51st Congress of the European Regional Science Association: "New Challenges for European Regions and Urban Areas in a Globalised World", 30 August - 3 September 2011, Barcelona, Spain
Airport infrastructures play an important role in the heart of the regions in which they are located, as well as in certain sectors of activity, such as tourism. In recent years, their positioning has been altered from a passive attitude to an active attitude due to new market demands and new trends which have arisen in associated sectors, such as the air transport sector. The 1997 deregulation of air transport in Europe led to major changes on the way people travel, with the inception of low cost and an increase in destinations in European air services. One of the most interesting results of deregulation, was caused by the fact that the low cost airlines appeared on the market with a business model distinct from the traditional scheduled and charter airlines, allowing for the opening up of new airports and new tourist destinations. Those airlines are also responsible for some of the main changes in the airports operations and market positioning. The increase in routes and frequencies offered by these airlines enabled the emergence of new tourist destinations in Europe that spread, later on, to other places all over the world. The ease of purchasing an airline ticket online, and the availability of attractive routes at affordable prices has allowed the development of new market segments, such as second home tourism. One of the main impacts of low cost operations has been the changing of airport's structures, mainly to the ones that traditionally received charter flights. Faro airport is an excellent example of this. During the last decades Faro's main operations depended on charter flights, operating on a seasonal basis and few frequencies a week. In 1996 charter passengers represented about 85,3% of Faro airport's users but in 2010 this came down to represent less than 20%. In contrast, low cost passengers represented in 1996 about 1,2% of Faro airport's users and almost 70% in 2010.