Prague, Czech Republic – A second Chinese airline announced it was reducing the frequency of its direct flights with Prague as relations between China and the Czech Republic further deteriorate.
China Eastern Airlines reduces Prague-Shanghai flights
China Eastern Airlines announced in a statement it would reduce its flight connections between Prague and Shanghai starting in March. While the carrier is currently operating five weekly connections between the two cities after increasing frequency less than one year ago, China Eastern will scrap one of them as of March 1, keeping four other lines open, including two with stopovers in Xi’an.
The announcement comes only a few days after the Chinese Hainan Airlines said it would simply cancel its direct flights between Beijing and Prague.
“At the moment, we have no further information from carriers about the changes in the timetable”, said Prague Airport spokeswoman Katerina Pavlikova. “Of course, the situation may change for operational or other reasons, and these changes are always at the discretion of the airline”.
According to Prague airport, nearly 190,000 passengers used direct flights between Czech Republic and China in 2019. Another route that hasn’t yet been cancelled or restricted is operated by Sichuan Airlines between Prague and the Chinese city of Chengdu.
Czech-Chinese relations continue to deteriorate
Although neither Hainan nor China Eastern Airlines gave any reason for their sudden decision, these announcements come at a time of growing tensions between Czech Republic and China.
Last year, Prague mayor Zdenek Hrib, an outspoken critic of China and supporter of Taiwan and Tibet, repeatedly clashed with Chinese authorities and eventually pulled out of the sister-city agreement between the two countries’ capital cities after Chinese authorities refused to remove a clause stating that Prague supported the ‘One China’ policy.
At the time, Czech President Milos Zeman, a known advocate of closer ties with Beijing, warned that the escalating spat could lead China to take retaliatory measures and airlines to scrap their direct flights with Prague.
Criticizing the lack of Chinese investment in the Czech Republic, President Zeman himself recently declared he would not attend an international summit in Beijing meant to bolster cooperation between China and Central and Eastern European countries.