Lisbon Airport Expansion Faces Headwinds: Setbacks Plague Vital Infrastructure Project

Sheras Fernandes
New Update

One of Portugal's biggest infrastructure projects, the expansion of the Lisbon Humberto Delgado Airport, has faced numerous setbacks due to a myriad of factors, including environmental concerns, capacity issues, and local authorities' veto. The need for an upgrade has been a persistent issue, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic's devastating blow to the tourism industry. Despite this demand, the process of expansion has been fraught with complications, leading to a series of delays and debates over the best course of action.


Plans for a new airport at Montijo, on the southern bank of the Tagus River, have been under consideration for over five decades. This new airport, which would serve as a second hub, was proposed to alleviate the capacity crunch at Lisbon's Portela airport. However, the airport authority ANA's evaluation request was rejected by the aviation regulator ANAC, as not all municipalities around the new airport were content with the plans. The main concerns were related to environmental impact, as the Tagus estuary is a significant nature reserve for various birds.

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According to Portuguese law, the regulator can only evaluate the project if all local governments have provided positive feedback. Thus, despite the government's eagerness to move forward with the Montijo airport project, it hit a roadblock. However, the government proposed a review of the law in question, offering different solutions for the impasse, including the possibility of constructing the airport elsewhere.


The Alcochete Option

The Alcochete location, another potential site for the new airport, has also been under consideration. This option seems to be making a miraculous return to the radar, after being dismissed as a potential location for a new Lisbon airport two decades ago. The Portuguese Minister of Infrastructure and Housing insists that a new airport will be of public interest and is needed before 2035. However, the timescale for the completion of the project could be between five and 15 years, considering the complexities involved.

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A Strategic Environmental Assessment

The Portuguese government has launched an international public tender to carry out a strategic assessment for Lisbon's future airport solution. This study will assess the advantages and disadvantages of building the future airport at Montijo and Alcochete. This strategic environmental assessment is pivotal in arriving at a consensus that would allow for a change in the law. The assessment will take into account factors such as aviation safety, territorial accessibility, human health and environmental viability, economic development and connectivity, and public investment and financing model.

The expansion of Lisbon's airport capacity is a critical issue that needs to be addressed promptly. However, it is essential that this expansion is carried out responsibly, taking into account environmental concerns and local authorities' feedback. With the strategic environmental assessment underway, it is hoped that a consensus will be reached soon, paving the way for the much-needed expansion of Lisbon's airport capacity.