Low cost airlines fly vast majority of passengers

By INÊS LOPES [email protected]

Seventy-two per cent of passengers going through Faro airport used low cost airlines.

Ryanair, easyJet and Jet2.com, which told Lusa news agency that they are not expecting to be affected by the economic crisis this year, are confident that the number of flights and passengers this summer will be in line with those recorded in 2011, while the latter actual predicts an increase due to its new Belfast route.

Carrying two million passengers in a total of 2.77 million in 2011, low cost airlines represent nearly 72% of passengers travelling to and from Faro, according to data from Turismo de Portugal.

Although admitting the summer will, to an extent, make up for the low season marked by fewer passengers (see panel) and reduced plane occupancy rates, the airlines prefer to talk about year results.

The leading company in terms of routes, flights and passengers, Ryanair expects to transport 1.7 million people to and from Faro this year, surpassing the 1.52 million it flew last year to and from its 30 connections, 29 of which are international and one to Porto.

Speaking to Lusa, a source from the Irish low cost airline assures that the average occupancy rate in Ryanair flights is 80%, but says it believe that in July and August this will increase.

However, the Ryanair source admitted that seasonality in the Algarve had a big impact on the number of passengers transported to and from Faro “despite its low tariffs throughout the year”.

EasyJet confirmed that the average plane occupancy rate from the beginning of the year until close of business on May 29 was 86.1% in a total of 1,634 flights. A total of 225,171 passengers flew to and from Faro in the airline’s 11 connections.

With 1.1 million passengers transported last year, easyJet is the second leading low cost airline in terms of routes and passengers operating in Faro and predicts a similar year to 2011.

The British airline is also expecting to launch a new route this year, Faro-Basel (Switzerland).

In fifth place in terms of passengers transported to and from Faro airport last year (303,000) is UK low cost airline Jet2.com, which has no plans to launch new routes this year. A source from the airline told Lusa that next year it would be looking at the possibility of opening new connections.

With eight weekly routes to and from the UK, Jet2.com reveals that the occupancy rate in its Boeing 737 and 757 is 80%. The airline did not disclose information about the number of passengers it had transported so far this year to and from Faro but said it had a total of 356,738 seats available this year.

According to ANA Aeroportos, the five main low cost carriers operating from Faro Airport are Ryanair (1.52 million passengers in 2011), easyJet (1.1 million), Monarch (537,000), Transavia (380,000) and Jet2.com (303,000).

Meanwhile, traditional airlines flew around 435,000 passengers and charter flights 331,000.

Dark April at Faro Airport

Faro airport registered 18,039 fewer passengers in the first four months of the year, while in April alone the number of passengers was down by 16,806 in comparison to the same period last year.

Algarve hoteliers say the situation is having a negative impact on tourist accommodation occupancy rates.

António Pina, President of the Algarve Tourism Board, said the figures were a “bad sign” and that the increase of VAT in golf could be putting golfers off from visiting the region, choosing instead “other inferior quality but cheaper destinations”.

In April, hotel units registered an average 10.8% decrease in occupation (also read ‘Dutch and German tourists in higher numbers’ on page 4)

Elidérico Viegas, President of the Algarve Hotels and Tourist Resorts Association (AHETA), said that in addition to the decrease in the number of arriving passengers at Faro, fewer domestic and Spanish tourists, travelling by car, have also been recorded.