Interview with Gavin Eccles, By Andrew Coutts

How can the Algarve improve its air connectivity?

Gavin Eccles – Professor of Aviation

Gavin Eccles – Professor of Aviation

Key to the success of the Algarve is to build on the existing structure of working a strong emphasis between the tourism entities and Faro airport.  An understanding of what routes and markets as set down by the supply side of the sector is key. What do we have, and, who do we want to attract? Developing routes is based on an understanding of where do we want to place emphasis and building a structure to support this.  A sustainable Algarve is built on selecting those markets that can support tourism and residential development for the next 10 years, and, then building scenarios of which carriers we need, and, what we can offer them as a way to build joint campaigns to support longevity and sustained demand.  

What market & carrier opportunities are there for Faro?

Emphasis has been placed on bringing northern Europeans, based on the weather and proximity of flight distances.  Similarly, the charters were replaced with the low-costs. Now, it is time to look beyond the traditional markets, and, see what opportunities built on a 10-year plan of attracting new demand.  North America (Canada has had many years serving FAO) is a new opportunity. With the changes to the narrow-body fleets of A321 LR, Algarve can be at the table with such airlines to look at direct opportunities.  Picking-up on the new realities in Russia can again be of interest, and, why not look at the Asian opportunities. The role of the airline is to bring passengers based on derived demand. If the Algarve can bring a sense of why visit to these markets, the rationale for an airline to serve is much easier.  

People talk a lot about low-costs.  But what is a low cost today? In reality, what Algarve needs is a blend of airline partners.  The charters connected with differentiated hotel stock help to bring the families, and, can also help to reduce some of the seasonality issues – particularly to make charters and packages attractive for the winter shoulder months (November, February and March).  Then, the flexibility of the low-costs to bring the second home visitor, golfer and holiday-maker. European legacy carriers bring connections from hubs (LHR, FRA, MAD, etc.), allowing Algarve to offer the corporate and M&I (meetings and incentives) business. And, then, the mid to long-haul players.  Building on the new airline technologies allowing for longer flights with less people (so less risk to open a new destination), is, a reality that Algarve can push and try and discover. Changes to the aviation industry and are new opportunities for FAO, and, the development of new segments for the Algarve


Is the connectivity of Lisbon and Oporto an opportunity for Faro?

Lisbon for sure.  In addition, do not under-estimate Madrid.

Lisbon is seeing significant growth of traffic from North America.  As mentioned above, the introduction of the A321 LR by TAP on east coast USA allows them to look at double-daily on some of the key cities to LIS.  The fact that we are then 3 hours away from the Algarve is a distance that North Americans are used to. The question that airlines will ask themselves is, do we serve both LIS and FAO?  For the short-haul, European carriers, yes, as the dynamics are different. But, for, mid to long-haul, is 250kms a belief that one city can serve both! Thus, is LIS the natural entry-point.  In essence, it is for Algarve to convince the carriers that the dynamics of the destination are also different. In anyway, if LIS is seeing growth from markets that are of interest to Algarve, then, the first instance must be to look at how to capitalise on this. Using LIS as the gateway to Algarve…

Why do I mention Madrid.  In the past two years, they have received direct flights from Tokyo, Seoul, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Delhi, and, the next city is Guangzhou.  If Asia is of interest to Algarve, and, LIS is having difficulties to source new Asia traffic due to slot restrictions, then, utilising an Iberian vision is not out of the question.  How to get people from an airport to the destination is very different then how do you get an airline to fly. Direct flights are always what everyone wants, but, costs and airline constraints should not get in the way of destination development.  Between LIS, MAD and FAO, the Algarve has accessibility!!!