Prague Ruzyne Airport is starting to prepare for the emergence of a competitor in nearby Vodochody. Both airports will compete for several million passengers a year, mostly from those who want to fly cheap and are willing to sacrifice some comfort.
For the segment of low-cost air carriers, the owner of the vodochody airport, Penta, has been orienting since the beginning of the intention to rebuild the non-public airport in the north of Prague near Odolena Voda. In addition to low-cost regular flights, the other Prague airport has been charging tourists with charter flights rented by travel agencies.
Despite the fact that Václav Havel Airport is still focusing on expanding the offers of classic carriers, which has more money due to the larger volume of ordered services, the arrival of the competitor can change the strategy of the largest Czech airport. The company already has the so-called ultra lowcost concept for low-cost carriers, which can be launched in the future.
There are two possibilities in the game, according to the President of the Board of Directors of the airport, Václav Řehoř . The first is to build a new, very simple terminal for this part of the clientele, for example from prefabricated tin containers. The second option may be to convert the so-called admission finger A into the first terminal for flights outside the EU Customs Union, which hosts the shortest route to the airport area.
In that case, the airport would restrict further investment to this finger, and its users would have to circumvent without any extra equipment, according to Řehoř. This is, for example, the arrival bridges by which passengers board the aircraft.
Access to airplanes through the airport surface can work smoothly, for example, in Mediterranean Greece. In Prague, where the weather is more variable, it is such saving at every passenger´s decision to make a choice, to feel comfortable about risk of getting wet during the ride and then spending hours on the plane.
The Vodochovy airport is awaited by a relatively long journey before the traffic starts. After 2014, territorial proceedings have been suspended, which should be resumed in the second half of this year. This will entail the need to revise the original documentation, which was prepared under the now-invalid legislation. Only then can the investor go into the second phase, which is the application for a building permit.
“The whole process of obtaining building permits (including litigation with opponents) is estimated for about five years, the construction itself for 1.5 to two years. So we can expect traffic sometime around 2025, “said Vodochody Director Martin Kacur.
Parallel track is a must
Over the past eight years, Ruzyne airport has assumed a steady increase in passenger traffic, up from now more than 15 million a year, to 20 million in 2025. Nor is this figure final. The Finance Ministry, which administers the state airport, plans to invest massively in Ruzyne. Part of the plan to extend the number of passengers by 10 million by 2035 is primarily the construction of a so-called parallel runway or the extension of a second terminal.
By contrast, Vodochody airport plans are more modest. The airport assumes that 3.5 million passengers will be cleared each year. This number is limited by the permitted number of starts and landings that noise levels allow to the aerodrome.
The main competitive advantage of the newly-created airport against its larger rival is a low cost of service. They will try to lure and rival the country’s largest charter carrier, Travel Service, said Kačur.
He admitted, however, that it will not be easy. “Of course we would like to cooperate with the Travel Service, but the operating limits – especially the night shuttle to the airport – will probably be unacceptable for Travel Service,” he added.