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 cheaply and are willing to sacrifice some comfort.

For the low-cost airline segment, the owner of the Vodochody airport, Penta, has been orienting itself since the beginning with the intention of rebuilding a non-public airport in the north of Prague near Odolena Voda. In addition to regular low-cost 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 traditional carriers, which brings more money due to the larger volume of ordered services, the arrival of a competitor could change the strategy of the largest Czech airport. The company has already prepared the so-called ultra-low-cost concept for low-cost carriers, which can be launched in the future.

Terminal from containers

According to the President of the Board of Directors of the airport, Václav Řehoř, there are two options to choose from. The first is to build a new, very simple terminal for this part of the clientele, for example, from prefabricated containers. The second route may be to convert the so-called admission finger A into the first terminal for flights outside the EU Customs Union, which would lead to the shortest route to the airport area.

In this case, the airport would reduce its investment in the finger, and its users would, according to Řehoř, make do without any extra equipment. This would include, 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, the saving is to be considered by every passenger, whether they are willing to risk getting on board all wet and then spending hours in the airplane.

The Vodochody airplane faces a relatively long journey ahead before the traffic can be launched. 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 more forward with the second step, which is the application for a building permit.

“The whole process of obtaining building permits (including litigation with opponents) is estimated at about five years, and 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 expects a steady increase in passenger traffic, up from more than 15 million a year now, 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´s 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 within allowed noise levels at the aerodrome.

The main competitive advantage of the newly-created airport is to be against its larger rival, the low price of services. It will try to rival the country’s largest charter carrier, Travel Service, said Kačur.

He has also admitted, however, that it is not easy. “Of course, we would like to cooperate with the Travel Service, but the operating limits – especially the airport night shutdown – will probably be unacceptable for Travel Service,” he added.