How often do we travel through airports without really considering what goes on behind the scenes? I never really consider these inner-workings unless I’m endlessly frustrated by a lost bag or seemingly useless flight delay. Well, thanks to the kindness of the communications team at Prague Airport, I was able to see exactly what it takes to fly me to my favorite destinations. As a Prague inhabitant, I fly out of Prague Airport quite often, so I was thrilled to explore this particular airport- it’s almost like a second home!
The Start of Your Journey at Prague Airport
When you first arrive to Prague Airport, the first logical step is checking in and dropping off your bags. If you’re departing from Terminal 2, which is the terminal for all Schengen area flights, you have the benefit of adding Private Check-In to your airport experience. In almost all cases, this is the kind of thing I would recommend skipping, but what Prague Airport offers is well worth the 999 CZK in value. With this service, you will drop your bags and travel documents at the VIP check-in desk and proceed to the Raiffeisen Bank lounge. There, you’ll have access to typical lounge amenities including drinks and snacks. While you wait, your travel documents, boarding pass, and checked-in baggage tag will be delivered to you in time for you to go through a private security screening just before your flight boards.
I have access to this lounge as a Raiffeisen Bank customer, so I was already familiar with its services even prior to this tour of Prague Airport; the lounge and amenities it offers are fantastic, especially the private security screening. Seriously, I loath having to go through “regular” security screenings at all now that I’ve lived in the lap of luxury at Prague Airport.
60% of Prague Airport’s flights department from Terminal 2, so it’s likely you’ll have the chance to use this service. If not, unfortunately there is no similar service in Terminal 1, although there is still a Raifeissen Lounge after immigration control that you can utilize.
While you’re lounging away at the Raiffeisen Lounge, or in the departures area, there is loads happening to get you from Prague to your destination on time and with all of your baggage. First, your baggage moves through an absolutely massive baggage sorting area to go through a security check and to be loaded onto the correct plane. Honestly, this is one piece of Prague Airport that I had never really thought about before, but I was stunned to see just how large this sorting and processing area was. Think Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, but with no chocolate and loads of suitcases. It was just never-ending belts, scanners, and x-ray machines with the occasional airport staff member moving things along.
While your baggage is moving right along, there is still the aircraft to consider. Prague Airport is a Coordinated Airport that uses the A-CDM (Airport Coordinated Decision Making) method of airport coordination. This means that all flights are scheduled into very specific time slots, and all processes regarding the arrival, turn-around, pre-departure, and take-off of flights are highly predictable based on sequencing processes. This all sounds very complicated, but in fact, it’s very logical, and it explains why a small delay can turn into a much bigger delay if a flight misses its window for take-off. Currently, Prague Airport uses one runway for all major take offs and landings, so it is crucial that all aircraft maintain tight schedules. The Command Operations Center is carefully controlling this while you stroll through the airport sipping your second cappuccino to ensure that all flights take off and land safely and efficiently.
Prague Airport does technically operate 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, but because of noise restrictions, its overnight flights are very limited which leads to even tighter controls of flight times during the day. One small delay can really uproot the entire system, so the room for error is limited.
In Case of Emergency
Prague Airport is well-prepared to handle any type of emergency that may occur on or off the runway. After 2001, security in the airport increased tenfold, like it did internationally. Fortunately, Prague Airport’s security is incredibly efficient, even if you’re not using the private security screening. In Terminal 1, security takes place as you enter your gate, which means each gate has its own security checkpoint. Once you pass the immigration desks, you’re free to roam security checkpoint-free until your gate opens! In Terminal 2, there is a more traditional centralized security, but the lines move at impressive speed. I still prefer my Raifeissen personal screening, because who needs to rush when you can be the only person at security?
Security concerns are not the only types of potential emergencies that airports face. Another which is less-often considered, but still vital for staff to consider, is the potential of fire somewhere at the airport, on a plane, or on a runway. Prague Airport has invested heavily into its fire brigade, and now owns 4 Panther vehicles, which are quite easily the coolest emergency vehicles I’ve ever seen. I’m a former EMT, so I’ve seen my fair share of emergency vehicles, but these really top the cake. Imagine a firetruck that needs only one person to operate the entire thing including the water and foam hoses? These vehicles (worth more than $1 million each) do just that. In fact, the Prague Airport Fire Brigade is well known to be the best fire company in the entire country, and is sometimes called to the nearby highway for large-scale emergencies- who knew!
Time for Take Off!
As I mentioned, there is just one runway for all commercial take offs and landings at Prague Airport. There is also a smaller runway for Terminal 3 where the fancy planes (ie. private charters) take off, but us regulars don’t tend to use that one too often! This runway is carefully managed, however, to prevent any kind of back-up so there really aren’t too many lines of planes waiting around to take off or circling around waiting to land.
Right now, the largest type of plane servicing Prague Airport is the Airbus A380, with Emirates Airlines running flights to and from Dubai daily. These big planes are a bit few and far between, however. You’re more likely to see standard-sized planes used to shuttle passengers from Prague Airport to transfer hubs in Europe. Every once in a while, you’ll catch a smaller charter flight- ranging from private jets to the Cessna 206 I got to take a spin in from Terminal 3!
Prague Airport is such an incredible organizational achievement. I fly internationally quite regularly almost always out of Prague Airport, and I’ve never been disappointed by the level of service provided by all staff members. Everything always seems to run very smoothly, and I find it’s one of the few airports I fly from where I have no pre-flight stress from security lines, long check-in lines, or flight delays that threaten my travel plans.
If you’re interested in seeing a back-stage look at Prague Airport, check out these guided tours! Not all stops I’ve mentioned are included in the public tour (like the Command Ops, for example), but these tours will still be an excellent way for any aviation fan to get an inside-look into one of Europe’s fastest growing airports.
This tour of Prague Airport was provided to me free of charge. As always, all opinions are honest and based on my own experiences.
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