Up to 38 million crowns in incentives will be used in order to promote a direct air connection between Prague and China, Tomáš Neřold, spokesman for the Ministry of Transport told the Czech News Agency (Č TK) on Wednesday. The announcement came after a meeting between the ministers of transport from both of the respective countries and representatives of Czech Aeroholding, a state owned air transport group which includes Czech Airlines.
The incentives aim to boost the chances of Czech Aeroholding’s attempts to establish a direct Prague to China air route which would fly at least four times a week for a period of five years. Providing incentives in the form of discounts for services is a common practice used by airports to attract airlines, especially on long-haul flights, according to Neřold. Further incentives for the potential airline are planned by the Prague Magistrate and the central Czech tourist agency CzechTourism, who hope that the direct connection will lead to a further increase in the already booming number of Chinese tourists visiting the Czech capital in recent years.
It is still unclear which airport in China would be used in the connection. However, Czech Aeroholding said it is already discussing the potential air route with Hainan Airlines, China Eastern Airlines and China Southern Airlines. According to the Ministry of Transport the most likely connection will be the one offered by China Eastern - from Prague to Shanghai. Delegates from Václav Havel Airport in Prague will meet representatives of the other two interested airlines in September. It should thus be clear by the end of the month if the route, planned to start in April 2015, will be realized or put on hold.
The announcement comes on the backdrop of an ongoing week-long conference at Prague Castle called the CHINA INVESTMENT FORUM 2014, which seeks to attract Chinese investment into the country and forge closer economic ties. It is attended by high representatives of both countries as well as over 500 businessmen from China, the Czech Republic and a number of eastern European states. The conference has been supported by both Czech President Miloš Zeman and Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, who see it as a practical step in their long promoted policy of increasing the role of economic diplomacy in Czech foreign relations.