The airline route that connects Trás-os-Montes to the Algarve may be at risk, Sérgio Leal, director of flights at Sevenair, who makes the connection, told Lusa. “On Sevenair’s part, we don’t say this with any satisfaction, especially because we believe and know that it is a line of real interest for the country”, declared Sérgio Leal.

The concession that connects Bragança, Vila Real, Viseu, Tires (Cascais) and Portimão will end on February 28th next year. Furthermore, if the values presented by the Government as compensatory compensation for the provision of the service remain in the current form, which has been 2.4 million euros per year, and even if a direct adjustment is proposed until the conclusion of a future tender , the company said it has “neither interest nor conditions” to continue the operation.

In addition to this compensatory measure given by the State, ticket sales are added as revenue. But the amount raised has been insufficient. “It has been making losses for some time. In this last competition it was notorious. Annually, in fuel alone, compared to what we initially presented in our proposal four years ago, we had increases [in expenses] of more than double. We had losses in this aspect alone, on an annual basis, of around 300 thousand euros”, detailed Sérgio Leal, also mentioning substantial increases with aircraft maintenance.

“Since 2009, there has never been an adjustment of values. And in 2015 we added two routes: Viseu and Portimão”, lamented Sérgio Leal, who stressed that they had already raised concerns with the Government and the National Civil Aviation Authority (ANAC). As for the public competition, Sérgio Leal explained that, as a rule, they are launched six months in advance.

“It is a competition launched at European Union level (…). Therefore, preparation time is necessary for operators to get to know the tender pieces (…). Afterwards, the proposal has to be analyzed and approved in the end by the Court of Auditors (…)”, described Sérgio Leal. Regarding the competition, Sérgio Leal said that, initially, they thought it would take place within the deadlines considered normal, because they were contacted at “the end of July, beginning of August”.

“At that time, we had the opportunity to inform ANAC of some of the constraints and losses we had. And, if there were a new competition, we would even suggest some changes that would be beneficial to the operation.” After that, Sérgio Leal assured that there was no further news.

“We are a service provider. It doesn't mean that there isn't another operator that does it. However, since we started operating this line, we are the only ones competing. (…) When no one else competes, you already realize that it is not a line that is commercially fantastic”, highlighted Sérgio Leal. The director said that this alert is a reinforcement of what they have already done previously, “without waiting for the last minute”.

“If an extension were to be launched, based on the same assumptions as the contract that is now ending, it would be of no interest to us. We cannot do it in the current way, without something revised”, highlighted Sérgio Leal. In the last competition, launched in 2018 and concluded in 2019, there was a need for an extension, a request that was granted by the company. This time, and without changes, this will not happen again.

“We have neither the conditions nor the interest in doing so. We want to fulfill our responsibilities until the end, as we have done (…). Until February 28th, we will fly. No more than that”, assured Sérgio Leal. In 2023, the airline, which operates with a plane with 18 seats, transported around 13 thousand passengers and is on an “upward curve”, according to data from the company responsible. In 2018, pre-pandemic numbers were around 12 thousand travelers. During the pandemic and with works on the Vila Real runway, occupancy fell to 40%.

Bragança has had regular flights with Lisbon since 1997. The connection was interrupted between 2012 and 2015, by decision of the then Government, and resumed in 2015 with a three-year concession contract and the expansion of flights to the Algarve. At the end of 2018, the continuity of the service was called into question because the contract was ending and a new tender had not yet been launched. In December of that year, the Government announced the opening of the competition for a longer period of four years.

Lusa tried to contact the Ministry of Infrastructure and Housing, with no response so far.