Airport History


The intention to build an airport near the spa town of Karlovy Vary was triggered by the development of aviation and civil air transport in Czechoslovakia in the early 1920s. Already in 1925, the City Council was right in advocating the need for air connections with other cities in the country and abroad, inspired by the close city of Mariánské Lázně. There, Julius Arigi operated air transport since 1921, first through his company called IKARUS, later at the new airport opened in 1927. Mr. Arigi moved his activities from the originally used airport in Panské Pole to the village of Skláře. The AERO aircraft factory launched its operations together with the new airport and Mr. Arigi operated the Mariánské Lázně – Prague route under the factory name. In the same year the Skláře Airport launched its operation, Karlovy Vary finally found a suitable location for building its airport near the village of Olšová Vrata, and a contract was concluded between the Ministry of Public Works and the City of Karlovy Vary for the construction of an airport. Landscaping began on 28 October 1928 and went on until 1930. The cost of shaping the purchased land into an airport-fitted area cost more than a million crowns.

1929 Czechoslovak Air Routes


The airport plain was drained, recultivated and sown with grass seeds in the spring of 1930. The trapezoidal airport area, without airport buildings, had a total area of 40ha. It was not until 1930 that a hangar project was presented to the City Council, authored by Stanislav Bechyně, an academic. The study of the departure building, including a check-in area, was prepared by the architect Rudolf Weise from Karlovy Vary. For unknown reasons, neither of the proposals was accepted. In October 1931, a Prague company owned by Ing. Jan Blažek was commissioned to draft a new project. Later construction, according to the new project, was managed by Ing. Antonín Brebera, construction supervision was performed by Ing. František Solveter. New airport buildings were put into operation in 1933. The main departure building and other facilities were large enough to accommodate the passenger capacity needed at that time and featured perfect architectural design, which we admire to this day.

Airport Under Construction


Air traffic on the route Prague - Mariánské Lázně - Karlovy Vary commenced in provisional conditions on 15 May 1931 and continued developing in a promising direction. Flights were operated four times a day with the season lasting from May to October. Aero A-23 aircraft with Walter-Jupiter IV engine alongside Aero A-38 with Walter Jupiter IV engine and Fokker F VII 3m (ASvia) with Walter-Castor IV engine were used to service the route. A total of 764 flights were performed from the beginning of the operation to the end of the season. 918 persons and 3,572 kilograms of cargo were transported.

Overall View of New Karlovy Vary Airport


During 1932, Karlovy Vary Airport enjoyed priority over Mariánské Lázně Airport. In June 1932, customs and passport control were transferred from Mariánské Lázně Airport, and it was approved that the airport be granted permission to authorise landings of the Deutsche Lufthansa airline group during its flights between Saská Kamenice and Mariánské Lázně.

New Karlovy Vary Airport with Deutsche Lufthansa JU-58 on Airfield


The routes originally operated by Aero A 23 aircraft saw a change to Aero A-35 aircraft with Walter-Castor engine and an addition of a three-engine airliner Caproni Ca-37 powered by Walter-Mars engine. A Municipal Air Transport Office was opened on Theatre Square in Karlovy Vary.

During the first year, Czechoslovak Airlines operated Karlovy Vary Airport using A-23 and A-38 airliners. In the picture, in front of the airport building.


Starting 1935, Karlovy Vary Airport was connected by air with 11 cities domestically, included in the European airport network and linked by connecting flights with Budapest, Belgrade, Vienna, Berlin, Amsterdam, London, Paris and other cities.

View of the pre-war airport from the Na Vítkovce lookout restaurant.


In 1936, a total of 1,325 passengers, 704kg of mail, 35 tonnes of baggage and cargo were transported and 4,760km were flown on the Prague – Karlovy Vary route, operated with Fokker FVII-3m-Avia.3 aircraft powered by Walter-Castor engines.

Avia F-VIIb-3m Airliner Used on the Prague – Karlovy Vary Route


In 1937, 2,726 passengers, 1,359kg of mail and 60.25 tonnes of baggage and cargo were transported. In 1938, operations dropped to 1,354 transported passengers, 308kg of mail and 29.73 tonnes of baggage and cargo as that year, operations on the Karlovy Vary – Prague route were disrupted due to the proximity of the state borderline. After the Nazi occupation of Czechoslovakia, civil air transport was discontinued completely.

Passenger Boarding and Baggage Handling


During the war years, the Luftwaffe’s training regiment was stationed at the airport. On 17 April 1945, American bomber pilots performed an air strike on the railway station in Karlovy Vary. The accompanying Mustangs shelled the airport. However, fortunately, motorised aircraft and part of airport buildings, incl. the check-in hall and the hangar designed by Ing. Bechyně were not hit. Already in June 1945, the airfield was operational again.

During the War, Luftwaffe Used the Airport to Train Its Pilots


Step by step, airport buildings were repaired, and regular air traffic was resumed on the seasonal Prague – Karlovy Vary – Prague route, operated by Ju-52, Siebel 204 and later DC-3 aircraft.

DC-3 in Czechoslovak Airlines Livery


In line with a drafted two-year plan, the power line was reconstructed and the landing area was re-shaped (the initially rough surface was smoothened) to comply with the period aviation regulations.

1949 Czechoslovak Airlines Summer Flight Schedule


Starting 1952, a new era in the Karlovy Vary Airport development began. Construction of a runway featuring a cement concrete surface in the length of 2,150m, including a taxiway, commenced. Gradually, the apron area was expanded, complex reconstructions of airport facilities as well as access roads, etc. were carried out. The airport was equipped with new aviation safety technology.

New Cement Concrete Runway


Due to unprofitability, regular airport service by Czechoslovak Airlines aircraft was disrupted for a year.

Karlovy Vary Airport and Its Restaurant Outdoor Part


The operation of the airport was resumed after the completed reconstruction. In the following years, the airport handled connections to Brno, Ostrava and Košice, Berlin (Schönefeld) and ad-hoc flights to Vienna. The main type of aircraft used at that time was Ilyushin Il-14.


In 1965, airport workers built themselves a radio beacon on the hill near the village of Stružná. Year-round operation began in the same year. The relatively large number of passengers and the interest in air transport required the opening of a travel agency in the city.


In 1967, a record number of transported passengers was reached, namely 47 thousand.


Six regular flights were operated daily, four of which connected the spa town with Moravia and Slovakia. 50,000 passengers were handled in both directions.

Such Events Were Also Part of Our Airport History – Picture Taken in 1971


State measures aimed at fuel consumption reduction and a sharp rise in ticket prices caused a significant decline in interest in air travel in the following year. At Karlovy Vary Airport, traffic dropped by 74% and was eventually disrupted. At that time, the question of its further operation as a civil aviation airport was considered. Since 1981, only seasonal (summer) traffic between Prague and Karlovy Vary with the possibility of transit was maintained.


Despite the disruptions in air traffic due to declining interest in air transport, many civil aviation workers were aware of the unforeseeable and difficult-to-recover damage that would result from the closure of the airport. They firmly believed in the resumption of its operations. In the end, in the years 1984 – 1985, it was possible to cover the cement-concrete runway with an asphalt-concrete layer, as part of its complex repair and maintenance project.


The airport has re-gained the status of an international airport. Thanks to the necessary and additional investments, conditions were gradually being created to support the wider use of its capacities. At that time, the airport is connected to the public water supply and sewerage system, a new apron for GA aircraft is built and the airport is fenced off.


Czech Airports Authority, State Enterprise, completed the internal reconstruction of the original airport departure hall in connection with the launch of regular Czech Airlines route to Moscow in February 1998.


Air Traffic Control of the Czech Republic, State Enterprise, completed the construction of a new control tower. At the same time, TOTAL completed the construction of a modern warehouse and facilities for the provision of aircraft re-fuelling services to air carriers.


Effective 1 July 2004, a significant change in the airport ownership appeared. The State transferred the ownership to the Karlovy Vary Region and the airport operator was subsequently appointed on the basis of an Enterprise Lease Agreement concluded with the Letiště Karlovy Vary s.r.o. (Limited Liability Company), 100% owned by the Karlovy Vary Region. The company performs the role of the airport operator to date. In the same year, the preparatory phase of an ambitious plan for the Karlovy Vary Airport modernisation began.


Towards the end of the year, the initial stage of airport modernisation commenced, focused on further reconstruction of the runway surface in order to improve its technical parameters, primarily the load capacity and longitudinal sloping. The total costs reached CZK 113.5 million and were covered by the Karlovy Vary Region (CZK 80 million) and the ERDF programme – Infrastructure Operational Programme (CZK 33.5 million).


Simultaneously performed First (I) and Second (II) airport modernisation phases were finished, including a reconstruction of light signalling equipment, thanks to which the airport's accessibility in worsened weather conditions was increased and landing limits corresponding to ICAO CAT I category were reduced. The total costs of 33.5 million were covered by the operator, Karlovy Vary Airport (CZK 17.9 million), and the INTERREG III A Community Initiative (CZK 15.6 million).


The initial stage of airport modernisation Phase III was launched, adapting the terminal building to the requirements for passenger handling in accordance with the Schengen Agreements. The total costs of 56 million were covered by the Karlovy Vary Region (CZK 39 million) and the Norwegian Financial Mechanisms (CZK 17 million).
There was also a significant increase in traffic this year, and in addition to regular Czech Airlines and Aeroflot flights to Moscow, a route to St. Petersburg was launched. In total, over 64 thousand passengers were handled at the airport.


Simultaneously with the finalisation of the First stage, the 2nd stage of airport modernisation Phase III was onset, including the construction of a new terminal building for passenger handling in the airport public area and an increase in capacity. Six new check-in counters, three metal-detection frames and X-rays for passenger security control, new commercial areas, a VIP lounge and a business lounge alongside new administrative areas were built. Thus, the hourly capacity of checked-in passengers was increased to 250, while the annual passenger handling capacity reached 400 – 500 thousand. The total costs of CZK 98 million were covered by a subvention from the ERDF structural fund – ROP NUTS2 Northwest (CZK 80 million), a contribution from national public sources (CZK 7 million) and funds provided by the Karlovy Vary Region (CZK 11 million). Selected technology above the scope of the aforementioned costs were covered from the airport operator's resources.


The number of passengers handled reached almost 100,000. Alongside flights to Moscow and St. Petersburg, there were also flights to Ekaterinburg (Ural Airlines), Samara (Czech Airlines), Kyiv (Aerosvit) and Baku (AZAL).


A record number of handled passengers was reached in 2013. 104,469 passengers passed through the gate of Karlovy Vary Airport and the company revenue reached CZK 10.3 million.


A new Rescue and Fire Station launched its operation at the airport. At the same time, the decline in the airport performance continued due to the Crimean crisis and the drop in Russian spa guests visiting the Karlovy Vary Region. 21,000 passengers were handled in total during the year, and operations of all air carriers, except the Czech Airlines route to Moscow, were discontinued.


This year, Czech Airlines also disrupted its regular operations. As a replacement for the connection to the traditional destination of Moscow, POBEDA airlines launched its operations on the Karlovy Vary - Moscow / Vnukovo Airport route and the number of passengers handled increased to 45 thousand.


Traffic generated by POBEDA airlines continued to grow and a total of 62,343 passengers were handled. In June 2019, the F Air flight school began operating in the recently renovated premises of the former Aeroclub building, focusing on the training of foreign students.


Forecasts of traffic increases and numbers of passengers handled were fundamentally affected by the pandemic situation and restrictions on the free movement of persons. Effective March 2020, all regular flights were discontinued, while commercial flights were limited to a minimal volume. The total number of passengers handled was mere 17,234. On the contrary, the number of movements, thanks to the operation of the flight school, reached a historical maximum of 15,732.