Associação Comercial do Porto attacks TAP and insists on it’s extinction

  • ECO News
  • 15 October 2021

Associação Comercial do Porto has criticised Christine Ourmières-Widener's refusal to have more flights out of Lisbon, reaffirming that state intervention "will not solve structural problems" of TAP.

Associação Comercial do Porto (ACP) was not pleased to hear the CEO of TAP talk about the “frustration” felt by northern operators regarding the airline’s lack of service in the region, reiterating its opposition to state intervention in the company, which “follows an irrational public investment strategy, contrary to the country’s economic interests and which does not ensure the company’s future viability”.

“The current TAP should be abolished and, in its place, a new airline created, which would safeguard existing assets and provide a better service to the country, in line with the options taken in other European countries, such as Switzerland (Swissair), Belgium (Sabena) and Italy (Alitalia), the latter case with the particularity of having been decreed extinct today [Friday],” stresses the trade and industry association led by Nuno Botelho.

In an interview with Expresso, the CEO of TAP, Christine Ourmières-Widener, recognises the “frustration” of the region’s operators and says she is “trying to give as much as [she] can to Porto on a sustainable basis”, assuring that “if I could make more flights to Porto, with a good business case, of course, I would like to do them”.

“It is obvious that it is impossible to have two hubs, not least because it would not work from a profitability and efficiency point of view. (…) I understand Porto’s disappointment, but we have made many studies based on numbers and facts and tried to explain the situation,” the manager signalled, also arguing with the fact that TAP’s crew is “essentially based in Lisbon”.

This Friday, ACP issued a statement expressing its “concern” over these statements by Christine Ourmières-Widener, which “reinforce the idea, already expressed several times by this association, that the state intervention in TAP is a badly conducted process that will not solve the structural problems that, for decades, have made the airline an unviable company.

Refusing “any attempt to diminish its role” and promising not to relinquish its intervention in this matter, He recalls the warning he’s made over a year ago about the “irrationality” of this dossier, on a political and economic level. In July 2020 he even filed an injunction against the injection of €1.2 billion in TAP, which was eventually rejected by the court, but “alerted the Portuguese to the need for greater scrutiny of this use of public money.”

Last September, Nuno Botelho wrote to the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Competition, arguing that the best solution would be to dissolve TAP and create a new airline.

This “zero-based” company would keep strategic assets – the Portela hub and connections to Brazil, the USA and Portuguese-speaking Africa – and would ensure intercontinental routes from Lisbon, but in a complementary manner, aiming for territorial balance, support would be made available for creating national and European routes at other Portuguese airports, “duly managed by regional entities for external promotion”.