The Azores – free inter-island connecting flights

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Ostatnia aktualizacja: 2021-11-22. Autor: Milena


SATA has changed the rules and now only residents and students from the Azores or studying in the Azores can use the free flights between the islands.

Details in the Terms and Conditions.

If somebody is heading to the Azores and browses on the internet, probably has already searched for “Azores free flights”. Or at least “Azores cheap flights”.

In this article I will tell you what are free inter-island flights provided by the Azores Airlines SATA. I will also explain their origin (against all appearances, it’s an important point in that topic), how they work and how you can make us of them if needed.

Long, long time ago… thus, how the free inter-island connecting flights were created (in Portuguese they are called encaminhamentos inter-ilhas).

In 2015, SATA (The Azores Airlines, owned by the Azorean government) introduced free inter-island flights in the Azores. It was their reaction to the changed politics of flights on the routes Portugal mainland-Azores and Madeira-Azores. Flights to the smaller Azorean islands got significantly limited. To make it up to the residents of such islands as for example Pico or Faial for their difficulties in coming back home, a new flights policy was constituted. According to this policy, a person going e.g. to Flores can buy e.g. a ticket Lisbon-Terceira and get a free plane ticket to Flores. Providing that he or she doesn’t spend in Terceira more than 24 hours.

Why can’t one spend on a gateway island more than 24 hours?

Read again the above paragraph and you will understand. Free inter-island connecting flights were created for the residents of the islands to make it up to them for the lack of regular internal connections. It’s as if the Polish railways eliminated almost all railway connections from Warsaw to Poznań, but gave you free ticket to Poznań from Bydgoszcz or Łódź. Providing that the time from your arrival from Warsaw to Bydgoszcz or Łódź till your departure to Poznań won’t exceed 24 hours. Because in fact you want to get to Poznań, not visit the gateways.

Of course, this is a great solution that also you can make use of. In the Azores. Maybe on your way you can even visit this “Bydgoszcz or Łódź”, which in the most cases will be Terceira or São Miguel. I will explain you exactly how it works. I just want to make sure that think about these flights fully aware who they were actually created for.

What do the free inter-island connecting flights work like?

The easiest way to understand is to see an example. Let’s assume that you want to visit Terceira. Who wouldn’t want that? But you see that there are only expensive tickets to Terceira. But you find cheap tickets to São Miguel for the same date. You buy tickets to São Miguel and SATA „delivers” you to Terceira. (And when you’re already in Terceira, you check what’s worth visiting here and how to make a plan of the trip for 4 days).

This is in a nutshell, because in reality it is a bit more complicated. But to embrace!

This is me in Graciosa ?

Here is a short guide to the free inter-island connecting flights:

  1. You have to be heading to the Azores from Portugal mainland or from Madeira, or be leaving the Azores from one of those directions. With any airline.
  2. You have to have a „normal” ticket. No miles, no presents, etc. It has to be a standard ticket, bought with money that you earned with a lot of effort. (If you buy it with money earned with less effort, supposedly it’s also acceptable.)
  3. You can’t spend more than 24 hours on the gateway (you count the time form getting to the island till departing from it). It means that a stopover is not possible.
  4. You have to have a confirmation of other flights, e.g. if you want to get the connecting flight from São Miguel to Pico, you have to have a ticket e.g. from Lisbon to São Miguel – both during making reservation of that flight (exception: check point 12) and during the flight itself.
  5. Such a flight is not a flight with change – these are two different flights. It means that you have to pick up your luggage from the first flight and check it in again. That’s why the time difference between the flights should be min. 90 minutes.
  6. For the same reason SATA doesn’t bear responsibility if for example your first flight gets delayed and you don’t catch the second one. It will be treated as no show. You won’t be automatically transferred to the next flights into your destination, you will have to buy a normal ticket. (If no show is your fault – e.g. you come late to the airport because you took too much time eating delicious local fish – you can be charged with a penalty of 20 EUR.)
  7. The situation is similar when your second flight gets canceled due to e.g. strong wind or too dense fog (frequent casus in the Azores). It’s force majeure and SATA is not obliged to transfer you for another flight to your destination. Especially that there are probably no places on the next flights.
  8. There are only two coupons (meaning: free flights) on each routing. Corvo is an exception, because there is one more coupon allowed whenever there are no daily connections. It means that e.g. if there are no flights to Corvo on Wednesday, there are 3 seats available in the inter-island connecting flights program.
  9. This program is intended for individuals, not for the whole groups. Each reservation is done separately.
  10. SATA chooses which plane you will take. If they have free coupons on other planes within these 24 hours, you can alternatively ask for a change.
  11. To make a reservation, you have to contact the Azores Airlines SATA – directly (SATA’s representative, e.g. at the airport), by phone (phone numbers are available in the Terms and conditions of this program) or by an application form.
  12. You can first make sure that there’s an available seat for you and first book it (personally or by phone) and only later, within 6 hours, buy the missing ticket from mainland Portugal or Madeira and send the confirmation to SATA.
  13. After making the reservation, you have 72 hours to order the issuance of your free ticket/coupon. If you don’t do it, it will be cancelled. In case there are less than 72 hours to your flight, the reservation and issuance must be done in the same moment.
  14. You make a reservation only for the ticket. It doesn’t include possible airport taxes, travel insurance or reservation of a specific seat. But don’t worry – planes flying between the islands are so small that it doesn’t make a huge difference where you’re sitting. (Seriously, they are the smallest planes that I’ve flown with in my life!)
  15. The Azores are great and wherever you get, it will be great!

I’m kidding, of course the last point doesn’t belong to the terms and conditions of the free inter-island connecting flights. But it’s important to remember about it while planning a trip to the Azores.

Each island in the Azores is different, each has a specific climate, each is beautiful. So, if you ask if it’s worth going o the Azores, the answer is always: yes! But whether you choose crossing the Atlantic Ocean on a kayak like Olek Doba (a famous Polish traveler) or on a plane, using the described program – it’s your choice. One way or another, the Azores are waiting!

An example of a SATA plane flying between the islands.
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