What are the current international flight restrictions imposed by Portugal?

Council of Ministers Resolution No. 135-A/2021, of 29 September 2021 and Order No. 9573-A/2021, of 30 September 2021, lay down the general rules on entry by air into Portugal. The following essential and non-essential flights are authorised: (i) of passengers from countries within the European Union and Schengen Area countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland), from the United Kingdom, USA and Brazil; (ii) of passengers holding an authorised EU COVID Digital Certificate or holders of a digital certificate for a COVID-19 vaccine with marketing authorisation, which has been subject to an implementing decision of the European Commission (cf. question below); (iii) of passengers holding a vaccination certificate attesting the completion of the vaccination schedule as defined in the Portuguese law, at least 14 days before, with a COVID-19 vaccine with marketing authorisation, whose recognition has been determined by the joint order referred to in the law (cf. question below); (iv) of passengers from Saudi Arabia, Australia, Canada, Chile, South Korea, Jordan, Kuwait, New Zealand, Qatar, People's Republic of China, Ruanda, Singapore, Ukraine, Uruguai, and Taiwan and the Hong Kong and Macao Special Administrative Regions, subject to reciprocal confirmation, or passengers arriving from those countries even if they stop-over in countries on this list.

The following essential flights of passengers from non-listed countries are also authorised: (i) trips undertaken for professional, study, family reunion, health or humanitarian reasons); and (ii) flights destined to allow the return to the respective countries of foreign citizens that are in mainland Portugal, provided that such flights are promoted by the competent authorities of such countries, subject to previous request and agreement, and in respect to the principle of reciprocity.

Foreign citizens without legal residence in national territory who stop over at a national airport must wait for their connecting flight to their countries in a dedicated area inside the airport.

Airline companies shall only allow passengers on flights to or with stopover at mainland Portugal to board the flight upon presentation, at the time of departure, of laboratory confirmation of having carried out a nucleic acid amplification test (NAAT) or a rapid antigen test (RAT) - included in the common list of rapid antigen tests for COVID-19 disease within the European Union, agreed upon by the European Union's Health Security Committee - for screening for SARS-CoV-2 infection with a negative result, performed within 72 or 48 hours before boarding, respectively. Although airlines are responsible for verifying the existence of this test on departure, on arrival in mainland Portugal, random checks may be made by the Public Security Police or the Foreigners and Borders Service (SEF). Children under the age of 12 years and passengers with a COVID EU Digital Certificate or a digital certificate or proof of vaccination attesting to the completion of the vaccination schedule with a COVID-19 vaccine with marketing authorisation as referred to in (ii) and (iii) above are not required to present proof of a negative test for SARS-CoV-2 infection for travel purposes.

Third-country nationals non-resident in Portugal who board the aircraft without taking the test shall be denied entry in the country. Nationals and foreign citizens with legal residence in mainland Portugal, as well as diplomatic personnel stationed in Portugal who, on an exceptional basis, do not hold proof of having tested negative for SARS-CoV-2 infection, must carry out the nucleic acid amplification test (NAT) or the rapid antigen test (TRAg) at their own expense upon arrival before entering mainland Portugal. These passengers and those whose body temperature is equal to or higher than 38ºC and, therefore, undergo the rapid antigen test (TRAg) for screening of SARS-CoV-2 infection, will wait in a designated area inside the airport until the result is notified.

The relevant Government members may determine, by order, that passengers on flights departing from countries considered to be at risk under the pandemic situation caused by COVID-19, must comply with a prophylactic isolation period of 14 days when entering mainland Portugal, in their domicile or other location indicated by the health authorities. An airport stopover in any of these countries is not considered as the origin of the flight.

These restrictions shall not apply to State and Armed Forces aircrafts, aircrafts which are or will be part of the Special Rural Fire Fighting System, flights for the exclusive carriage of cargo and mail, emergency medical services and technical stopovers for purposes unrelated to commercial operations or to their crew members.

These rules are valid until 11:59 pm of 31 October 2021.

What are the rules for the use of the EU COVID Digital Certificate in air travel?

Decree-Law No. 54-A/2021, of 25 June 2021 (which implements Regulation (EU) 2021/953, of 14 June 2021 and Regulation (EU), both concerning the legal regime of the EU COVID Digital Certificate) states that all travelers with an EU COVID Digital Certificate are allowed to travel to Portugal for any reason.

The following EU COVID Digital Certificates are admitted:

a) Vaccination certificate attesting that its holder has been fully vaccinated for at least 14 days with a COVID-19 vaccine with marketing authorization in accordance with Regulation (EC) No. 726/2004;

b) Test certificate stating that the holder has been subjected to: (i) a nucleic acid amplification molecular test (NAAT) within the last 72 hours with a negative result; or (ii) a rapid antigen test included on the list drawn up by the European Commission based on the Council Recommendation of 21 January 2021 on a common framework for the use and validation of rapid antigen detection tests for COVID-19 and the mutual recognition of test results in the EU within the last 48 hours with a negative result;

c) Certificate of recovery, certifying that the holder has recovered from a SARS-CoV-2 infection following a positive TAAN test result obtained more than 11 days and less than 180 days ago.

Presentation of an EU Digital COVID Certificate exempts travel related testing for SARS-CoV-2 infection. In addition, presentation of an EU COVID Digital Certificate for vaccination or recovery exempts holders of the certificate and accompanying minors from quarantine or isolation for travel purposes.

Verification of ownership of a valid EU COVID Digital Certificate is carried out by airlines at the time of departure as a condition of boarding to Portugal for the respective holders, without prejudice to random verification, upon arrival in national territory, by the Public Security Police or the Foreigners and Borders Service (SEF).

For more information on the EU COVID Digital Certificate, please click (here).

What are the rules for the use of vaccination or recovery certificates issued by third countries in air travel?

Order No. 9573-A/2021, of 30 September determines that the holders of a certificate for vaccination issued by third countries recognized under the terms of such order are exempt from presenting proof of a negative test result for travel purposes. The validity of certificates for vaccination or recovery issued by third countries is recognized provided that all of the following requirements are met:

  • Reciprocity in the recognition by the relevant third countries of the validity of the EU COVID Digital Certificates for vaccination or recovery issued by Portugal;
  • Holders of the certificates are vaccinated with a COVID-19 vaccine with marketing authorization in accordance with Regulation (EC) No. 726/2004.
  • The certificates include the data listed in Annex II to Order No. 9573-A/2021, of 30 September.

 Non-reciprocity in the acceptance by third countries of the validity of the EU COVID Digital Certificate issued by Portugal, in the form of vaccination or recovery certificates, prevents the acceptance of the validity of certificates issued by those third countries.

Can my body temperature be controlled on arrival at international airports of mainland Portugal?

Yes. All passengers arriving at an international airport in mainland 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 a rapid antigen test 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.

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".