Brussels to monitor TAP’s slot allocation

  • ECO News
  • 6 January 2022

The European Commission and the government are in contact to appoint a monitoring trustee to oversee the allocation of 18 slots at Lisbon airport. The chosen person will report to Brussels.

A monitoring trustee will oversee the allocation of TAP slots at Lisbon airport, one of the commitments made by the government and the airline for the European Comission to approve the restructuring plan.

According to what ECO learnt from a source connected to the process, the person who will be entrusted with this mission has not yet been selected, and the Commission and the government are in contact to define the name and terms of appointment. The chosen person will have to have the skills and experience for the task, be independent of the Portuguese authorities and have no other conflicts of interest. Brussels has the final say in the selection.

The European Commission on December 21 approved TAP’s restructuring plan, paving the way for up to €3.2 billion to be injected into the airline. The authorisation for the state aid came, however, accompanied by the imposition of remedies, most notably the ceding of 18 slots (or nine pairs of take-off and landing slots) to a competing airline.

The allocation will be done by the end of October, when the so-called IATA winter season begins, through a tender. “A transparent and non-discriminatory selection process will be organised by the Commission (with the support of a monitoring trustee) to choose the airline” that will take the slots, the European Commission announced at the time. Ryanair and Easyjet have been the most vocal in claiming the slots at the congested Humberto Delgado airport.

The appointment of a monitoring trustee is a standard procedure whenever decisions of the Directorate-General for Competition (DG COM) on state aid or consolidation operations involve remedies. There are, incidentally, several firms that provide this service.

The monitoring trustee reports to DG COM and, as ECO found out, may request information from any party interested in the slot transfer process, including TAP, the Portuguese authorities or the potential candidate for the slots.

If the government and TAP did not allocate the slots, this would be considered a breach of the conditions agreed for the approval of the restructuring plan.

Besides ceding 18 slots at Humberto Delgado airport, TAP SGPS will have to sell its stakes in Maintenance & Engineering Brazil, Cateringpor and Groundforce. Last week, TAP SA carried out a capital increase of €1.736 million, bringing the amount already injected by the state to €2.198 million, making it the airline’s sole shareholder once again.