Flights cancellations “are more than those publicised”

“Majority are TAP flights, but up till now company has not published total number”

The true number of cancelled flights at Lisbon airport over the last few days is higher than the number publicised by national media.

So says a report today by SIC television news, which explains that numbers given for last Sunday for example were that ‘just 38 flights’ had been cancelled, when the official site of ANA airports authority attested to 56.

ANA’s explanation was that “many of the flights that appeared on the site as cancelled didn’t end up being commercialised but there was no way to remove them”.

Whatever that really means, SIC confirms that the majority of the flights were those run by TAP – while a presumed employee at the airport, possibly even of TAP,  has been in contact with the Resident since our stories yesterday to say “If my airport and my airline are that bad don’t come to my country. Stay away everybody and then the airport will be ok…”

It is the kind of statement that echoes assertions made by of one of our readers who told us: “TAP is actually an employment program for Portuguese airline industry staff. A bit like Alitalia was. With the employees feeling protected by the government, they feel no obligation towards their clients”. 

Almost none of the stories swirling through the media so far have referred to the €3.2 billion in taxpayers’ money being ploughed into ‘restructuring the airline’, or the extra money still that may be needed on top.

But the government has acknowledged today that it is “aware and concerned” about the situation.

The bottom line is that the government is “maintaining permanent contact” with civil aviation authority ANAC as well as airports manager ANA.

DECO takes up passenger complaints

The government’s response appears to have been prompted by a letter sent the Ministry of Infrastructures and Housing by consumers organisation DECO.

DECO “received dozens of complaints” from passengers over the weekend, which showed, said the organisation, that “passengers are having difficulty exercising their own rights”.

DECO thus urged the government and ANAC to intervene, stressing the “need to impose on both carriers and airport infrastructure, the implementation of contingency plans at different levels, depending on the degree of impact on passengers and the nature and duration of the disruptive situation”, in order to “ensure assistance and other consumer rights”.

“These plans should also define measures aimed at the existence of structures and mechanisms for support and information appropriate to the needs felt by passengers when facing situations of delay or cancellation of flights,” read the letter.

DECO’s hope is that “these contingency mechanisms are immediately activated and have, for example, a set of hotel establishments prepared to receive passengers“.

Regarding the right to compensation, Paulo Fonseca, coordinator of Deco’s legal department explains this can range from €250 euros to €600, “depending on the type of flight and the distance”.

Mr Fonseca stressed that compensation is not applicable in some situations, “particularly in the event of extraordinary circumstances that cannot be attributed to the carrier itself, such as bad weather, a terrorist attack, a war or the situation experienced last year with the pandemic, with the imposition of flight cancellations”.

But he referred to what is now becoming a ‘recurring situation’ which he believes will make “consumers afraid of travelling by plane because they do not know if they will be able to get a flight in time, or be able to board”.

Certainly, the ‘apology’ posted online by TAP’s CEO yesterday suggesting flight cancellations will continue through the summer.

In Paulo Fonseca’s opinion, if it is already possible to “foresee that the summer will be disruptive”, there is no reason to believe Christmas and New Year will be any different. 

natasha.donn@portugalresident.com