Prague Airport Prepares for More Widebodies from U.S. and Asia

 - October 5, 2018, 9:14 AM
An Emirates Airbus A380 prepares to taxi at Prague’s Václav Havel Airport.

Prague’s Václav Havel Airport has set its sights on tapping into demand for more long-haul connections from central Europe to Asia and North America in a bid to build on the strong traffic growth it registered in the first half of this year. The airport served 7.5 million passengers in the first half of 2018, resulting in a 10 percent increase in passenger numbers thanks to increased capacity on existing services and the launch of new long-distance flights to Philadelphia and points in Canada.

Airport spokesman Roman Pacvoň told AIN that Prague expects to handle about 17 million passengers by the end of the year, following a 40-percent increase in direct flights to Toronto on Air Canada Rouge and significant growth in the number of passengers traveling to China.

During the first half of the year, the number of passengers traveling from the UK to Prague grew by 12 percent and totaled nearly 1 million. The UK ranked first in total passenger traffic followed by Italy, Russia, Germany, and France, while Prague saw a 40 percent increase in passengers from Spain, including a 51 percent increase from Barcelona.

Pacvoň told AIN that the airport authority’s focus on new long-haul new connections centers on cities showing strong long-term potential, such as Bangkok, Taipei, and Hong Kong, while it continues to develop charter traffic to Tokyo and Hanoi. “Our efforts will also concentrate on increasing direct connections to destinations in North America,” including New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, he said.

Meanwhile, schedules call for new destinations served by low-cost airlines to start this winter. They include new Ryanair flights to Marrakesh, Beauvais–Tillé, Eilat, Pisa, and Amman and a new EasyJet flight to Belfast. “As it comes to short-haul flights, we want to open mainly the connections to so-far uncovered capitals, such as Tallinn, Vilnius, or Sarajevo,” noted Pacvoň.

Preparation for widebody airplanes includes the opening of a new stand and a gate for long-haul flights. The reconfigured stand will serve either one long-haul aircraft with a wingspan of 65 meters (213 feet), or two smaller airplanes with a wingspan of up to 36 meters.

Next year the airport plans to open two more boarding gates and the fourth check-in area including 24 new desks at Terminal 2. At Terminal 1, it plans to extend existing check-in areas and increase the number of check-in desks from 62 to 72.

Mid-term development plans call for the addition of a parallel runway, said Pacvoň, who added that he doesn't expect a final decision on the runway or a possible extension to Terminal 2 until next year. If approved, the new developments would increase airport capacity to 21 million per year.