Following a recent executive decision by the central Government of Portugal and the regional Government of the Azores, effective March 29 private airlines will be allowed to establish domestic flights between mainland Portugal and the Azores.
Under the new agreement between the central and regional governments, domestic flights from mainland Portugal (Lisbon and Porto) to Ponta Delgada (São Miguel) and Lajes (Terceira) have been liberalized.
London based low-cost easyJet was the first foreign carrier to take advantage of the new liberalization policy by establishing four flights a week between Lisbon and Ponta Delgada, starting March 29.
Ireland based low-cost Ryanair has also established a base in Ponta Delgada. Effective April 15, Ryanair will start two flights per day to Lisbon, six weekly flights to Porto and a weekly service to London. The move will represent a $100 million Ryanair investment in the Azores and will deliver around 350,000 passengers per year.
Other low-cost foreign carriers, such as Transavia, Vueling and Binter Canarias have also expressed interest in establishing additional routes between the Azores and mainland Portugal.
At the beginning of the year, Ryanair had reported being in discussions with the Government of the Azores about establishing international budget flights from the Azores to North America within five years. Last week, Ryanair announced that it had abandoned its transatlantic flights project for the near future. The plan would have offered low-cost flights between 12 to 14 European cities and the same number of United States cities with stopover on the Azores.
Until now, domestic flights between the Azores and mainland Portugal were restricted by local airline SATA Airlines and TAP Air Portugal, both state controlled. Transatlantic flights between North America and the Azores remain exclusively restricted to state owned SATA Airlines and TAP Air Portugal.
The Azores (population 250,000) is a region of Portugal composed of nine islands. The archipelago discovered by Portuguese explorers in the 15th century, became an Autonomous Region of Portugal in 1976. The government of the Autonomous Region of the Azores includes the Legislative Assembly, composed of 57 elected deputies, elected by universal suffrage for a four-year term; the Regional Government and Presidency, with parliamentary legitimacy, composed of a President, a Vice-President and seven Regional Secretaries responsible for the Regional Government executive operations. The Autonomous Region of the Azores is represented in the Council of Ministers of the Central Government by a representative appointed by the President of Portugal. According to the latest US census over 1.3 million individuals of Portuguese descent live in the United States, the majority with roots in the Azores. It is estimated that over 20,000 US citizens live in Portugal.