easyJet (U2, London Luton) has been awarded 18 daily slots at Lisbon airport vacated by TAP Air Portugal (TP, Lisbon) in line with its Brussels-approved receipt of EUR2.55 billion euros (USD2.68 billion) in Portuguese state restructuring aid.

The UK-headquartered budget carrier will be able to start operating new routes from Lisbon from the IATA winter season, starting October 30, 2022, according to a statement issued by the European Commission.

It said easyJet was ranked first amongst competing carriers based on the seat capacity it could provide.

In securing the slots, easyJet fended off competition from Ryanair (FR, Dublin Int'l), which had been vociferously critical of the state support of TAP. Ryanair even took the matter to the European General Court, but the European regulator overruled the carrier’s concerns. Chief Executive Michael O'Leary reportedly told the ECO media outlet that TAP had put pressure on the Commission to allocate the slots to its competitor, easyJet. The airline was not immediately available for comment.

The Irish low-cost carrier in March 2022 had cut 19 routes from Lisbon this summer following delays in the release of unused airport slots.

TAP has been compelled to give up the 18 daily slots at congested Lisbon to a competing carrier to level the playing field following the restructuring aid it received from Portugal in December 2021.

"Following an open procedure, easyJet will obtain 18 of the daily take-off and landing slots currently held by TAP at Lisbon airport. This will encourage competition in the European aviation sector, as it will enable easyJet to expand its activities at this congested airport, contributing to fair prices and increased choice for European consumers. This also helps ensure that the financial support given to TAP by Portugal to allow the carrier to return to viability has no undue negative effect on the Single Market," commented EC Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, who is in charge of competition policy.

A monitoring trustee was appointed by the TAP Group to monitor this commitment. On February 25, 2022, the monitoring trustee published a call for proposals, to which several interested carriers had replied.

"The Commission, assisted by the monitoring trustee, has assessed in detail the proposals received against the eligibility, evaluation, and ranking criteria set out in the Commission decision of December 21, 2021. The Commission has ranked the proposals based on the seat capacity carriers would offer using the slots made available by TAP Air Portugal.

"Based on this assessment, the Commission has ranked easyJet's proposal first. easyJet has now priority to conclude with TAP Air Portugal the agreement for the slot transfer that will allow easyJet to expand its operations at Lisbon airport and offer new flights as of October 30, 2022," Brussels said.

a has welcomed the EC’s decision. "The decision means that easyJet will be able to offer a wider choice in destinations and affordable fares for people travelling to and from the Portuguese capital. It also confirms the airline’s key role in the Portuguese market and will create additional local employment opportunities. The additional capacity enabled by the new slots will be deployed starting in October," the airline said in a statement.

The airline currently serves five airports in Portugal, including Lisbon, Porto, Faro, Funchal, and Porto Santo. Since 1998, easyJet has carried around 70 million passengers to and from Portugal, opened three bases and based 16 aircraft in the country. "So far, compared to pre-pandemic levels easyJet has grown by 18% in Portugal including by 14% in Lisbon, 50% in Porto, and 63% in Funchal. The airline opened its latest base in Faro in 2021," the statement read.