New Lisbon airport uncertainties dominate conference
Heated and sometimes frustrated debate over the future Lisbon International Airport dominated the IV Portuguese Tourism Summit on 27 September.
Held as part of World Tourism Day, the event was dominated by the theme “The Urgency for a New Lisbon International Airport’ as critics slammed the current Montijo expansion plan as a Band-Aid solution which would only resolve the situation of crammed and inadequate facilities for 10 years.
The current airport at Portela, to the north of Lisbon and within the city boundary, has reached its capacity and many airlines, including the national carrier TAP, are unable to increase regular new services for which there is demand without pulling existing services elsewhere.
The increase in tourism, 4.5 million visited Lisbon in 2017 while around 20 million visited Portugal as a whole last year has meant that more flights, particularly from Europe and the United States, have stretched airport capacity to breaking point, with long passenger queues as check-out and waiting times at gates not to mention delayed flights.
The debate, which was moderated by TVI tv station director Pedro Pinto followed a presentation by the Minister of Planning and Infrastructures, Pedro Marques and involved the CEO of the airports authority ANA, Thierry Ligonnière; Duarte Silva, coordinator for the Lisbon Airport Expansion Project; Jorge Ponce de Leão, CEO of NAV – Air Navigation Portugal; Antonoaldo Neves, Executive CEO of TAP and Luís Silva Ribeiro, board president of ANAC – National Civil Aviation Authority.
The question launched at the CEO of ANA, Pedro Pinto, was if he could guarantee that the current airport at Lisbon, Humberto Delgado, could cope with the increase in tourist demand by 2022, a question which Thierry Ligonnière responded to by outlining a series of short-term solutions, the first step being the closure of the 17/35 runway which is used in “less than 1% of cases and whose closure would enable more airplane parking capacity which is currently one of the main problems for the current airport.
The debate also centered around the additional airport at Montijo, the so-called Portela +1 solution which would create a small airport on the south side of the River Tagus at an airforce base at which it was argued that the solution would “greatly unblock Lisbon airport’s current exhausted capacity.