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Experiencing the ‘Czech spirit’ at Prague Airport

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3 January 2023

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Jaroslav Filip, Aviation Business Director at Prague Airport outlines how, despite the challenges faced within aviation over the past couple of years, passengers continue to travel to one of the world’s top 10 travel destinations; the captivating country that is the Czech Republic and its capital city, Prague.

How did the COVID-19 pandemic impact your airport operations? How are things going for the airport now?

It is great to see our traffic resume. Last summer season, our passenger volumes returned to 65 per cent of pre-COVID-19 numbers, whereas outgoing from Prague Airport was much stronger when it reached nearly 100 per cent of pre-COVID-19 figures. When governments relaxed the travel and lockdown restrictions, we were able to see immediately the evident return in demand.

With Václav Havel Airport Prague being at the centre of Europe, we are facing challenges related to the war in Ukraine and a lack in passenger traffic from Ukraine and Russia. Furthermore, last summer, we continued to see a decrease in traffic from our Asian passenger markets as strong COVID-19 restrictions prevailed there during the entire season. But again, as Asian countries are currently lifting restrictions, we can see an immediate increase in the incoming demand. Currently, the best examples may be Thailand alongside the still strengthening outgoing demand from the Czech Republic as a whole.

In 2019, and before the ‘great pandemic’ hit, we were reporting over 17.8 million passengers travelling through Prague Airport. We will highly likely exceed a total of 10 million passengers at the end of 2022, which is around 60 per cent of pre-pandemic (2019) volumes and slightly above our predictions from the beginning of the year.

Has your passenger demographic shifted?

With Prague being the beautiful capital of the Czech Republic, our incoming traffic has almost always been leisure driven. In fact, Prague is one of the top 10 destinations in the world for travellers to visit. Visiting Friends and Relatives (VFR) is not a key driver for passenger traffic in the Czech Republic.
On the other hand, outbound tourism has changed during the last two years. It is stronger than it was in previous years. The proof was the speed of recovery, but also, for example, the higher share of Czech clients travelling between the USA and the Czech Republic in 2022. On the contrary, in 2019, it was U.S. passengers dominating the travel market between Prague and America, especially on direct flights. We are very happy for such development and want to continue to support

What is Prague Airport’s route development strategy?

We would like to become the destination of choice for passengers travelling between Prague and Western Europe, North America, and Asia. Our airport also used to be very well connected with Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries. Now, we can see strong incoming traffic from France, Spain, and finally the UK, which was our strongest market back in 2019. The resumed Delta Air Lines direct connection from Prague to New York was enormously successful during last summer, which is the proof that we have to insist on our effort to strengthen direct connections with North America as one of our top priorities. Looking to the future, we hope to connect Prague with Chicago, as well as Florida in the U.S. We would also like to add more capacity from Asia and the Middle East. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, we had a direct connection from Seoul, Incheon, which was served by both Czech Airlines and Korean Air. We can see huge potential in VFR travel between Prague and Hanoi due to our strong Vietnamese community. I believe, the Czech Republic is the home to the third largest Vietnamese community in Europe. Furthermore, I must mention strong demand for Tokyo, Taipei or Delhi connections, our aim to restore direct air connections with China, and, last but not least, to continue developing new direct services from the Middle East. This year, new direct routes were launched from Riyadh, Kuwait, and Oman and there is potential for more.

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