Portugal’s Airports on the Rise in 2014

This year’s route successes at Lisbon Airport are already having an impact on its traffic performance. In its latest traffic results for August 2014 passenger demand rose 15.2 per cent to 1.96 million to bring year to date numbers above the 12 million passenger threshold.

This year is a milestone year for Aeroportos de Portugal (ANA) as its largest facility, Lisbon Airport, offers an annual departure capacity of more than ten million seats thanks to a network development strategy that among others has seen strong growth from national carrier TAP Portugal and the launch of a new low-cost base from budget carrier Ryanair. In 2004, airlines offered 7.7 million seats from the airport but this rose to just under ten million seats last year, a 27.7 per cent rise. Based on published schedules for the remainder of the year, this will rise to 10.7 million with capacity set to rise 7.8 per cent, positioning the airport among the fastest growing capital city gateways in the world.

This year’s route successes at Lisbon Airport are already having an impact on its traffic performance. In its latest traffic results for August 2014 passenger demand rose 15.2 per cent to 1.96 million to bring year to date numbers above the 12 million passenger threshold. The airport is the stand out performer in the ANA portfolio of airports which together handled 4.15 million passengers August 2014, versus 3.80 million in the same month last year. A key driver of the success at Lisbon and ANA’s other airports can be attributed to their destination networks which include many destinations not regularly served from other parts of Europe and a diversity of destinations within the group.

Although Lisbon dominates at ANA, accounting for almost exactly half the total passengers served by its airport network in 2013, traffic growth is also being recorded at the country’s second and third largest airports at Porto (up 5.4 per cent on the first eight months of 2013) and Faro (up 3.5 per cent across the same period).

In recent months Porto’s Francisco de Sá Carneiro Airport has welcomed new routes from Ryanair to Rennes and Limoges, while Europe Airpost has introduced weekly flights to Brest and Brive. However, it is the July 2014 announcement from easyJet that it will station two Airbus A320s in Porto from spring 2015 offering enhanced connections across Europe that has been greeted with the most excitement as the low-fare carrier expands following the successful opening its first base in Portugal at Lisbon Portela Airport in 2012.

The airline first made its entry into Portugal in 1999 and launched flights from Porto in 2007. It currently offers regular flights from Porto to Basel, Geneva, London Gatwick, Lyon, Paris CDG and Toulouse and carried almost 800,000 passengers across this network in the year between July 2013 and the end of June 2014. Although its network plans have not been confirmed, easyJet is sure to significantly expand on its current six destination network from the airport.

Alongside its leisure demand, Porto will also be a strong pull for business travellers, meeting easyJet’s development strategy to grow its share of business passengers with higher frequency services to major city destinations.

The region is economically very dynamic with the second largest national metropolitan city with a population of more than two million people, hosting numerous major corporations, newspapers and publishing companies which are headquartered in the heavily industrialised northwest of the country as well as the region of production of Portugal’s internationally famous export Port wine and other agricultural products.

“Oporto airport continues to be a key tool for the city and investments like easyJet’s demonstrate that there is space to grow. For Oporto, the installation of a base of a prestigious airline such as easyJet is also proof that the tourism and economic dynamics of the city are not just a trend, but that we are already a consolidated tourism destination where investment continues to make sense,” said Rui Moreira, Mayor of Porto following the announcement earlier this year.

Faro Airport, the main gateway to popular Algarve region of Portugal, has also gained this year from growth from easyJet with the launch of a new connection to Berlin, while British Airways has resumed a former link to London Heathrow to further support the strong demand for British visitors into the area.  The UK remains by the far the largest market for tourism arrivals into Faro Airport and the arrival of low-cost carriers has helped boost demand, but other markets have seen growth in recent years, most notably Germany and the Netherlands.

The popularity of Portugal as a leisure destination, more recently for city breaks to Lisbon and increasing business and MICE activities, mean inbound arrivals into the country have been on the rise. According to World Bank data, inbound tourism arrivals numbered just 4.57 million in 1995 but arrivals but that has now almost doubled to over 7.5 million for the past couple of years.

The work of ANA attracting new airlines has been well supported by the activities of tourism marketing agency Turismo de Portugal, which has been recognised for its efforts promoting the country in the prestigious annual World Travel Awards where it picked up the award for Europe’s Leading Tourism Board at its most recent ceremony. This was alongside a host of awards won by destinations, hotels and resorts across the country during the event.

ANA is now part of the VINCI Airports that encompasses 23 airports across France, Portugal and as far afield as Cambodia. As both an investor and operator, VINCI Airports is able to offer a broad range of expert services and can act simultaneously as the concession holder, operator and prime contractor of an airport.

Alongside the operation of airports it offers its support on ad hoc projects at airports such as in Tajikistan, where earlier this month it celebrated the soft opening of a new terminal at the country’s main international gateway, Dushanbe International Airport. VINCI Airports provided assistance to the project owner to define the terminal’s functions, assistance to airport staff during design studies and works, and staff training and assistance with commissioning the terminal. The new, 12,000 square metre international terminal will open for commercial traffic in November and can handle 1.5 mppa significantly enhancing the quality of service for airlines and passengers, as well as for safety and security.