Beginnings of the airport: 1932−1937
The history of the airport dates back to 1929, when the proposal of the then Czechoslovak government on the construction of a new airport was adopted. The construction of the airport started in July 1932 with minimal use of machines so that the construction could help to reduce unemployment during the crisis. The construction was completed on 1 March 1937 and the airport was immediately described by foreign experts as one of the largest in Europe. Its modern and timeless terminal became a model for many other new airports across Europe. The first aircraft landed at the new airport on 5 April 1937 at 9 a.m. It was a Douglas DC-2 travelling on the Piešťany – Zlín – Brno – Prague route. This landing was the official start of operations of the brand-new airport Prague-Ruzyně. The first international aeroplane on the Vienna – Prague – Berlin route landed in Prague one hour later.
The war years: 1940–1945
During the occupation and World War 2, the airport was operated by the military Fliegerhorst. The Nazis cancelled all Czechoslovak air transport, took over the aircraft and used them predominantly for the purposes of the army. The OK signs on aircraft were repainted D-A. The only regular flight continued, namely Berlin – Prague – Vienna, which flew once a day, provided by Deutsche Lufthansa with Junker Ju 52 aircraft.
The Nazi army used the airport’s hangars to repair military aircraft. The airport was also a base for a flying training school where bomber pilots were trained. The construction of the runway system also continued during the war, so in 1945 the airport had four runways , from 950 m to 1,800 m in length..
Thanks to the uprising in May, the airport runways remained almost undamaged and could thus be used immediately.
Post-war period: 1946–1959
After the liberation of Czechoslovakia in 1945, civil air traffic was quickly restarted. Furthermore, a proposal on the construction of a new runway and further development of the airport was approved in 1946. The airport was gradually modernised, the runways were lengthened, and a system of taxiways and a light signal system for night operation were added. In 1947–1948, a parallel runway towards the NE and SW started to be built.
Era of “normalisation”: 1960–1989
In 1960, the government decided that a new terminal should be built north of the existing one – it was therefore called North (nowadays Terminal 1). The construction itself started four years later and the new terminal with a capacity of up to 2.3 million passengers per year was ceremonially opened in June 1968. The runway system was further enhanced and the runways were lengthened to 4.3 km.
The same year, as early as in August, the airport underwent an unusual load test when aircraft of the occupation armies of the Warsaw Pact landed there.
In the 1980s, domestic flights were reduced substantially, on one hand, because of the opening of the Prague–Brno–Bratislava highway and, on the other hand, due to the cancellation of short-distance domestic flights to save fuel.
In 1986, the reconstruction of the original terminal from 1937 was completed, respecting its functionalist architecture. At present, the old building, nowadays called Terminal T4, is used mainly for VIP flights and government visitors.
The turn of the century: 1990–2011
As early as at the beginning of the 1990s, it was evident that the number of air passengers in Czechia was going to grow. Therefore, the foundation stone of a new terminal and car park was laid in June 1995. The terminal itself was opened in June 1997, with a capacity of 4.8 million passengers per year, and the South Terminal (nowadays Terminal T3), which is used for private flights in particular, dates back to the same year. One year later, a modern cargo terminal and a defrosting stand were put into operation and the airport tower was modernised.
While in 1995 the airport attended to more than three million passengers, in 2001 this number doubled, i.e. more than six million passengers passed through the airport.
In 2002 Parking C was opened, the largest multi-storey car park in Central Europe. This was also the year when the lengthened Finger B with glass-walled boarding bridges and a moving pavement began to be used and reconstruction of the service building was completed. In 2005, the number of passengers even exceeded 10 million.
In September 2005, the public part of the North 2 terminal (now Terminal 2) was officially opened and started to be used for flights within the Schengen area. After its full completion in January 2006, passengers could use 27 boarding bridges and the passenger capacity grew by approximately 30%.
Recent years: 2012–2016
In May 2012, a general overhaul started on the main runway RWY 06/24, which had been in operation since 1963. The reconstruction was carried out in several phases and ended in 2014.
In 2012, the name of Prague Airport was changed to Václav Havel Airport Prague. This happened on 5 October 2012, the anniversary of the day former president of the Czech Republic, Václav Havel, was born.
Furthermore, the airport improved and simplified its parking system in 2015 and began to use the umbrella brand Aeroparking.
On 5 October 2012, the airport in Prague-Ruzyně was renamed Václav Havel Airport Prague, which was a step approved by the Czech government in March of the same year.
The ceremony took place on 5 October 2012, i.e. on the anniversary of the birthday of the former president of Czechoslovak and later Czech Republic, Václav Havel, with many important guests attending. The celebration also included the opening of an exhibition of Václav Havel’s photographs taken by photographers from the Czech Press Agency (ČTK). The pictures date back to the period between 1988 and 2011 and were taken not only during official presidential events, but also during preparation for them, at private events during Václav Havel’s private moments. The exhibition was situated in the departure lounge of Terminal 2 and remained there until the end of the year in order to offer the general public the chance to see it.
A permanent memorial to Václav Havel can be found at the airport in the form of Bořek Šípek’s work of art, Forum Havlum. For a decade, the airport is displaying a tapestry in memory of Václav Havel designed by Petr Sís./p>
December 2011 - Shortly after the death of the former president of Czechoslovak and later Czech Republic, Václav Havel, the film director, screenwriter and producer Fero Fenič proposed the renaming of the international airport in Prague-Ruzyně after this excellent statesman, as is the case of the names of other world-class airports (JFK, Charles de Gaulle, M. R. Štefánik, etc.). The petition supporting this proposal was signed by more than 80,000 people.
March 2012 - The Czech government approved the use of the name of Václav Havel in connection with the international airport in Prague-Ruzyně at a government meeting on 21 March 2012. Dagmar Havlová agreed to the use of her husband’s name in this context.
May 2012– After consultation with linguists, the official name was published, after deciding that with regard to the international clientele of the airport the name to be used is VÁCLAV HAVEL AIRPORT PRAGUE, in the Czech version LETIŠTĚ VÁCLAVA HAVLA PRAHA.
September 2012 – From 17 to 27 September 2012, signs with the new name of the airport in the English version were installed in the airport terminals.
October 2012 – The airport was officially renamed on 5 October 2012.