Portugal Blocks 16 Ryanair Flights to Morocco, Stranding Over 3,000 Passengers
Over 3,000 Portuguese passengers were affected this week with the cancellation of 16 flights of Ryanair connecting Portugal to Morocco. The cancellations were triggered by the country’s civil aviation regulator – the National Civil Aviation Authority (ANAC) — since it did not provide the licenses for the operations in time. These are new routes between both countries. Affected were operations from Lisbon to Agadir, Fez and Marrakech.
The measure prompted a strong response from Ryanair, which, in a press release, stated that it was “unlawfully blocked by the Portuguese Ministry of Infrastructure and ANAC causing the totally unnecessary cancellation of flights.”
“This,” continued Ryanair the release, “is a clear breach of the EU Open Skies Agreement in place with Morocco. Ryanair has operated between Portugal and Morocco for over three years and it is inexplicable why the Ministry of Infrastructure/ANAC have not issued standard flight authorizations to allow these flights to operate.»
The airline claims that “Ryanair repeatedly tried to secure these permissions over the past month, but the faceless bureaucrats from the Ministry of Infrastructure all departed for their holiday break on Friday evening, refusing to issue the routine permissions.”
“Ryanair already has traffic rights to fly from Portugal to Morocco, successfully operating flights between Portugal and Morocco for over 3 years and there is no good reason for this unlawful action, which is a clear breach of EU law, on the operation of the EU Open Skies agreement,” added the company’s Director of Commercial, Jason McGuinness.
In typical Ryanair fashion, he closed the remarks by adding, “It is simply outrageous that faceless bureaucrats at the Department of Infrastructure refused to remain at their offices on Friday to resolve this matter but instead departed for the holiday weekend while they wrecked the holiday plans for over 3,000 of their fellow citizens.”
In their defense, Portugal’s ANAC answered with another press release. In it, it says that the permit requests were filed on Oct. 22, “out of deadlines, appearing after several insistencies from this Authorities since September for the airline to follow the Law and the applicable regulatory framework.”
“Despite Ryanair’s request having been presented to ANAC less than 15 days before the intention of exploring the routes, violating the minimum deadlines, this Authority invited the airline to supply the missing documentation,” the text adds. “Even yesterday missing documents with respect to the routes exploration’s filing were requested, and also clarifications regarding the regularization of its contributive situation with [Portugal’s Social Security].”
This is just another chapter between Ryanair and the Portuguese authorities, who have been openly fighting in the media for the a long period.
The latest complaints from Ryanair’s side are for the money injections and renationalization of flag carrier TAP, as well as “slot blocking” at Lisbon Airport that – according to the airline – would deliberately benefit TAP.
In his last press conference in Lisbon, O’Leary garnered attention from national press by showing a slide where the country’s Infrastructure Minister, Pedro Nuno Santos, had Pinnochio’s nose, as per a photo published by O Observador newspaper.
This article was written by João Machado for Aviacionline.