Czech air carrier Smartwings will cancel its connection from Václav Havel Airport Prague to London’s Gatwick Airport for almost the entire winter flight schedule. The reason is concerns about Brexit and uncertainty about the operation of the Boeing 737 MAX aircraft.
The company has already cut the number of flights to four weekly, and will completely interrupt operations on November 11. Smartwings is scheduled to resume the route from March 29. Passengers with purchased tickets can get a refund.
Smartwings is one of two airlines that flies from Prague to Gatwick, which is London’s second-largest airport after Heathrow.
The loss of the service will not significantly affect passengers, as London is the most heavily served location from Prague. In the first half of 2019, there were up to 95 flights per week between Prague and London, the most for any route. Some 661,289 passengers flew to or from one of London’s six airports.
Smartwings spokeswoman Vladimíra Dufková said that one factor was the unclear date that the Boeing 737 MAX could be redeployed. Smartwings has seven of that model aircraft in its fleet and more on order. Currently, the 737 MAX is grounded due to two crashes. They will not be allowed back in service until issues with the operating software are resolved, and they are deemed safe to carry passengers again.
The other factor cited was Brexit, which if it happens with no deal is expected to cause chaos in international transportation.
Prague Airport spokeswoman Kateřina Pavlíková said a total of 89 flights per week to London are scheduled for the winter season to all six airports in London, which is comparable to last year. From October 28, easyJet will start flying from Prague to London Luton Airport.
Heathrow is served by British Airways, London City by BA CityFlyer, Stansted by Ryanair and EasyJet, Luton by Wizz Air, Southend by EasyJet, and Gatwick by EasyJet.
Smartwings, formerly Travel Service, is the largest Czech airline. It was founded in 1997 and has a main office at Václav Havel Airport. Travel Service planes were repainted with Smartwings livery in 2018.
It also owns 98% of Czech Airlines, and has subsidiaries in Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia, but also operates from France, the Canary Islands, and Israel.