Lisbon airport the old gateway to freedom…

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The Portuguese Government and ANA, the National Airports Authority, have signed last week  a memorandum of understanding that chooses the Montijo Air Force base as an additional option for Lisbon airport, which opened 75 years ago.

The alternatives for a Lisbon complementary airport have been debated by previous governments for many years and, even if Montijo is the final choice, the transfer of some operations is expected to take about five years.

TAP, the Portuguese national carrier, has already indicated that it wants to keep the present Lisbon airport as the hub for their service, while the international airlines are waiting for more information about the final option before making a decision to move to the new airport.

The big airlines like Lufthansa and Air France/KLM may have similar views that the present  airport offers good public transport solutions, “easily by metro or by bus”, in addition to being “very near to the Conference area in the Park of Nations”.

Conversely, low cost airlines like EasyJet and Ryanair support the development of the airport of Montijo as an independent, secondary airport to compete with the Portela to offer passenger reduced operating costs and the opening of new ‘ slots ‘ (air movement permits).

This is the trend of great European metropolitan areas like London, which is served by six international airports and Paris which has three.

The Lisbon airport opened in 1942 during the Second World War, working in articulation with the Cabo Ruivo Seaplane Base: seaplanes performed transatlantic flights, and passengers were transferred onto continental flights operating from the new airport.

As a neutral airport it was open to both German and British airlines, it was a hub for intense spy activity  and smuggling people into, out of and all around Europe, as widely referenced in  “Casablanca” classic movie with Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman ,whose plot revolved around an escape attempt to Lisbon airport.

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O Governo Português  e a ANA – Aeroporto de Portugal assinaram quarta-feira um memorando de entendimento para aprofundarem o estudo da base aérea do Montijo como opção de aeroporto complementar para Lisboa.

As companhias aéreas aguardam mais informações sobre a opção final do Governo acerca do aeroporto complementar em Lisboa antes de decidirem sobre uma transferência de operações, previsivelmente dentro de cinco anos, para o Montijo.

Entre as várias companhias a TAP já descartou sair do aeroporto, enquanto que os  grupos Lufthansa Air France/KLM adiam uma decisão embora continuem  a pensar que o atual aeroporto tem soluções adequadas de transporte público, por metro ou por autocarro e esta muito próximo da área de congressos no Parque das Nações.

Para as companhias de baixo custo, EasyJet e a Ryanair a viabilidade do Montijo como aeroporto independente secundário pode ser comparativamente  mais económico do que Lisboa.

O aeroporto da Portela de Sacavém foi inaugurado em 1942, no auge da Segunda Guerra Mundial, devido à neutralidade de Portugal no conflito e tornou-se eixo vital de espionagem, de evasão e refúgio, tanto para os Aliados como para a  Alemanha numa Europa flagelada pelas hostilidades.

O icónico filme “Casablanca” dessa época com Humphrey Bogart e Ingrid Bergman centraliza esse espírito de fuga para a liberdade no aeroporto de Lisboa…

Jay Fernandes
Master’s Degree G. Ph. from the University of Lisbon. Academic and teacher. Television , radio and press reporter / commentator

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