Ryanair demands that the Portuguese government and the European Commission intervene and make an end to what the carrier calls ‘slot blocking’ at Lisbon Portela Airport. The Irish low-cost says that national airline TAP Portugal continues to benefit from slots being allocated to her, while TAP at the same time has cut capacity by twenty percent. The ‘hoarding’ of slots blocks Ryanair’s expansion plans at Lisbon, it says. Does Ryanair’s bashing of TAP have any substance?

It’s not the first time that Michael O’Leary has been ranting against TAP Portugal. In August, he made identical claims that the Portuguese airline had been allocated slots it wasn’t using, keeping its position at Lisbon. TAP has to restructure and has said last year that it will reduce its fleet by some twelve aircraft. That’s where Ryanair’s claim is coming from that TAP is having way too many slots for its needs.
In another conflict, Ryanair won an appeal at the European Union’s General Court in May over €1.2 billion in state loans for TAP. The Court annulled a decision from the European Commission, but in July reaffirmed its decision and approved the rescue aid. However, it still has the €3.2 billion restructuring plan under review.

How many slots have been allocated to TAP and Ryanair?

To see if Ryanair’s claims about slot blocking at Lisbon are founded, we checked the data available on the website of slot coordination Portugal, NAV. We looked at how Ryanair’s position fares against the number of slots for TAP Portugal during the last winter season 2020-2021, during summer 2021, and what has been allocated for the 2021-2022 period.

The number of requested slots by TAP for Winter 2020/21 was 52.451. It was allocated 52.377 or 52.25 percent of all slots at Lisbon, with a decision on 8.487 slots pending.
Ryanair requested 10.200 and was allocated 10.156, or 10.13 percent, with another 1.719 pending. It received slightly less than requested but still was by far the second-biggest airline at the airport after TAP.

For summer 2021, TAP requested 132.991 slots but was allocated only 83.121, with 62.236 slots pending. The Portuguese carrier held 55.12 percent of all slots.
Ryanair’s share dropped to 8.23 percent. It had requested 16.194 slots but was allocated only 12.142 slots, with 4.551 pending.

This coming winter season, TAP has requested 50.592 slots, so fewer than last winter. NAV allocated 50.495 slots in the list dated June 3. A decision on 7.432 slots was pending. Based on the number of allocated slots, TAP control 50.21 of all slots during the coming months.
Ryanair requested 14.192 slots but has been given only 12.861 or 12.83 percent of all available slots, with another 5.085 pending.

TAP retains some 50 percent of all slots, but Ryanair wins slots too

So yes, based on these data, it is clear that TAP is in control of at least fifty percent of the available slots at Portela Airport. Under the revised slot rule from the EC for this winter, TAP and any other airline will need to operate at least fifty percent of these slots or risk losing them. IATA has frequently called this revision “out of touch with reality” and called on the EC to extend the waiver for the original 80/20 percent rule that was sidelined since summer 2020.
TAP says it will need all the requested slots as it plans to operate 941 flights per week during the winter season, 91 more than during the summer. However, this includes flights from other airports in Portugal as well.

Ryanair gets more slots next winter than it had last time (some 1.300 more) and even more than it has had this summer, but at the same time is allowed 1.300 fewer slots than the airline requested. That’s why the carrier said on October 15 that it will be forced to cancel 700 flights and three routes out of Lisbon Portela (to Tours, Oujda, and Bari) unless the government and EC intervene. “We deeply regret these unnecessary disruptions to passengers from these canceled flights and routes caused by TAP’s blocking of slots which it is not using. This anti-competitive slot blocking obstructs the growth of airlines and the recovery of traffic, tourism, and jobs at Lisbon Portela Airport, to the detriment of Portuguese consumers.”

“The Portuguese Government and the European Commission must now intervene to end TAP’s anti-competitive “slot blocking”, free up this unused capacity at Lisbon Portela, and open Lisbon Montijo Airport to allow airlines to grow.” The Irish carrier will keep its seven aircraft based at Lisbon for the time being, hoping it will get more slots after all.

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Active as journalist since 1987, starting with regional newspaper Zwolse Courant. Grand Prix reporter in 1997 at Dutch monthly Formule 1, general reporter Lelystad/Flevoland at De Stentor/Dagblad Flevoland, from 2002 until June 2021 radio/tv reporter/presentor with Omroep Flevoland.
Since mid-2016 freelance aviation journalist, since June 2021 fully dedicated to aviation. Reporter/editor AirInsight since December 2018. Contributor to Airliner World, Piloot & Vliegtuig. Twitter: @rschuur_aero.

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