Ryanair’s new Portuguese base in Porto serves 22 destinations; five routes served daily

Image: Ryanair open its 33rd European base in Porto
Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Sócrates joins Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary to officially open its 33rd European base. O’Leary commented: “Ryanair’s 2m annual passengers in Porto will help to create and sustain 2,000 local jobs. This new base demonstrates the opportunities that EU membership has delivered for Irish companies operating across Europe.”

This week witnessed the official operational launch of Ryanair’s latest European base in Porto, Portugal. Even before this week Ryanair was serving Porto from 11 of its bases across Europe plus Paris Beauvais. This week sees the introduction of five further new routes from the airport to non-base airports in Basel, Eindhoven, Lille, St Etienne (near Lyon) and Tours. This brings to 17 the number of destinations served by Ryanair from Porto this summer, only two less than TAP Portugal, and making Ryanair the airport’s second biggest customer by a considerable margin. Based on OAG data for September Ryanair’s routes account for 26% of the airport’s scheduled capacity compared with 42% for TAP Portugal. easyJet with just under 8% of capacity ranks a distant third.

In 2004 the airport handled 2.87 million passengers, but in just four years this has grown by 58% to 4.54 million in 2008. In the first seven months of 2009 passenger numbers at the airport are down are relatively modest 4.2%.

Image: Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary flying the euro flag

17 destinations plus five more in winter

Ryanair’s first route to Porto was launched in January 2005 (from London Stansted), followed by Frankfurt Hahn in October 2005, and Liverpool and Paris Beauvais whose services began in February 2006. Five of the 17 destinations are served at least daily with London Stansted and Madrid served double daily.

WF Destination
14 London Stansted (STN), Madrid (MAD)
12 Barcelona Girona (GRO)
7 Frankfurt Hahn (HHN), Paris Beauvais (BVA)
4 Brussels Charleroi (CRL), Eindhoven (EIN), Marseille (MRS)
3 Basel (BSL), Lille (LIL), Milan Bergamo (BGY)
2 Birmingham (BHX), Bristol (BRS), Liverpool (LPL), Pisa (PSA), St Etienne (EBU), Tours (TUF)
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 7 September 2009
WF: Weekly Frequency

The St Etienne route is of particular interest as Ryanair has not operated from that airport since it abandoned its daily London Stansted service during the summer of 2006. Some of these destinations may be summer-only routes, but at the end of October five more destinations will be added to the network. These are Dűsseldorf Weeze (NRN), Faro (FAO), Gran Canaria (LPA), Karlsruhe/Baden (FKB) and Tenerife Sur (TFS). Routes that have previously been tried and then abandoned include Dublin, Stockholm Skavsta and Valencia.

Direct competition on Ryanair’s network is provided only on Basel (by easyJet) and Madrid (by Iberia and TAP Portugal), although there is indirect competition on routes to Barcelona, Brussels, Frankfurt, London, Lyon, Milan and Paris where Ryanair serves secondary airports.


  1. Of particular note, is the Porto to Faro route.

    This is only the second time that an non-Portuguese Airline has been given traffic rights to operate domestic flights within Portugal. The first was a year ago when Easyjet began operating Lisbon to Funchal, Madeira after years of complaints from residents of Maderia about TAP/Air Portugal’s high prices and monopoly on that route.

    Although much demanded, no airline has previously operated Porto to Faro. This has meant that it has been faster to get to UK and German airports from Faro than to the north of Portugal. By air, one has had to transit Lisbon on TAP/Air Portugal or take a 7/8 hour train or bus ride between the two regions.

    Apart from tourists and families, I suspect that the biggest demand may be from University Students travelling North and South as there is a fairly large University in Faro.

    I hope the route succeeds, but reserve my judgement. Two years ago, Ryanair launched services from Spain. The Madrid to Faro route should have been successful but was pulled after 8 months owing to only 48% average loadings.

    My opinion, for what it is worth, was that the route was not publicised enough in the local and expat media in the Algarve and the far south-west of Spain around Huelva, showing Madrid as destination for week-end breaks. Many people were not aware of the service till it was too late.

    Nor was Madrid Barajas promoted as an airline hub access point with onward access to many more destinations than Lisbon. Finally, the route was initiated as a daily service and then frequencies were reduced. It should have been the other way around.

    I hope that the same mistakes will not be made with the Porto route. It needs to be publicised in the local Algarve Portuguese and Expat media. As regards the Algarve portuguese media, this needs to include billboard adverts near Faro Airport, and advertising on local tv/radio as many more locals listen to radio and watch national TV than read papers.

    By the way, the Algarve (Faro FAO), still needs the Faro – Madrid route back!

  2. max says:

    I totally follow the comment of Mr Hawkins.

    Never the less, I would like to add that this is not the fist time an air connection is made between FAO and OPO. Some years ago, PGA Portugalia, now member of TAP group, used to operate the route on weekends with some pretty nice loadfactors. The thing – in fact, as always in PGA – were the prices. A rip off!

    Furthermore, the FAO – OPO is not subjected to any traffic rights. With EC regulation in the 90s, traffic rights were abolished, except for some particular cases. in Portugal, those cases were the ones defined as public obligation services (Madeira and the Azores operations only). All the remaining domestic routes followed the EC principle of no existence of traffic rights. Hence, any operator was ever since free the operate any route

    The fact is that we didn’t have FAO-OPO flights simply because nobody was interested in operating the route.

    Hopefully, that will change. Madrid was a good example of an extremely bad strategy of Ryanair. Now, the scenario seems different: everybody’s talking about FAO-OPO route. Prices are excellent (on average, a third of national railway’s 6 hour service). The public awareness of Ryanair is also changing amongst portuguese nationals.

    And yes, Madrid should return as soon as possible. Not on a daily basis, like Ryanair tried. But maybe, on a 3 per week basis. We really need in the Algarve to access other hubs than the locally ever dominant London, Lisbon, Frankfurt or Amsterdam.

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