TAP Air Portugal Not Interested In New Lisbon Airport

Lisbon needs a second airport. In fact, it’s been desperate for more capacity since about 2018, when the existing airport was proclaimed ‘full’. Airport operator ANA Airports of Portugal has been working on a plan to annex an airbase in neighboring Montijo as an overspill for the city. However, its likely biggest customer, TAP Air Portugal, has firmly stated it has no interest in moving to the new facility at all.

Tap Portugal express
TAP is ‘not interested’ in the new Lisbon airport. Photo: Getty

Talks of a second airport for Lisbon have been grinding along for more than five decades. Now, with the existing Humberto Delgado Airport experiencing something of a capacity crunch, ANA Airports of Portugal, the operators of the facility, are considering using a neighboring airbase to provide much-needed slots.

In fact, this idea was first floated way back in 2017, but has taken some time to develop into a solid idea. Last month, Lisbon’s second airport moved a step closer to becoming a reality, as the Portuguese Environmental Agency (APA) finally gave it the thumbs up. The caveat? Every airline will be charged a €4.50 ($5) ‘pollution bill’ as compensation for the airport’s construction.

Lisbon new airport
ANA airports chief executive officer Thierry Ligonniere, Portuguese Finance State Secretary Ricardo Mourinho Felix, Portuguese Infrastructure Minster Pedro Marques and ANA Airports chairperson Jose Luis Arnaut sign an agreement between the Portuguese government and ANA airports for the expansion of the Lisbon airport to Montijo. Photo: Getty

However, it looks like ANA is on its own in footing the bill for the construction of the airport, as local airline TAP Portugal has said it is not interested in helping out. According to CAPA, the airline has said it has no interest in moving to the new airport, and therefore will not be co-financing the development in any way.

Why TAP isn’t interested in the new airport

As long ago as October 2018, it was reported by Blue Swan that TAP would not be interested in using the new airport, even after it’s built. At the time, TAP’s CEO Antonoaldo Neves stated that using the new airport was not in line with TAP’s hub and spoke strategy. He said,

“I’m in favor of Montijo but don’t want to use it… I wish all the best for Montijo, as soon as possible.”

Mr. Neves supported the notion that Lisbon’s existing airport was completely exhausted of capacity, and that a new airport was needed urgently. However, he is clearly looking for TAP to remain, along with TAP Express, at the existing Humberto Delgado Airport instead of moving to the new one.

What’s happening with the new airport?

Montijo airbase is around 20km from the existing airport, and is out of town in terms of geography. Lisbon’s current airport is unable to expand from its footprint due to the proximity of residential and commercial districts. As such, Montijo would not only provide the capacity Portugal needs right now, but would also be a future-proofed solution, able to expand more in the future as needed.

Away from the city, Montijo airbase has room to grow. Photo: jcornelius via Wikimedia

It was originally earmarked to be open for business from 2022 onwards. Originally, it was thought that it would be a replacement for Humberto Delgado, with all airlines moving there. However, the rapid rise in tourism to Portugal has meant this is no longer an option. Now, the new airport will work in tandem with the existing one, providing overflow capacity and acting as a hub for some airlines.

But which? With TAP clearly not keen to move its operations, who will use the new airport?

Well, just as low-cost carriers have moved out of Gatwick and Heathrow in favor of cheaper and less slot constricted London airports, so might they be encouraged to do so in Portugal. CAPA estimates 25% of seat capacity at Lisbon is on LCCs, with Ryanair leading the pack, followed by easyJet and Vueling.

Ryanair, Profits, Boeing 737 MAX
Ryanair has almost 12% of the capacity at the existing Lisbon airport. Photo: Ryanair

In fact, Ryanair has been somewhat outspoken in its support for the new airport, with CEO Michael O’Leary even calling for ANA to be kicked off the project in order to get things moving. Back in 2017, Algarve Daily News reported him saying,

“Real competition will be good for the consumer. The problem is in the way airports in Portugal are organized. ANA is a monopoly, so there is no competition … Montijo is already there, there is a runway there, there are flights … and now ANA asks for an environmental study? Why? The track is there, it is not a nature reserve, it is already an airport. But it’s a way of delaying it all until 2021, so ANA can raise prices in Lisbon even higher and make even more money.”

Clearly, Ryanair will be one of the first airlines to move operations to Montijo once it finally opens. Could it become the low-cost hub for Portugal? Let us know in the comments.