Prague City Hall deals big setback to Václav Havel Airport expansion

The City Council would rather see efforts put into high-speed rail to benefit regional airports.

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 08.12.2020 12:33:00 (updated on 08.12.2020) Reading time: 3 minutes

The plan to expand Václav Havel Airport has hit a setback. The Prague City Council rejected a plan to build a parallel runway that would have doubled the airport’s capacity compared to the situation before coronavirus.

The City Council did not approve changes the city’s zoning plan, which would be needed before construction could begin. Before any airport expansion takes place, the Council wants a railway connection from rail station Masarykovo nádraží to Václav Havel Airport be commissioned.

The proposed runway would be parallel to the current main 6/24 runway, and after its commissioning the secondary 12/30 runway would close. The plan has long been opposed by people living near the airport in the Nebušice and Suchdol districts.

Building another runway was first suggested in the 1960s. Renewed interest has taken place since the airport’s 80th anniversary in 2017, when then-Finance Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO) announced the government’s plans for long-term investments in airport expansion.

Václav Havel Airport handled approximately 17 million passengers before the corona crisis in 2019. With a current capacity of approximately 21 million passengers, the planned runway would increase this to between 30 million and 35 million passengers a year.

The City Council wants the Czech government to develop an air transport concept that assesses options for increasing the capacity at regional airports. The impact of tourism on regional development and the impact on climate commitments made by the Czech Republic also need to be considered.

“The government wants to invest CZK 30 billion in Václav Havel Airport in a situation where billions have already been invested in the development of regional airports, which are facing losses and whose operation is subsidized from public funds. This indicates the absence of a government strategy in the field of public air transport,” Prague Deputy Mayor Petr Hlubuček (United Force for Prague), responsible for environment and security, said in a press release.

“The decision by the Prague City Council is not a rejection of the development of Václav Havel Airport. Air transport has an indisputable place in the future economic development of Prague, and it is clear that Václav Havel Airport must be developed and modernized,” Hlubuček said.

He maintains that the airport can develop even without the construction of another runway, which he says would disproportionately burden the quality of life of thousands of Prague residents. Investments in the expansion of existing terminals and in modifying operations will enable the further development of the airport.

“London's Gatwick, with one runway, will handle more passengers than Václav Havel Airport,” he said.

The City Council also wants to prepare an updated noise study that will evaluate the need for investments to minimize noise pollution, and assess the economic and social impact of airport expansion. This would take into account growth in what the Council calls undesirable forms and tourism together with the impact on housing affordability in Prague.

The city is also requesting an analysis of the impact of the planned high-speed rail lines on the future load of Václav Havel Airport.

“Before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, Prague was beyond the edge of sustainable tourism, and it is definitely not in the interest of Praguers to invest tens of billions in increasing the existing airport capacity in order to further increase the influx of tourists to Prague,” Hlubuček said.

Viktor Mahrik, chairman of the Pirates' assembly club, said that during an economic crisis and global instability caused by a pandemic, the spending of billions of crowns on airport expansion is debatable.

“It will not help Prague in any way. On the contrary, it seems that the completion of the airport would worsen the quality of life of Praguers. This is partly due to an increase in the emission and noise load, and partly due to the further strengthening of tourism, which burdened Prague significantly in the period before the pandemic,” he said.

He added that it seems much more efficient to invest in the development of high-speed rail lines that would put Prague in the zone covered by the surrounding airports in Central Europe.


Jan Čižinský, chairman of the Praha sobě assembly club, said the current rationale for the construction is insufficient. “There are other options to ensure comfortable access to Prague and not worsen the living conditions of Praguers, such as a functional connection between the airport and high-speed routes,” he added.

Václav Havel Airport Prague opened April 5, 1937, as Prague Ruzyně Airport. After former president Václav Havel died on Dec. 18, 2011, an online petition asked the government to rename it in his honor. This name change took place Oct. 5, 2012, on what would have been Havel’s 76th birthday.

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