Transportation Updates

Ryanair Calls TAP Air Portugal Out For “Hoarding” Lisbon Slots

On Friday, October 15th, Ryanair announced that it had canceled 700 flights and three routes out of Lisbon, citing “TAP [Air Portugal’s] continued hoarding of unused take-off and landing slots” at Lisbon Airport. Highlighting the benefits of Ryanair serving Lisbon, the budget carrier called on government bodies to intervene on the matter.

Ryanair uses Terminal 2 at Lisbon Humberto Delgado Airport (LIS). Photo: Getty Images

“It is essential that Portugal’s critical national infrastructure is used to support the local economy and not abused to protect an inefficient zombie airline, which the Portuguese Government has already wasted €3bn of taxpayers’ money on.” -Ryanair

Slot blocked

Announcing the cancelation of 700 flights and three Lisbon routes (Tours, Oujda, and Bari) this winter, Ryanair blames anti-competitive behavior by TAP Air Portugal, which it accuses of hoarding take-off and landing slots and “slot blocking” at Lisbon’s Humberto Delgado Airport.

The budget carrier, which calls the airport Lisbon Portela in its official statement, says that it has been prevented from obtaining sufficient slots for its planned growth, despite the assistance of the slot coordinator and the airport operator.

Ryanair goes on to say that TAP wouldn’t be able to use all of the slots that it holds anyways, as it has plans to cut its fleet by 20%.

TAP Air Portugal Airbus A330-941 CS-TUA
Lisbon Airport is the home and hub of TAP Air Portugal. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

“We deeply regret these unnecessary disruptions to passengers from these cancelled flights and routes caused by TAP’s blocking of slots which it is not using. This anti-competitive slot blocking obstructs the growth of airlines and the recovery of traffic, tourism and jobs at Lisbon Portela Airport, to the detriment of Portuguese consumers.” -Michael O’Leary, CEO, Ryanair Group

Calling for government intervention

Ryanair is calling for the Portuguese Government and the European Commission to intervene to end TAP’s blocking of unused airport slots. The airline and its CEO are also calling for the opening of Lisbon Montijo Airport:

“We now call on the Portuguese Government and the European Commission to intervene to free up these unused slots at Lisbon Portela Airport and to urgently open Lisbon Montijo Airport,” airline CEO Michael O’Leary states.

Plans for this second Lisbon airport have been tossed around for around 50 years, with the most recent Reuters report noting that the government wanted to build the facility in 2019- something that could be done within a year with a military airbase already established. However, the plan was rejected by Portugal’s civil aviation regulator, citing disapproval by a number of municipalities in and around the new airport, with some citing environmental concerns.

Ryanair, COVID-19, Change Fee
Ryanair has based seven of its Boeing 737s at Lisbon Airport. Photo: Getty Images

With Ryanair’s statement released on a Friday, it is uncertain if TAP and its leadership will have a chance to respond over the weekend. Nonetheless, Simple Flying reached out to TAP for its own statement and to address Ryanair’s accusations.

For now, Ryanair says that it will keep all seven aircraft and crew in place in Lisbon this winter, “to ensure it is ready and able to reinstate all flights if sufficient slots are freed up.”

What do you think of this situation? Will the relevant authorities respond favorably to Ryanair’s calls for intervention? Let us know by leaving a comment.

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