A350-900s, which the airline is allegedly currently in negotiations for
  • The airline would be based in both Dubrovnik and Prague, operating long haul flights from there, including to Beijing, Chengdu, Johannesburg, Kuala Lumpur, Los Angeles, New York, Singapore, and Tokyo
  • The name “PRAGUSA” isn’t a combination of “Prague” and “USA,” but rather is a combination of “Prague” and “Ragusa,” with the latter being the historical name for Dubrovnik
  • Perhaps most bizarre of all is that the airline would be an all-premium economy airline, so A350-900s would feature just 251 seats; as a point of comparison, French bee has 411 seats on its A350s, with 35 premium economy seats and 376 economy seats
  • A British company is behind this, and plans to apply for an air operator certificate in April 2021; the airline has allegedly already secured incentives from the two airports

Rendering of PRAGUSA.ONE A350-900

Planned routemap for PRAGUSA.ONE

Yeah, I don’t know about that…

We hear of an endless number of airline startup concepts, and most of them never come to fruition. So I write about these not because I’m telling anyone to pencil in a June 2021 trip on PRAGUSA.ONE between Los Angeles and Dubrovnik, but rather because I find this stuff to be fascinating.

I’ve gotta be honest, this concept is a real mystery to me, though:

  • We’ve learned over and over that low cost, long haul airlines (like Norwegian) don’t work; but that also raises the question of what exactly this airline is supposed to be?
  • Does the airline hope enough people will pay a significant premium in order to fly premium economy over economy? I could maybe see merit to something like this in a prime business market or super-premium leisure market, but not in budget-conscious, low frequency, point-to-point leisure markets
  • While this concept could work in summer, how is this supposed to work in winter? Is the hope that enough people in Croatia and the Czech Republic try to travel in winter on these flights?
  • The fact that the company is even proposing a June 2021 launch makes me doubt the legitimacy of this; it takes more time to set up an airline and get all the necessary regulatory approval, and that’s not even accounting for the fact that international travel is largely impossible in the markets the airline is targeting

Don’t get me wrong, Central and Eastern Europe could use more long haul connectivity, and I’d love to see this unique concept work. But it’s particularly challenging to run a successful long haul airline, especially one that relies on seasonal tourism. To make the airline exclusively offer premium economy only makes the economics more challenging, in my opinion.

The A350s with the most premium economy seats are Singapore Airlines’ A350-900ULRs, which have historically been used for nonstop flights from Singapore to Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco. These planes feature just 161 seats, including 67 business class seats and 94 premium economy seats.

Even Singapore Airlines has struggled to sell premium economy seats on these routes, and fares have largely been surprisingly low.

Singapore Airlines’ A350-900ULR premium economy

Bottom line

PRAGUSA.ONE is a startup that hopes to eventually fly a fleet of four A350s in an all premium economy configurations from Dubrovnik and Prague to destinations around the world.

While I love to see innovation in the airline industry, and while I’d love a concept like this to work, I just don’t get how the math could possibly make sense.

What do you make of the PRAGUSA.ONE concept?

  1. The big problem with this concept is the lack of feeder routes, unless they have a codeshare secured. The O&D traffic may not be enough.

    While I agree with Ben that Dubrovnik is a very seasonal destination, I don’t think that is necessarily the case with Prague which is a “city destination”, not a beach resort. Plus it has fairly mild climate, only ~2 months are actually cold – and even then there’s some demand because of Christmas markets.

    Either way it’s a strange concept. As someone who has almost moved to Prague a few months ago (and as someone who is also a major hater of PRG airport), I’m very curious to see how this goes.

  2. This proposal seems a bit far-fetched, especially the Dubrovnik part of it. It’s also an unusual choice of destinations.

    Interesting you raise the example of Singapore Airlines’ all premium A350s. Yesterday, in a wildly optimistic speculative look for fares from Sydney to New York next January, I found the cheapest Premium Economy fare was SYD-SIN-EWR (about A$3800 R/T), but that was only a few dollars less than SYD-SIN-FRA-JFK, the latter having the advantage (to me) of being marketed as A380 all the way (at least now it is). I don’t know whether that is caused by the difficulty in selling seats on an all premium aircraft or reluctance to take that ultra-long flight.

  3. Prague is seasonal destination, moreover there are just few long-haul destinations and majority is summer only. And also there is very weak premium demand…This is just another “wish” airline and would never work. Which is sad, but that´s reality.

  4. The strategy of offering direct flights from huge cities to popular tourist destinations that have very few long-haul flights isn’t insane, but PRG and DBV are both very seasonal destinations.

    I can’t imagine during winter that many Croatians or Czech will be dying to fly direct to South Africa or California, especially in premium economy.

  5. Prague has always been an issue for long haul flights. Czech could not even make it work and is barely breathing as a regional carrier. Sure, there is some business travel out of PRG, but a lot of it is also originating out of areas around Piisen and south along the German and Austrian border. That’s where there is a lot of manufacturing. For them, driving to MUC and VIE is often easier in the sense of getting better fares and more non-stops. I think it’s ambitious to think they will have anywhere near enough traffic to survive. So many Czechs now use either VIE or MUC that PRG is more a local regional airport rather than a national hub. Even coming from the U.S. I almost always use MUC when going to Czech and just rent a car from there to avoid connecting.

  6. Prague is a seasonal, tourist route with little to no meaningful business demand (pre-pandemic) and Dubrovnik is one of the most over-touristed areas on the planet and a fairly nice market. I give this ludicrous model a zero % chance of success.

  7. @Samo: it’s a common misconception that airlines need to codeshare in order to offer through tickets. All you need is an agreement on selling fares from A to B via C. No need to form an alliance, codeshare or joint venture.

    I think the one thing they can do is go after group travel. Asian tourists often travel in large groups. Cruise tourists can also be a target. Do I believe they will succeed? No.

  8. “Does the airline hope enough people will pay a significant premium in order to fly premium economy over economy?”
    Spoiler alert: they won’t.

    PRG could benefit from more long-haul connectivity, but it’s a very cost-sensitive market—and one that’s been extremely well-connected through VIE, FRA, MUC, AMS, CDG, DXB and DOH. This ain’t gonna happen.

  9. I always wonder who is behind all of these wonderful concepts Just how wild your imagination must be to think there will be demand for direct PRG-LAX or PRG-JNB in all premium economy layout. Lol

  10. Some of these seem absurd, but the example you pointed out, the Dubrovnik-Lax route actually could make sense. People forget that San Pedro in Los Angeles actually has a huge Croatian population, one of the biggest outside of the former Yugoslav countries.

  11. PRG (and even ZAG/DBV) have their share of leisure long-haul, but there are national carriers affiliated with alliances.

    This would probs be a better model if it were like BUD or LCA; at least then it could serve as a cheap intermediary for western Europe (and maybe scoop some subsidies).

  12. I was going to say it might work because of the Vietnamese community in Czechia left over from USSR/Communist days, but this airline doesn’t serve Vietnam, just mainland China and Malaysia and Singapore.

  13. I’ll have to see how this shakes out. I live in Dresden and had thought (pre-Corona) of driving to Prague (2 1/2 hrs) and taking the direct Delta flight to NYC. That flight doesn’t seem to go any more. With all this border closure around here because of the Corona nonsense, I’ll have to see what happens this summer.

  14. Weird to see there isn’t a flight between Prague and Vietnam, given the large population of Vietnamese living in Czech Republic.

  15. Yes just like Sickapore airlines. Plenty of seats in economy, just don’t get the one for long haul with no window. Yes they sell seats without a window, just a wall to look at. Singapore Air.

  16. What is it with all the weird airline startups in the middle of a pandemic? The logic must go something like this:

    1. Look up! There are now so few planes in the sky!

    2. But I really, really, desperately want to travel somewhere. So does everyone else I know.

    3. That means that supply (airplanes in the sky) is far exceeded by demand (people who want to be in airplanes in the sky).

    4. Therefore, this is an EXCELLENT time to start a new airline to meet demand.

    5. I will soon be rich and famous and laughing at all my critics.

  17. @snic – No, it’s simply about low entry costs at the moment precisely because of that drop in the demand. It is cheaper to start an airline now than it would be two years ago.

    Crises are always a great time to invest if you can afford waiting a few years for the profit.

  18. They will operate from mots boring and not attractive cities in Europe so won’t last long unless will offer connection to other countries in EU.

  19. I would express my strong concerns.
    Will be a certain failure. Most of the plan will be ficticious or even a lie.
    If you research the founder and CEO you will quickly see that failure will be certain.
    I can only recommend to watch the below if you would like to get an idea about Krsimir Budinski and his business ethics.

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