Prague revamps airport to be more user-friendly for remote workers who fly for team meetings – Skift
The business travel industry had superstar cities before the pandemic. The typical business traveler or meeting organizer often arranges meetings in cities with large airports and large convention venues. In short, they preferred Paris to Prague.
Once the pandemic has subsided, Prague hopes that new technologies and new traveler behaviors can help it increase spending on business travel.
Many experts predict that a growing share of businesses will keep a percentage of their workforce remote, or distributed, for some time. Dispersed workers will frequently have to unite with their co-workers, leading to a potential boom in corporate retreats and more frequent off-site team meetings.
Prague’s central geographic location in Europe holds promise as a hub for business travel. Yet it remains best known as a weekend vacation spot. Pleasure travelers have made Prague the fourth most visited European city after London, Paris and Rome before the pandemic, according to research firm Euromonitor. It attracted over 9 million tourists in the pre-pandemic year of 2019, but far fewer business travelers.
Prague’s main airport launched an overhaul last week that aims to make the transfer of passengers traveling on separate airlines more user-friendly. The aim is to boost stopovers.
For starters, the service only works for people who purchase tickets through Kiwi.com, an online travel agency based in the Czech Republic and backed by leading private equity firm General Atlantic. But the concept could also work with other programs run by easyJet and other airlines.
Passengers who purchase a flight itinerary involving different airlines and connecting through Václav Havel Airport will now have an easier time checking their baggage on the next flight themselves.
The airport has added expedited security checkpoints for self-transfer passengers to reduce confusion and speed up boarding with its Fly Via Prague offer. Signs have been added at all terminals to direct passengers to affected lines and kiosks, reducing confusion.
The airport also offers discounts for self-transfer passengers to visit some of its lounges.
Wider trend for “Zoom Cities”
Prague is one of the few smaller cities, or “Zoom Cities”, that see an opportunity to present themselves as cheaper and easier alternatives to large urban centers for hosting business meetings and offsite retreats.
“Self-service travel was on the rise even before the current crisis, and the trend will continue,” said Jakub Puchalsky, member of the Prague airport board of directors.
Prague joins Budapest, Cologne and Reykjavík to spy on a chance to present itself as cheaper and less stressful places to transfer flights, compared to major hub airports. Cities hope to gain a greater share of hosting offsite business meetings.
Budapest, for example, is also well located in Europe and, like Prague, is best known as a place of leisure getaway. The Hungarian national airline Malev collapsed in 2012, putting it at a disadvantage in courting business travelers.
Budapest airport has therefore adopted a similar auto-connection offer to appeal to passengers transferring with Kiwi.com. Since its airport launched a so-called “BUD: connects” service at the end of 2019, the airport has seen its volume of transfer passengers increase by more than 55%, with 35,000 self-connected passengers during the first three months of 2020 before the pandemic. .
Budapest has also created downtown baggage drop-offs for travelers to encourage them to stay downtown rather than returning to airports early on the last day of their visit. The city transports luggage to the airport on behalf of passengers. A planned next phase would be to create flight check-in counters at the city’s river cruise port so that their passengers can also check-in their luggage and stay downtown rather than going directly to the airport.
Travelers can also purchase tickets for stays longer than the traditional few hours. This is part of an effort to encourage stopovers between legs of a route.
Second City success stories
Reykjavik is perhaps the well-known example to the world of a small town that has made its airport more attractive as a transfer airport in order to stimulate business and leisure visits.
Since 2010, Keflavik International Airport in Iceland has grown from an airport primarily for Icelanders to a transatlantic hub with the help of coordinated marketing and promotions with the national airline Icelandair and national organizations. The tourism boom in Iceland had many additional factors, which Skift covered in a deep dive, but promoting stopovers was a key factor.
In September 2017, EasyJet launched a global program that sells flights on select airlines and offers “seamless” connections with its own flights. Since then, Emirates, Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airlines and Virgin Atlantic have joined. EasyJet has partnered with Dohop, a price comparison site and technology company in Iceland, to run the program.
The example of Iceland has shown how a coordinated policy to make an airport more attractive for the transfer of passengers could translate into gains for leisure tourism. Several cities around the world can hope that a similar trick will now work for other cities for business travel in the era of the distributed workforce.
Photo credit: Prague is joining other smaller cities, such as Budapest, Cologne and Reykjavík, in the hope that new airport technologies and procedures will allow them to increase their spending on business travel after the pandemic, so that more off-site company gatherings are expected for dispersed workers. Prague Airport