Aviation in Lisbon: the Airport and Airlines
February 2008 (partly updated)
Lisbon's international airport is currently situated at Portela de Sacavém, only 7km to the north east of the city centre. Indeed, the proximity of the airfield to the city is such that aircraft on final approach from the south-west inappropriately pass over a large hospital, several schools and the National Library's main reading room. It opened on 15 October, 1942, with four 1,000 metre runways. By 1954, 100,000 passengers a year were handled, 1,021,814 passed through by 1965 and 2,239,228 by 1970 when there were 34,392 movements. 1978 saw 3,168,595 passengers handled with 38,912 aircraft movements, whilst 1988 saw 4,283,545 passengers and 1990 witnessed 5,282,349. The first jet service was an Air France Caravelle in 1960 and new Jumbo facilities were installed in 1972. The airport, which lies at 114 metres above sea-level and occupies 320ha. is expected to reach capacity by c.2010 and to avoid displacing some 10,000 people there is a plan to create a new airport rather than further expand Portela, which handled almost 8,667,589 passengers in 1999, a rise of 8.8% on 1998. 9,395,761 were handled in 2000. In 1998 the airport claimed to have the fastest growth rate of any airport in the world. The normal maximum number of movements which can be handled is 30 per hour. The favoured site for the new airport is 50km north of Lisbon at Ota, near Abrantes, (see below).
Portela airport has two main runways (03/21 of 3,802 metres, opened in 1962 at 3,130 metres in length, and 17/35 of 2,400 metres). Radio frequencies are 120.6 (approach), 118.1 (tower) and 121.75 (ground). ANA (Aeroportos e Navegação Aérea, founded in 1978, is the operator of the airport. ANA has a Web Page for Lisbon Airport, as well as for its other managed airports. The airport's postal address is Alameda das Comunidades Portuguesas, 1700-007, Lisboa, Portugal and it may be contacted by e-mail at "firstname.lastname@example.org.".
Left to right: Lisbon Airport: a Portugália Fokker 100; an Aeroflot Tupolev 154 at Lisbon
Airport, 26 April 1999; Islandsflug Airbus, July 2003.
The airport has one terminal, albeit built in different stages. It covers 555,500 sq.ft. and can handle 2,800 passengers at any one time. The buildings have four publicly accessible levels, numbered two to five. Level (Nível) 2 is for arrivals; levels 3 and 4 are used for both arrivals and departures, whilst level 5 is for departures only. Arrivals has eight baggage belts whilst departures has 113 check-in desks. There are 20 departure gates and 5 VIP lounges. Seven air bridges are available and buses are used for a further 29 remote loading sites. 19 new parking stands were completed in 2002.
This Zaire Air Force Boeing 707 was impounded at Lisbon airport for several years but was moved c.2006.
Getting to/from the Airport
An Aero Bus service is run by Carris as its route 91. This operates every twenty minutes from 0740 to 2045 hours. You have to buy a Carris day ticket on this service but as it covers all Lisbon transport operated by that company and only costs 3.35 Euros (2007) it is not a bad deal. Nowadays the wholly inadequate minibuses on this service have been replaced by single deck gas powered vehicles. This airport service terminates at Cais do Sodré, which is convenient for the train to Estoril and Cascais, as well as the Metro. City centre stops include Praça do Comércio, Rossio and Restauradores. Cheaper, normal service routes
also serve the Airport and these are the numbers 5, 22, 44, 45 and 83. The 44 and 45 duplicate much of the route of the 91 and also terminate at Cais do Sodré. All of these services run at approximately 15 minute intervals from about 0600 to midnight. A "Navette" or shuttle-bus serves the airport carparks and terminals.
Lisbon taxis are plentiful and relatively cheap though charges are rising. There is railed taxi-rank immediately outside the arrivals hall; it is usually overseen by a policeman. Although queues can be lengthy, the taxis are so plentiful that the waiting time is generally short. A few older taxis are painted black with a turquoise-green roof, whilst newer vehicles are all-over caramel. All bear a small white lozenge with the word TAXI in black capital letters. The
average rate (2007) for a taxi from the Airport to the city-centre is about 15 Euros. Extra (1.60 Euros in 2007) is charged for luggage. For further fares information, see the Lisbon Taxis page.
A Red Line Metro connection to the airport was opened in JUly 2012 and provides the quickest and cheapest way to get to the city centre.
Car parks include the following numbered facilities:
"P1" - an underground carpark, adjacent to the terminals. 300 spaces. 360 esc. for first hour.
"P2" - a covered "silo" carpark. 1173 spaces. 310 esc. for first hour.
"P3" - uncovered near Avenida de Berlim. 600 spaces. 200 esc. for first hour.
"P4" and "P5" - on the airport periphery.
There is also a tourist bus park for 30 coaches near the terminal building.
Generally available within the airport is a free paperback guidebook, Your Guide a paperback of over 100 pages full of practical
information on the city, which includes a Metro map. ANA also produces an informative glossy newspaper in a bilingual English and Portuguese edition;
this is entitled 'Imagem'.
Plans for a New Airport
As far back as 1969 plans were afoot to replace Portela airport with a new one at Rio Frio, which lies 42km from Lisbon, across the Tagus, only 15km
from Setúbal. By 1972, however, it had been decided to divert resources into developing Portela to the detriment of Rio Frio. A 1982 study identified
other possible sites for a new airport at Santa Cruz, Azambuja, Alverca, Granja (Sintra), Tires, Ota, Porto Alto and Marateca. By 1994 the choice had been
narrowed down to Ota, 45km north of Lisbon, Rio Frio and the airforce base of Montijo, on the south-bank of the River Tagus, opposite Lisbon.
In 1998 NAER (Novo Aeroporto S.A.) was set up within the Portuguese Ministry of Equipment, Planning and Administration (MEPAT) to coordinate the
planning of a new airport. NAER, which has its own web-site, employed Aéroports de Paris as
consultants to report on the plans. Not altogether surprisingly, their report favoured a new airport rather than the option of developing
L to R: A Lufthansa Airbus at Portela airport, 2003; inside the airport terminal, July 2000.
To develop Portela further would have entailed closing one of the current runways and building a new one, parallel to the remaining runway. Parking
space for aircraft would also have had to be increased, and a new terminal built. The costs of such a plan in financial, social and environmental terms would
have been enormous. The opposition movement to develop Portela was led by João Soares, President of Lisbon City Council.
Each of the three main rival sites for the new airport had its pros and cons. Montijo could build on an established airfield and regenerate the south bank of the Tagus,
whilst Rio Frio shares the latter advantage but also is close to Pinhal Novo and would have good rail and road connections. However, both of these south-bank
sites would place huge pressures on the fixed links, the 25th April and the Vasco da Gama bridges. Those in favour of Montijo
argue that charter flights and cargo aircraft could be routed there, leaving scheduled passenger flights at Portela with increased spare capacity for growth of
services. Ota, which lies near the town of Abrantes, north-east of Lisbon, has the support of various local interests in towns such as Leiria and even Coimbra. Until
1992 there was an active airforce base at Ota but its runway could not be developed for a civil airport. As at Rio Frio, there would be significant
forced movement of population to accommodate a new airport, and major road and rail infrastructural work would also be needed. Noise and environmental issues
also loom large at the new sites. Portela is scheduled to handle its maximum capacity of 20 million passengers sometime
before 2012; Ota was planned to open by 2008. But as early as January 2001, the bidding process was in a state of disarray,
with accusations of changes in the criteria being levelled at NAER the new airport's coordinating body and Portela's future
looks secure for years to come. Even in summer 2007 there is much debate with options even including a "Portela+2" scheme
involving retaining the current Portela airport and developing two other sites such as Sintraand Alverca.
But then on 10 January 2008 following a further study the year before, Alcochete, currently a military base was selected as the new airport site, subject to public consultation. Alcochete lies on the south bank of the Tagus, 60km from Lisbon. A branch of the new Lisbon-Madrid rail link will be constructed to serve the new airport. It is planned the Oporto to Lisbon train services will eventually terminate at the new airport, using a proposed Chelas (Lisbon) to Barreiro bridge across the Tagus.
Whilst all this havering has been going on, ANA has continued to develop Portela airport to match current and future demand, as the target for the new airport at Alcochete to open is 2017. A Terminal 2 (for domestic flights) was opened in August 2007 whilst the the existing Terminal 1 (international) was upgraded and these developments should be complete by 2010.
A published timetable (Horário) is available from ANA and this has parallel Portuguese and English text. This useful booklet (published twice
a year) comprises more than 100 pages and also provides information on how to get to the airport, the facilities to be found there and details of how to book a flight. As well as scheduled flights to major European destinations, which include London Heathrow (by British Airways
and TAP-Air Portugal), London Luton (direct flights by EasyJet), London Gatwick (Monarch) and Manchester (Thomsonfly), there is a natural strength in the services to the Portuguese-speaking world. Telephone enquiries about arrivals and departures can be made by ringing 21-841-37-00.
Destinations in the Lusophone world include Rio de Janeiro, Recife, Natal,
São Paulo and Bahia (in Brazil), Maputo (in Mozambique),
Luanda (in Angola), Ponta Delgada (Azores) and Funchal (Madeira). Internal
destinations include Oporto (Porto), Faro and Vila Real.
Left: Air Portugal Airbus behind a BA Airbus at Lisbon Airport, 2003. Right: A Brazilian Super Constellation at Lisbon
Airport in the 1950s.
Airlines Using Lisbon Airport
Amongst the Portuguese operators to be seen at Portela Airport are TAP- Air Portugal, Portugália, Aerocondor, SATA and Euro-Atlantic Airways (formerly Air Zarco). Other airlines using the airport regularly include Aeroflot, Air France, Air Malta, Alitalia, British Airways, BMI, Continental, Egyptair, Iberia, KLM, LAM, Lufthansa, Royal Air Maroc and Tunis Air. TAP accounts for more than half of Portela's movements; it was flying over 4 million passengers to/from the airport in 1999; Portugália handled 653,064 and SATA 319,062. Lufthansa and Air France handled most passengers of foreign operators.
L to R: A PGA Fokker 100 at Lisbon Airport, 1999; Air Portugal and SATA (Azores) airbuses on the apron, 2003.
Portugália Airlines- PGA
Headquarters are at Aeroporto de Lisboa, Rua C, Edifício 70,
1700 Lisboa, Portugal. Tel: +351 (1)842 5520 P-1700. Reservations: 847 2092.
Owned by the Grupo Espírito Santo and founded in 1988, with operations
starting in 1990. In 2000 Portugália lost 4.5 million Euros, against a loss of 1.9M in 1999. However, it expects to return to profit in 2001.
Started operations: 7 July 1990
Employs 944 staff including 95 flight crew and 159 cabin crew.
Fleet comprises: 8 Embraer ERJ 145 EP, 7 Fokker 100, 1 Raytheon Beech 1900D (PGA Express), 2 Saab 2000
Scheduled Services to: Barcelona, Basel, Bilbao, Bordeaux, Casablanca, Cologne, Faro, Las Palmas, Lyon, Madrid, Marseille, Milan,
Munich, Nice, Palma, Porto, Stuttgart, Tenerife, Toulouse, Turin,
Valencia and Vigo.
TAP - Air Portugal
Formerly known as Transportes Aéreos Portugueses- TAP. Troubled financially in recent years, the government announced (May 2001) that privatisation would go ahead in 2001 and it forecasts a loss of 51M Euros in 2001 but a profit of 55M by 2004. TAP is also expected to pay off 410M Euros in debt by 2003. A move whereby Swissair would acquire 34% of TAP fell through in early 2000.
Headquarters are at Aeroporto de Lisboa, Apartado 50194, 1704-801 Lisboa
Codex, Portugal. Tel: +351 (1) 841 5000.
Employs 8,333 staff.
Fleet comprises: 6 x Airbus A310-300, 17 x Airbus A319-100, 15 x Airbus A320-200, 3 x Airbus A321-200, Airbus A330-200 x 3, Airbus A340-300 x 4, Airbus A350-800 x 8 on order, Airbus A350-900 x 4 on order.
Scheduled services to: Abidjan, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Bissau,
Bologna, Caracas, Copenhagen, Curação, Dakar, Faro,
Fortaleza, Frankfurt-am-Main, Funchal, Geneva, Hamburg, Horta, Johannesburg,
London, Luanda, Luxemburg, Lyon, Madrid, Maputo, Milan, Munich, Natal,
New York, Nice, Oslo, Paris, Ponta Delgada, Porto, Porto Santo, Punta Cana, Recife,
Rio de Janeiro, Rome, Sal, Salvador, S. Paulo, S. Tomé, Stockholm,
Terceira, Varadero, Vienna, Zurich.
ATA - Aerocondor Transportes Aéreos
Aerocondor is a small airline based at Cascais aerodrome - the Aerodromo Municipal de
Cascais, Tires, 2775 S. Domingos de Rana, tel: +351 (1) 444 3430. Founded in
1984, it has 100 employees and operates also from Lisbon Airport. Its fleet comprises:
2 x Dornier 228-212, 3 x Shorts 360-200, 1 x Shorts 360-300, 1 x ATR, 1 x Beechcraft A90-1 King Air
Scheduled services to: Bragança, Vila Real, Funchal, Porto, Porto Santo,
Until 2000, this airline was known as Air Zarco and, before that, as Air Madeira. It is part of the Madeiran Pestana hotel group. The airline's headquarters are at Rua das Sesmarias N3, Cascais, 2710-444 Sintra, Portugal. Tel: +44 (1554) 924-7300. The company started operations in 1997 and currently has one L1011 Tristar 500 which is operated on charters from Lisbon to Central America and to European destinations.
Fleet: 1 x Boeing 757-200, 6 x Boeing 767-300, 2 x Lockheed L-1011 TriStar, 1 x Boeing 737-300.
Air Luxor and the TAP subsidiary, YesAir, also operate from Portela- using 2x Tristar L1011-500, 1x A320-211 and 1x B737. YesAir was set up in 2000 in conjunction with tour operators Abreu, who own 49% against TAP's 51%.
Cargo Airlines Using Lisbon Airport
100,000 tonnes of cargo were handled in 2000, 53% by TAP, with Lufthansa and British Airways the next largest. Cargo airlines using Portela include DHL and UPS.
Aeroportos e Navegação Aérea, Lisbon Airport, 1942-1992.
Lisboa: Inapa/ANA, 1992. 189p.
A celebration of Portela de Sacavém airport, Lisbon, on its 50th anniversary. This is
a well-illustrated volume produced by ANA, the Airport's operator. ANA also
produce a regular glossy newspaper in English and Portuguese, called Imagem
and available free at the airport.
Airliner World May 2001 issue has an article on Lisbon Portela airport, pp.36-40.
N.C. Baldwin, The Lisbon story. Sutton Coldfield: The Aero Field,
An account of aviation in Lisbon from 1922, when Sacadura Cabral
and Gago Coutinho flew from Belém to Brazil, up to 1968 when flying-boat
services from Madeira to Lisbon ceased.
General Aviation Links
Aerotransport is a superb site with updated fleet details for all airlines.
Aviationweb Deja Vu is an excellent site for all European airfields.
Crew Connected is an online database for aircrew, ex-crew and colleagues to keep in touch by registering for free.
FlyMagic Flight Experiences- "The Ultimate Flight Gift Experience". Unusual and truly unique flight gift experiences from Flymagic, the aviation gift voucher specialists. Hot Air Balloon Flight, Helicopter Experience, Gliding, Aerobatics, Vintage, Jet Flight, Helicopter Flight Simulator.
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