Irish budget carrier Ryanair has announced plans to establish a new base, its 72nd, at Ponta Delgada Airport in the Azores after the National Civil Aviation Institute (INAC) liberalised the local market and ended the Public Service Obligation (PSO) restrictions on the routes to mainland Portugal. easyJet, which has also been campaigning for access to this market, will also launch services to Ponta Delgada from Lisbon during summer 2015.
The Government of the Azores has been working to protect local residents while creating conditions for the entry of new operators into the market, as they can generate added value to the region. For a long time flights from the Azores to both Lisbon and Porto have been restricted to being flown by local airline SATA and Portugal flag carrier TAP Portugal, both state controlled.
Alongside the relaxed restrictions on the flights to the mainland, new flights between Ponta Delgada and the islands of São Miguel and Terceira will also be permitted, although island residents will retain fare reductions to utilise these flights.
Ryanair will base a single Boeing 737-800 at Ponta Delgada from April 2015 to introduce flights to Lisbon, Oporto and London Stansted. The carrier says this will represent a $100 million investment in the Azores and will deliver around 350,000 passengers per annum.
The airline will offer up to two flights per day to Lisbon, a six times weekly link to Porto and a weekly service to London Stansted from April 15, 2015. It is also in discussions with the Government of the Azores about possible services to Terceira and additional international flights to the Islands.
“On behalf of the Azorean Government, I want to welcome Ryanair to the Azores. I hope and expect that Ryanair will achieve great success with its operations here in the Azores, and we look forward to working together to promote the development of tourism on our islands,” said Vitor Manuel Angelo Fraga, Secretary for Tourism and Transport, Azores.
In our analysis, below, we highlight passenger flows between Ponta Delgada and Lisbon and Porto over the past ten years.