What are the current flight restrictions imposed by Portugal?

The recent Dispatch no. 11231-A/2020, of 13 November, authorises air traffic to and from Portugal from all flights to and from, namely: (i) countries that are part of the European Union; (ii) countries associated with the Schengen Area (Liechtenstein, Norway, Iceland and Switzerland); (iii) the United Kingdom under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement between the European Union and the United Kingdom; and (iv) Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Uruguay, and the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macao, on a reciprocity basis.

The said dispatch also authorises air traffic to and from Portugal from flights exclusively for essential journeys. Essential journeys are deemed (under the terms referred to in Council Recommendation (EU) 2020/1551 of 22 October 2020), namely, those aimed at allowing the transit in, entry into or the exit from Portugal: (a) of nationals of the European Union, nationals of States associated with the Schengen area and members of their families, in accordance with Directive 2004/38/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council, and nationals of third countries legally resident in a Member State of the European Union and (b) of third-country nationals travelling for business, study, family reunification, health or humanitarian reasons.

Flights in support of the return to Portugal of nationals or holders of residence permits in Portugal also fall outside of the flight restrictions.

It should be noted that certain health measures may apply, such as the presentation of proof of laboratory testing for infection by SARS-CoV-2, with a negative result, carried out in the last 72 hours before boarding, or carrying out the test on arrival in Portugal at the airport.

These rules are valid until 11:59 pm of 30 November 2020.

 

Can my body temperature be controlled on arrival at Portuguese international airports?

Yes. All passengers arriving at an international airport in Portugal may be subject to body temperature screening through infrared.

If a body temperature of 38°C or higher is detected, passengers should be directed immediately to a space suitable for repeating the body temperature measurement. In addition, they may also be subjected to testing for SARS-CoV-2 infection, if deemed necessary. This procedure must be carried out by duly qualified health professionals, being ANA, S.A. the responsible entity for it.

National citizens, foreign citizens with legal residence in Portugal and diplomatic staff placed in Portugal, who, exceptionally, do not have any proof of laboratory testing for infection by SARS-CoV-2, with a negative result and performed the said test on arrival, as well as passengers who are found to have a body temperature of 38º or higher and have taken the SARS-CoV-2 screening test, may leave the airport provided they make available their contact details and remain in mandatory isolation and confinement at their destination until the result of the laboratory tests is received.

These measures do not apply to airports in the Autonomous Regions of Madeira and the Azores.

 

Was Covid-19 deemed as an “extraordinary circumstance” for the purposes of Regulation 261/2004 on air passenger rights?

The European Commission has release on 19 March, the “Interpretative Guidelines on EU passenger rights regulations in the context of the developing situation with Covid-19” under which air passengers rights following flight cancelations were analysed.

Typically, in case of flight cancelations, and depending on the circumstances, passengers may be entitled to (i) reimbursement (refund); (ii) re-routing; (iii) right to care and (vi) a compensation.

However, the operating air carrier will not be obliged to pay the abovementioned compensation if it can prove that the cancellation is caused by “extraordinary circumstances which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken”. 

In this respect, the Commission considered that this condition should be deemed as fulfilled:

  • “where public authorities either outright prohibit certain flights or ban the movement of persons in a manner that excludes, de facto, the flight in question to be operated” or
  • “where the airline decides to cancel a flight and shows that this decision was justified on grounds of protecting the health of the crew”.

The Commission also considered that the abovementioned condition could also be deemed as fulfilled, depending on the circumstances, “where the flight cancellation occurs in circumstances where the corresponding movement of persons is not entirely prohibited, but limited to persons benefitting from derogations (for example nationals or residents of the state concerned).”

This means that in the first two cases mentioned above, compensations to passengers in case of flight cancelation will not be owed and, in the last case, it may not be owed, depending on the circumstances.

It is also worth highlighting that the abovementioned “extraordinary circumstances” cannon be deemed as exhaustive.

 

What measures were approved regarding trips organized by travel and tourism agencies?

In this regard, please refer to the exceptional measures analysed in the tab "Tourism".

 

What are the measures related to slot allocation to mitigate Covid-19 impacts?

Regulation (EU) 2020/459 of the European Parliament and of the Council, of 30 March 2020, and, more recently, Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2020/1477, of 14 October 2020, amended Council Regulation (EEC) no. 95/93 on common rules for the allocation of slots at Community airports, allowed the suspension of the general rule "use it or lose it".

Under such rule, air carriers, in order to maintain their right (i.e. grandfather right) to use the slots (both landing and take-off slots) allocated to them in a given scheduling period during the next equivalent scheduling period, must provide evidence of usage for at least 80% of the time during the scheduling period for which they have been allocated.

Under the exemption now approved, the following slots must be considered as having been operated by the air carrier to which they were initially allocated:

i)   slots allocated for the period 1 March 2020 to 27 March 2021, (although in respect of slots with a date later than 8 April 2020, they will be considered as operated where the relevant unused slots have been made available to the coordinator for reallocation to other air carriers); and
ii)   slots allocated for the period 23 January 2020 to 29 February 2020 as regards air services between airports in the Union and airports either in the People’s Republic of China or in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China.

 

Are there specific concerns as regards air cargo operations during COVID-19 outbreak?

The European Commission, through the Communication (2020/C 100 I/01), published on 27 March 2020, regarding the “European Commission Guidelines facilitating Air Cargo Operations during COVID-19 outbreak” (“Guidelines”) requested Member States to facilitate air cargo operations during the COVID-19 outbreak.

In that context, the European Commission encouraged the Member States to implement a series of operational measures, for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis, to facilitate air cargo transport and help reduce additional costs. These measures include:

a)  For transport from outside the EU, granting without delay all necessary authorisations and permits, including, where legally possible, temporary traffic rights for additional air cargo operations, even when conducted with passenger aircraft;
b)  Temporarily removing, or applying flexibly, night curfews or slot restrictions at airports for essential air cargo operations;
c)  Facilitating the use of passenger aircraft for cargo-only operations, including for the re-positioning of air cargo flight crew, medical staff and anyone involved in the transport of goods regardless of the transport mode;
d) Ensuring that air cargo crew as well as handling and maintenance personnel are qualified as critical staff in cases of lockdown or curfew;
e)  Ensuring that, where possible, sufficient cargo capacity is maintained when regional airports are closed for economic reasons or considering keeping airports open for air cargo only, and in any case ensuring that open airports maintain sufficient air cargo handling capabilities to ensure timely treatment and delivery;
f)   Exempting from travel restrictions asymptomatic transport personnel, including aircrew, engaged in the transport of goods;
g)  Exempting from containment measures asymptomatic aircrew, cargo personnel and airport personnel working on the ramp, if adequate health protocols are in place;
h)  Allowing fast-track ad-hoc exemptions to address unforeseen situations such as sudden and unforeseen emergency operations;
i)   Allowing ramp personnel to do their work both safely as well as efficiently, by providing staff with guidance on health precautions in an air cargo environment and support them with appropriate supplies of hygiene products;
j)  Encouraging that cargo and express airlines exceptionally reserve capacity for the supply of essential goods, in particular medical and emergency supplies, and apply reasonable shipping rates for such supplies.

These measures should apply to both EU citizens and third country nationals alike if they are essential to provide free movement of cargo to and inside the EU.

The European Commission will continue to monitor the situation, and will provide further guidance, as appropriate.

In this regard, all travel bans approved by Portugal mentioned in our comment to query 1 above, provide some sort of exception concerning flights for the transport of cargo and mail. 

 

Is there a mandatory maximum limit of passengers per aircraft?

Pursuant to Ordinance no. 106/2020 of 2 May 2020, the passenger capacity allowed per aircraft was reduced to two thirds of the normal capacity. However, pursuant to Ordinance 125/2020, of 25 May, the aforementioned limitation was repealed at 00:00 of 1 June.

 

 

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This information is being updated on a regular basis.

All information contained herein and all opinions expressed are of a general nature and are not intended to substitute recourse to expert legal advice for the resolution of real cases.