Hi Fly’s A380 brings refreshed hope to Beja

in World · 26-07-2018 14:11:00 · 0 Comments

An airbus A380 superjumbo purchased by Portuguese private wet lease airline Hi Fly became the first A380 to land in mainland Portugal on Monday after being brought to Beja for technical procedures.

Hi Fly sources said that the aircraft will be in Beja for “a few days” for technicians to carry out adjustments and procedures for official certifications.
The huge plane had to land in Beja as the converted military base is the only airport in mainland Portugal currently capable of accommodating an A380, in large part thanks to its five-kilometre-long runway.
The A380 cannot land at Humberto Delgado airport, not because of runway issues, but because the configuration of the jet bridges does not fit the aircraft.
It should, however, be able to start flying to Lisbon airport from 2021, when ANA / Vinci finish adaptation work at the airport to accommodate it. Beja airport is part of the ANA concession, managed by the French group Vinci.
Hi Fly is the first Portuguese company to own an A380, joining the elite ranks of the likes of Emirates, Singapore Airlines, British Airways and Air France.
However, according to the aforementioned Hi Fly source, the company has no commercial operations planned with the A380 from Beja airport.
A wet lease client has been found for the aircraft, the source elaborated, but without revealing its identity.
Hi Fly claims to be the 4th airline in Europe to operate the A380, the 14th worldwide, and the first in its business model of wet leasing, with crew and maintenance services.

Its A380, bought from Singapore Airlines, will have a capacity for 471 passengers distributed in three classes: 12 first class seats, 311 economy class on the first floor, plus 60 business class seats and 88 economy class seats on the top floor.
The A380’s stopover at Beja, albeit brief, has brought refreshed hope to the region that the airport could be used for more operations of the sort.
José Sócrates’ government invested over 30 million euros to convert Beja airport from a military base into one that can be used by civil aircraft, although since its inauguration in 2011 it has generated very little traffic but plenty of criticism from the local authorities and businessmen.
Last year, Beja airport registered a total of 1,166 passengers and 42 aircraft movements, on top of not registering any air cargo.
Meanwhile, a study by a researcher at the Algarve’s UAlg University has said that Beja Airport could potentially attract business from a catchment area of over 150 kilometres, should rail links be improved.
Researcher Manuel Tão, a specialist in rail networks, believes Beja has the potential to serve Lisbon, the Algarve, and even the Spanish Estremadura.
However, to be a serious contender, Beja would have to “completely modernise its Alentejo Rail Line and have multiple tracks for travel at 220km/hour, between Casa Branca and Ourique (Funcheira)”.
This way, he says, it would be possible to link Beja Airport to Lisboa-Entrecampos in 1h25mins and Albufeira in 1h20mins. An improvement to the rail links between Beja and Casas Brancas would also allow trains to reach Évora in 35 minutes, and Badajoz in 1h10mins.
Another way to make Beja airport more central and accessible would be with road investment, in large part, by completing the A26 between Sines and Beja and extending it to Spain.
When Hi Fly’s A380 landed in Beja it was also welcomed by the ‘Beja Deserves More’ citizens’ movement, which has long defended better road links for the city, and believes improvements to both road and rail infrastructures are essential for Beja airport.
“Several tour operators have pointed out that the current conditions at Lisbon airport are the main constraint for the normal course of air operations for this summer. So the airport of Beja is a valuable solution, since it presents itself as a complementary airport to Lisbon and Faro, serving the whole of the Alentejo and Spanish Andalusia”, the movement said in a statement, adding the problem at Lisbon is “impossible to cover up” and that “in an indirect way, it has already started the diversion of aircraft to Beja”.
In recent weeks, the Government announced its intention to invest more in the promotion of Beja airport. Roughly two weeks ago, Infrastructure Minister Pedro Marques stated that “the Government and ANA Aeroportos de Portugal will develop a campaign with operators that offer integrated tour packages to use Beja airport, especially in the summer, when the pressure on Lisbon is even greater”.
He said “due to the exhaustion that is happening at Lisbon airport, it makes perfect sense to promote this infrastructure [Beja], especially in the IATA summer (from the end of March to the end of October)”, and added the campaign will be geared towards charter operators, who have been the main clients of the Beja airport infrastructure.


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