Government selects Alcochete as new airport site but will take10 years to ready

 In Aviation, New Airport, News, Tourism

Portugal’s government announced this week that it has selected a former army shooting range site at Alcochete on the South bank of the River Tagus, some 45km from Lisbon, as the location for the capital’s new international airport which has been already christened Luís de Camões International Airport.

The decision ends months of weighing options, years of speculation, and decades of waiting since an initial proposal for a new international airport was first discussed in the 1960s during Portugal’s dictatorship.

However, the new airport will take years to build and will not be fully operational for 10 years. In the meantime, the government will have to look at ways to adapt and improve the current Humberto Delgado International Airport in Lisbon until the new airport is ready.

The site for the new airport — to eventually replace existing facilities which have already been up to capacity for some years, resulting in applications for new routes and additional flight services being turned down — was recommended by a special independent technical commission as the best option.

But despite literally dozens of studies into suggested locations for the new airport site over the past 20 years, more detailed studies will now have to be commissioned for the selected site itself along with a new environmental impact statement that will have to be issued, and discussions with Portugal’s current airport management company ANA – Aeroportos de Portugal over the concession to manage the new airport.

ANA – Aeroportos de Portugal, which is owned by the French multinational airports management company Vinci Group, is said to have preferred Montijo as the site for a new airport, and was supported by Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary because an existing runway could, according to him, be readied and made operational within a couple of years at a low cost.

In any case, a Memorandum of Understanding signed between the government and ANA has expired and new deadlines to present a proposal will have to be agreed and submitted.

The estimated cost of the new airport is said to be €8Bn which will likely be paid up front by the government with the investment recovered over time from passengers and tax payers.

Until Alcochete is ready, and to allay concerns from the tourism sector, the government will take measures to ease the current restraints at the existing airport in terms of borders control, air traffic control, and the airforce so that Humberto Delgado can accommodate more than the current limit of 38 landings and takeoffs per hour, extending them to 50 per hour.

ANA plans to invest €300 million this year to install new passenger boarding bridges (PBB), and new aircraft parking positions, while an adjacent decommissioned Figo Maduro airforce base would be used to park aircraft. However, negotiations with the airforce are still ongoing.