The prospective private investors in the new airport at Ota face considerable risk. One the one side, air traffic to Portugal has been growing steadily so there appears to be an evident need for additional airport facilities. On the other side, there is considerable uncertainly along the following lines:
• The national airline, TAP, which would appear to be the obvious main tenant of a new airport, is in a difficult financial situation, and may not be able to afford expensive new facilities when they are provided. Toronto was faced with a similar situation when its bankrupt national carrier, Air Canada, could not afford to move fully into the elegant facilities conceived by the signature architect Moshe Safdie.
• The rapidly rising low-cost carriers have demonstrated their reluctance to serve expensive facilities, either avoiding the area entirely, or insisting on using low-cost facilities at the airport, as Ryanair does at Oporto.
• The future of the low-cost airlines is volatile, not only in terms of their overall health, but most particularly in terms of what areas they will choose to serve. They have no intrinsic loyalty to Portugal, and can easily redeploy their services if regulations or economic conditions become unfavorable.
In short, the future revenues from an investment in a major new airport are unpredictable. Similarly, the potential for underused secondary airports in Portugal may have interesting upside potential.
Definition of Flexible Design Opportunities: Flexible designs could be created for the new airport along many of the lines identified in the previous corresponding section. Specifically, it could be worth investigating:
• Scaled development of the site, for example by delaying the construction of the intended second runway for a while, or by building the passenger buildings to meet the immediate needs with the flexibility to continue development as required;
• Provision of a range of facilities, both along conventional lines and for low-cost carriers, so as to enable the airport to serve appropriately the range of clientele that might wish to use the airport; and
• Design of flexible facilities organized to permit reconfiguration of spaces between transcontinental and Schengen flights whose proportions may change radically in the future (as they already have done in the past decade).
Analysis of development strategies: The appropriate development strategy is likely to involve two parallel tracks:
• Deferring investments until their need has been fully demonstrated. Thus for example the development of the new airport for Lisbon might first focus on an “inaugural airport” with one major runway, leaving the investment in the second runway for a later time when the traffic in the area had been fully justified.
• Making investments that enable the development of different kinds of traffic. Thus the plan for the new airport might specifically offer low-cost facilities to the prospective lowcost airlines, thus attracting these customers.