The second most important airport of Portugal, Porto Airport is located approximately 7 miles north of Porto city centre, serving not only Porto itself but also the densely populated area of Maia, Matosinhos and Vila de Conde, in northern Portugal.
The Greater Porto area, with a population of over 1.200,000 (and 230,000 inhabitants within the strict city limits) is an important industrial and trading area of Portugal. Also the tourism industry is thriving in the “Capital of the North”, as Porto is regarded by the Portuguese: the city of Porto was voted the Best European Destination of 2014.
Porto Airport was inaugurated on 3 December 1945 under the name Aeroporto de Pedras Rubras. Prior to that, civilian flights to Porto were handled at the small military base at Espinho Aerodrome. The first flight received at Porto Airport was from Lisbon, by the Portuguese carrier Companhia de Transportes Aéreos.
The first international flight at Porto Airport took place in 1956, although it wasn’t until early ‘70s when the airport started operating regular international flights, to London. In the following years the airport experienced a substantial growth: the runway was extended and a cargo terminal was added.
Francisco de Sá Carneiro Airport
With a construction of a new terminal in 1990, the airport was renamed to Aeroporto Francisco Sá Carneiro, honouring the tragically deceased Portuguese prime-minister who died in a plane crash on route from Lisbon to Pedras Rubras Airport on 4 December 1980. The crash of the small Cessna was considered by the official investigators an accident, however evidence was found in the wreckage suggesting the accident might have been due to a bomb explosion in the cockpit. Together with the prime-minister Sa Carneiro, the defence minister Adelino Amaro da Costa died in the crash.
ANA Aeroportos de Portugal
Porto Airport is managed by ANA Aeroportos de Portugal, which in 18 December 1998 won a 50-year concession to manage all major Portuguese airports (apart from Porto, also airport of Lisbon, Faro, Faro and Beja in mainland Portugal, as well as the airports of Funchal in Madeira and Ponta Delgada in Azores). ANA is responsible for support to civil aviation operations and future development of the airport.
Award winning terminal for Porto Airport
The current terminal of Porto Airport was inaugurated on 15 October 2005, after a 5 year construction period. The modern facility – by many considered the best in Portugal – increased the annual passenger capacity of Porto Airport to six million and was distinguished with several awards of tourism and aviation sectors. Porto Airport is regularly ranked amongst the best European airports by the Airport Council International (AIC) in the category of airports serving under 5 million passengers per year: in 2007 it was voted as the Best European Airport by AIC and in 2013 as the third best.
The new glass and concrete 108 million euro terminal (financed largely by a loan from the European Investment Bank) distinguishes itself from other European airports by several innovative features, amongst them the use of natural light through five skylights located centrally in the roof of the terminal and a glass wall facing the airside which allows the passengers to observe the movement of the aircrafts.
Since the airport’s current facilities have reached their capacity already in 2011, a plan of redevelopment has been drawn for Sa Carneiro Airport. Divided in five staged plan for further development of Porto Airport includes the expansion of the terminal and the airport parking area, extending the taxiways and the runway, adding taxiways and aprons for the aircrafts, relocation of the control tower, etc. After all the stages of the expansion plan has been completed, Porto Airport will triplicate its current capacity, to 15 million passengers served annualy.
Porto Airport – base for major low-cost carriers
Nearly 20 airlines are present at Francisco Sa Carneiro Airport on a regular basis, offering flights to 65 destinations.
Porto Airport is a base for Portugal’s flag carrier, TAP and its subsidiary Portugália.
In 2009, Ryanair on of the major low-cost airlines in Europe established a base at Porto Airport and Easyjet followed in March 2015.