Second airport for Lisbon remains a distant dream

airplaneDespite last year’s four critical trigger points being hit at Lisbon’s Humberto Delgado airport, creating conditions of urgency for added capacity and a new airport to serve the capital, only now has an order been published in Diário da República to start the process.
 
ANA deliberately has dithered, according to Ryanair’s combative boss, as it is earning so much from the fully depreciated infrastructure at Humberto Delgado airport, it is no hurry to spend money on converting the neraby Montijo military airbase into to a fully functioning civilian airport - by 2022.
 
In December 2016, Dinheiro Vivo reported that the Montijo airbase is the only "technically feasible option" for the extension of Lisbon airport - this conclusion forming part of a study conducted by Eurocontrol - the European organisation for European air traffic control - which was presented to a working group of government suits, Air Force, ANA and Air Traffic Control and which already had been 'considering the solution' for the future of Lisbon's airport provision.
The document discussed 15 months ago stated that Montijo's Air Base No. 6 (BA6) was the best solution to complement Lisbon Airport.
 
“According to information from ANA, all four Capacity Factors were contractually fixed, with 2017 ending seeing a total passenger demand of more than 26 million and a total air traffic of around 200,000 movements," according to the Diário da República notice, signed off by the Technical Unit for Monitoring Projects.
 
According to the order published last Friday, "steady and consistent growth in demand at Humberto Delgado Airport, which recorded annual average rates of 12% between 2013 and 2016, which rose to 19% in 2017, made it necessary to anticipate the action and to speed up the process of expansion of airport capacity in the Lisbon region."
 
Too little too late - demand now exceeds capacity and the conversion of Montijo is years away, scheduled for 2022 but most involved admit this date is optimistic, despite the urgency.
 
Some progress has been made with the commissioning of an environmental impact study at the military base, a study which is said to be “almost ready” and can be put out to the public consultation stage as early as April.
 
Given the legal deadlines of this consultation process, a government decision could, at the very earliest, be made in the second half of 2018.
 
The Memorandum of Understanding signed last February with ANA, establishes the calendar for the expansion of airport capacity in the Lisbon region.
 
This timetable, "aims to develop a concrete solution consisting of the expansion of Humberto Delgado Airport and the installation of a complementary infrastructure in the current Air Base No. 6 in Montijo, since, in the studies developed, it proved to be the most efficient and sustained in operational and economic terms and the only one capable of meeting capacity requirements in a timely manner."
 
According to the order, the memorandum implies "a simultaneous intervention in strengthening the capacity of Humberto Delgado Airport, ensuring that there is no lack of capacity to respond to airport demand in the Lisbon region in the coming years and, in particular, until the infrastructure of Montijo is in operation.”
 
The memorandum states that ANA will present a preliminary proposal which will be analysed and a final proposal sent to the government. The process involves "complexity, impact and urgency," according to the memorandum.
 
This memorandum is the style of the government's written work when doing as little as possible and appearing to act with precision and determination.
 
With the current lack of capacity at Humberto Delgado affecting trade, business, tourism, staff and airline operators and with Montijo airport still a distant dream, investors are right to question whether Portugal’s government has any grip at all on the role infrastructure plays in international development.  
 
Turning an existing military airbase into an airport catering for the low-cost sector of the air transport market should not be too taxing for the finest minds in government, but it is.
 
Head of the Portuguese Tourism Confederation (CTP), Francisco Calheiros, has voiced his doubts about Montijo's opening, "I begin to wonder if the new airport will happen in 2022."
 
Put simply, Sr Calheiros, it won't - Humberto Delgado airport will continue to be run at maximum capacity to the delight of ANA's French owner and the distress of Lisbon airport staff and customers.
 
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