Prague's airport flies high
Prague's airport - officially called Ruzyne Airport - has experienced huge growth in the past decade, and its expansion is symbolic of the Czech Republic's increasing economic and political significance in Europe. And with entry into the European Union the airport will only get bigger...
These days when you arrive at Prague's airport, you walk into a sleek construction that does not look out of place in the worldwide family of modern air terminals. But what did Ruzyne Airport used to look like? Martin Kacur, the general director of the Czech Airports Authority, reminds us:
"The terminal building from 1989 is only today's arrivals building. This building was reconstructed during the so-called "Fourth Construction" which finished in 1997. And during this time a new processor for passenger check-ins was constructed, and the former terminal building was reconstructed and changed purely into the arrivals building."
In the last decade the airport has had to accommodate an increase in the number of passengers, from 2.3 million in 1993 to 6.3 million in 2002. In the spring of last year Pier B was opened at Ruzyne, increasing the airport's capacity to 6.5 million passengers.
And passenger numbers are only going to keep rising: in ten years time they are expected to double, as more people come to the Czech Republic for business and tourism, and more Czechs travel elsewhere. The national airline CSA will also be expanding its operations at the airport, as its membership in the Sky Team airline alliance turns Ruzyne into a key European hub.
In order to cater for even more flights and passengers, the construction of a new building will begin at Prague's airport this year. Called Terminal 2 North, it will be completed in 2005, and will expand the current size of the airport terminal by the equivalent of nine football fields. Martin Kacur again:
"Plans for the expansion of Prague airport include the construction of Terminal 2 North, which will represent the construction of a new Schengen terminal. The old terminal will remain for non-Schengen purposes. And the Czech Airports Authority has prepared some visions or ideas on how to further develop the terminal, the main extension of the terminal's capacity and the runway capacity as well."
Also planned for Prague's airport are a new hotel and conference centre and, possibly, a rail link from the airport to the city, which would provide a convenient connection between this ever-changing, modern gateway and Prague's historic centre.