An interview with Vaclav Rehor, CEO Prague Airport. By Nick Preston
Prague Airport reached the record milestone of 15 million passengers in 2017 and has announced extensive development plans going beyond 2035. Among the projects that will be realised over the next two decades are a new central security check area, new check-in desks, new aircraft stands, an extended terminal and a brand new parallel runway.
“We have recently introduced our development plans covering the period of time to 2035 and in some cases beyond,” explains Vaclav Rehor, CEO Prague Airport. “The plans can be split into three phases. The short-term development plan is focused on increasing passenger capacity within the current shape of the airport. That phase is happening right now. Mid-term development will include the first part of a new Terminal 2 and the construction of a new parallel runway. These two major projects should be realised approximately between 2022 and 2026 and are designed to increase the airport’s capacity up to 21 million passengers. The estimated cost of all short-term and mid-term development projects is €1 billion.”
“The long-term plan will involve the development of public areas in close proximity to the terminals – the so-called Airport City North and Airport City South – and this should be completed around 2035. We expect passenger numbers to double by the time the long-term development will be in progress,” continues Rehor. “In 2026, which is the year we expect the parallel runway to open, the number of passengers is forecast to increase up to 21 million.”
“The combined capacity of Terminals 1 and 2 is currently 15.5 million passengers per year, which is a limit we have already reached. However, in the last couple of years we have been working hard on increasing the capacity of the airport within the current shape of both terminals,” adds Rehor. “This year, for example, we are just about to open a new central security area which will increase security check capacity by up to 40%. We will also shortly open new high capacity carousels for checked baggage, as well as a new gate for long-haul aircraft. These developments and other projects should allow us to handle more than 17 million passengers this year, and to also manage potential growth in the coming years. The new parallel runway is absolutely necessary if we want to grow. Even now in peak times, we are struggling to satisfy demand from airlines for the most attractive landing slots. The new runway will be 3,220m long and will increase movement capacity at peak times by up to 50%.”
Harnessing digital developments
“Our development plans are based on two pillars: construction and technology,” says Rehor. “Within the technological pillar we are looking for new innovative digital solutions, as we are aware that the future is not just about concrete and glass, but primarily about new technologies which will be relevant for passengers in 10 or 20 years’ time. When it comes to digital, we are focusing on five areas: customer experience, future security, future mobility, virtual shopping and seamless passenger journeys.”
Looking to the airport’s future route network, Rehor identifies several markets with potential. “Prague is a destination-driven airport, which means our operational growth depends mostly on inbound demand. That is the reason we are looking primarily at markets with high inbound potential. On the other hand, a well-established route network satisfying incoming demand can also support growth of the outbound market. Destinations such as Hong Kong or Tokyo have significant inbound potential for us, while Bangkok is part of our outbound strategy as well. We aim to have a balance between full-service and low-cost carriers. Currently, low-cost carriers represent about 30% of our traffic, while legacy airlines hold a 70% share. That is a perfect proportion we want to maintain.”