In a vote of ‘no confidence’ in Portugal’s French-owned airports operator ANA, Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary said that the management of the new Montijo airport “needs competition.”
"Real competition will be good for the consumer," said O’Leary, adding that thanks to its monopoly position, ANA is postponing the opening of Montijo as a complementary one to Lisbon airport.
"The competition has to work. Like football, there is not just one club," said the CEO at a news conference in Lisbon today.
Asked about the concession contract in place for ANA to manage all Portugal’s domestic airports, including the forthcoming Montijo, O'Leary replied that it is up to the government to decide but "if there was another operator for Montijo, the airport would open earlier."
It’s O’Leary’s contention that ANA continues to impose constraints on increasing traffic at Lisbon’s Humberto Delgado airport and that movements should reach at least 50 per hour, against the current 40.
O'Leary also criticised the need to carry out an environmental study at Montijo as military flights operate in Montijo and nobody worries about their effect on the environment.
"Now that the Portuguese are champions in football and song, they also should be in tourism. Besides you hate to lose to Spain," said O’Leary, referring to the possibility of flights being diverted to Málaga or Valencia where fees are decreasing, unlike in Portugal where they are going up and up.
"Lisbon has a runway with about 24 million passengers a year. With one runway, there should be 60 million passengers. The constraints are completely artificial at 44 movements per hour - Gatwick has 55. It just increased to 50 movements per hour and suddenly it has 20% more capacity and goes from 23 million to 30 million passengers."
"The problem," explains Michael O'Leary, "is in the way airports in Portugal are organised. ANA is a monopoly, so there is no competition; Vinci Group now holds the monopoly, so they do not want competition and when the obvious solution to solve the constraints in Lisbon’s Portela airport is to open Montijo, they continue to find new ways to delay the opening."
"Montijo is already there, there is a runway there, there are flights ... and now ANA asks for an environmental study? Why? The track is there, it is not a nature reserve, it is already an airport. But it's a way of delaying it all until 2021, so ANA can raise prices in Lisbon even higher and make even more money."
There also is an intriguing prospect that Ryanair and TAP will enter into a deal, the two airlines are talking again after a period of reflection.
Ryanair announced a record number of reservations on its scheduled summer flights and is forecast to carry 3.2 million customers a year on the Lisbon route. There is a new service for Terceira in the Açores and more flights to Ponta Delgada.
"This year Ryanair will transport more than 10 million customers to and from Portugal," making the company the second largest airline operating in Portugal.
Ryanair has its eye on the leader, TAP which transports 11.7 million customers and hope to catch up "in two or three years."
One of the major questions is what will happen after Brexit as there will need to be an agreement between the United Kingdom and Europe to ensure no interruption of service after March 2019. To this question, even O’Leary did not have an answer.
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