After 17 long years, the people of South Bohemia can finally travel abroad for vacations from Planá u Českých Budějovic. The České Budějovice Airport, in collaboration with Čedok, is launching flights to tourist destinations in Turkey and Greece. On Wednesday, 189 passengers departed from the airport’s terminal, and at 9:30 pm, a Boeing 737 took off for Antalya, Turkey. Jiří Jirmus, a native of South Bohemia, pilot the plane. A total of 28 flights are scheduled to take place at the airport this year.
Passengers who arrived two hours before departure at the airport’s check-in hall on Wednesday knew that flying from České Budějovice to the world was a truly exceptional experience. “I am a native of České Budějovice, and I was looking forward to flying from here to the world for a vacation. I think České Budějovice deserves an international airport, and we will be somewhat famous,” said Monika Dvořákov before flying to Turkey.
Other vacationers took a similar approach to the trip. “We saved the trip to Prague, and everything is much less demanding on time. We would have to travel by train and be tired when we arrived at the airport. This way, it’s much more comfortable,” said Iva Vopalecká. Most of the 180 passengers on Wednesday’s flight were from South Bohemia. Southern Bohemians have been waiting for large foreign flights from Planá for 17 long years, and on Wednesday, curious onlookers came to see the Boeing’s landing and takeoff. Several dozen people crowded around the fence in front of the landing pad.
“Operating a regional airport is not easy, but we are revitalizing what we have here. We no longer have to travel four hours in advance to Prague. It is a historic moment for South Bohemia and České Budějovice,” said Martin Kuba, the governor of the South Bohemian Region, before the first flight. Martin Kupka, the Minister of Transport, shared the same view. “This day proves that visions can be fulfilled,” Kupka emphasized.
The army owned the airport in Planá, and in 2006, the city of České Budějovice and the South Bohemian Region founded a company specializing in civil aviation. However, the possibility of flights abroad with larger airplanes was only discussed for 17 years. The city and the region poured considerable financial resources into the airport. Investments and operations during the years amounted to nearly two billion crowns. Even though terminals and the headquarters building were built, only small planes landed there, and helicopter emergency crews were stationed at the heliport. Even in January of this year, there was a crisis center for refugees from Ukraine.
Significant changes that would lead to flights abroad were started by the current management of the South Bohemian Region, which bought a stake in the České Budějovice Airport company from the city. Eventually, Governor Martin Kuba realized that the airport could also be controlled from a remote tower and did not have to strive for some certifications.
“The negotiations with people from Air Traffic Control and the Civil Aviation Authority were groundbreaking. I have always said that the readiness of the political representation and airport management was not behind the investments and essentially admitted how complicated it is to go through all certifications. We have been listening to certification for years, and it was clear that we would not get anywhere like this. We linked the airport with Air Traffic Control, which will help us with everything, and in the future, we will have an airport controlled from a remote tower,” explained the governor.
He added that remote tower control should also gradually be introduced in Karlovy Vary or Brno. The change included a change of director at the České Budějovice Airport company, with Ivan Trhlík arriving in March. He and his team of employees prepared everything for the first large flights. Passengers at Planá Airport have free parking and shuttle service. The check-in building has a cozy atmosphere, three terminals, and a restaurant. The flight capacity is currently estimated at 180 passengers per flight.
According to the governor, the airport should modestly move forward in its development. “I don’t want to paint a rosy picture. I am cautious about this. We will try to make this regional airport serve South Bohemians and prosper economically. A few difficult steps will still decide the future,” Kuba concluded.