Václav Havel Airport sees 15 million passengers

The airport is close to its maximum and can’t handle more without changes

Václav Havel Airport Prague saw more than 15 million passengers for the first time in its 80 year history, making 2017 the most successful year ever. The record was set Dec. 21 shortly after midnight.

Earlier in the year, the airport estimated that it would see 14 million, so the result was beyond exprectaions.

This brole the record from 2016, which saw 13 million passengers. Before that, the previous record was 12.6 million passengers in 2008.

“We are proud that in a less than a year, we can announce reaching another important milestone in the airport’s history,” Václav Řehoř, Prague Airport chairman of the board of directors, said in a press release.

“We owe thanks for yet another record-breaking result to all passengers who still more often choose Václav Havel Airport Prague as starting or final destination on their journey. We must also thank our employees, primarily for their ongoing efforts to offer our passengers the highest quality services even in times of significantly busier operations,” he added.

The airport became one of the fastest growing airports in Europe for airports handling 10-25 million passengers a year. The increase was caused by the growing attractiveness of Prague as a destination for foreign visitors and the willingness of Czechs to spend more money on their travels abroad.

“Prague Airport is also viewed more as an interesting partner for many important air carriers, either starting their operations in Prague or increasing their existing capacity or frequencies,” Václav Řehoř added.

Larger capacity planes helped to increase the figures. The Airbus A380 began landing in Prague in May 2016. More airlines also began using Prague as a hub in 2016 and ’17, and the number of routes has risen. Flights from China in particular have increased.

The record number of handled passengers has also affected the daily operations of the largest Czech airport. Passengers checked 8 million pieces of baggage, including about 4.5 million bags belonging to departing passengers and about 3.4 million pieces belonging to arriving passengers. Roughly 100 thousand bags were checked for transit.

Out of 15 million passengers, over 12.7 million used the 33 passenger boarding bridges situated in Vaclav Havel Airport Prague. The rest of passengers were handled at stands reached by buses. Prague Airport’s vehicle fleet currently is 20 buses.

Information services have also increased. The airport has a 65 member of information staff including six Chinese speaking information assistants for passengers headed to or arriving from four destinations in China. On-site information assistants also helped to handle passengers. During the summer months, there are 100 assistants, for the rest of the year, the number drops to 60.

The amount of passengers handled every year cannot increase much further without new investment. In April 2017 the airport said it could not handle more than 15.5 million per year without upgrades to the runways so they can handle three flights per hour instead of two. An additional parallel runway is also planned.

Prague Airport plans extensions to Terminal 2. It will become the main handling area for both passengers and their baggage, where everyone will pass through one central security control.

“We estimate that we will invest, on the mid-term horizon, in the Terminal extension and parallel runway construction around Kč 27 billion. This will allow us to handle up to 21 million passengers a year. However, we can look even further into the future, at visions for future generations which will allow the increasing of the capacity to 28 million passengers a year,” Řehoř said in April when the airport celebrated its 80th anniversary.

Until then, it is necessary to expand capacity use the existing space. “Already this year, we have started implementing certain measures that will help us increase the capacity of the existing terminal building and runway system. Until 2020, we plan to invest Kč 2.3 billion in increases to the number of check-in aisles, check-in desks and security control posts. These steps will help increase the terminal capacity to 17 million passengers. The number of take-offs and landings performed on the main runway can then be increased by speed turns which will allow aircraft to exit the runway early,” Řehoř said.

Václav Havel Airport Prague opened April 5, 1937 as Prague Ruzyně Airport with five grass take-off and landing strips forming a star shape.

Prague Ruzyně Airport received a Diploma and Gold Medal at the Paris 1937 World's Fair for the technical conception of the central airport, primarily the architecture of the check-in building now known as Terminal 4. This terminal is now used for VIP flights and state visits.

Four paved runways were finished by 1945 and ranged up to 1,800 meters.

A plan for a modern runway was proposed in the 1950s. The construction was finished during the 1960s and the main airport runway had a length of 3,115 meters. Two runways are currently used at Prague Airport. The main runway was lengthened in 1982 to 3,715 meters and there is a secondary runway.

Right after former president Václav Havel's death on Dec. 18, 2011, an online petition organized by Slovak film director Fero Fenič asked the government and the Parliament to rename Prague Ruzyně Airport to Václav Havel International Airport. This name change took place Oct. 5, 2012, on what would have been Havel's 76th birthday.

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