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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

Montijo
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.

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Diogo

Portugal is a disgrace, nothing gets done. I am Portuguese.

SENichols

Lisbon’s airport is a awful airport. I had to fly though it last fall and the Porto airport put it to shame.

Roberto

At least there is a metro/subway that goes to the airport. They do need more gates though. Having to deplane on the tarmac and take a bus to the terminal is a hassle after a long flight… especially from San Francisco. At least TAP has some nice/new planes for the long haul flights. This airline is improving and much better than most US airlines.

Guilherme

Even São Paulo and Rio have two airports. Lisbon needs it too.

chaim

both those cities are wy bigger than portigal thats not an even

chaim

i hate when a city has 2 airports it means that whean transfering half the flights involve changing airports especially whean using two airlines also i hate whean an airport is called london but in fact is over an hour away from the city and costs 50$ by train that can some times be more than the price for the flight it should be illegal to name an airport after a city unless its really there

Wayne

I would move all of the low cost, tourist airlines there. Lufthsana, Swiss and star alliance; excluding air Canada rouge would remain and this would allow TAP to expand and become a good alternative to frankfurt, munich, Zurich and vienna.

noddy bray

why Lisbon? central Portugal needs an airport and better rail ilnks.

Diogo

Montijo airstrip is a military airbase with far less traffic than any civil airport; environmental studies are in fact a must as it will have a huge impact in all surrounding ecosystems, not to mention that typical routes will also cross highly populated areas at a low altitude. There was another possible location, Alcochete, which is at about the same distance to Lisbon but what completely disregarded by the competend authorities. Please check Montijo vs Alcochete. https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.dn.pt/dinheiro/amp/como-a-crise-passou-a-perna-a-alcochete-e-deu-asas-ao-montijo-11348923.html

Diogo

Montijo airstrip belongs to a military base with much less traffic than any civil airport. Creating an airport there has severe environment consequences which were already documented in several studies. Landing and take off will still be done over highly populated areas, at a very low altitude, just like in current Lisbon airport, and this has also been documented in studies. And more of 10% of the budget will be used to compensate the Air Force for their relocation. Something shady here??? There is much more viable possible location for the new airport, Alcochete, but it has been totally disregarded… Read more »

Gina

I live in California and in order to fly to Portugal I have to catch several planes just to get to Madeira abs quite expensive …. I welcome to competition!
Lets get these prices lower !

Joseph Soalheira

The contents of this article are old news! I did a business and economics degree in Lisbon 35 years ago and the Montijo/Lisbon airport was imminent then but it had been on the cards for at least 2 more decades then. The fact is that the privatisation was poorly done from one government monopoly to the ANA monopoly. That airport is one of the worst in the world and I have visited over 100 cities. The fact that TAP, equally one of the worst companies in the world to fly with , continues to operate as if the airport belonged… Read more »