TAP should be privatised as quickly as possible

  • Lusa
  • 5 May 2023

"I hope that the privatisation is successful as soon as possible," Miguel Frasquilho said at the parliamentary commission of inquiry into TAP.

The former chairman of the Board of Directors of TAP, Miguel Frasquilho, said on Thursday he hoped that the airline’s privatisation would be successful as soon as possible and that, if the state kept a stake, it should be “clearly a minority stake”.

“I hope that the privatisation is successful as soon as possible,” Miguel Frasquilho said at the parliamentary commission of inquiry into TAP, stressing that if the state maintains a stake in the company, it should be “clearly a minority stake.

During the nearly three-hour hearing, which took place while the president of Portugal addressed the country about the prime minister’s decision to keep João Galamba, the minister overseeing TAP, Miguel Frasquilho, who was chairman of the airline between 2017 and 2021, reiterated that the alternative to state intervention in 2020 “was to close TAP”.

When questioned by the Left Bloc MP Mariana Mortágua about the consultancy services provided to TAP, worth €1.6 million, by former manager Fernando Pinto after his departure from the carrier, Frasquilho confirmed that several “informal consultations” were made by telephone or physically at the company’s premises.

“I myself was with him during that time, and Diogo Lacerda Machado was more often than I was,” he said, adding that he did not participate in decisions regarding contractual conditions.

In relation to the pre-retirement agreement with former director Max Urbahn, which is being challenged in court by TAP, Miguel Frasquilho said that he became aware of this agreement, which was handled by the executive committee after it had been signed, but that it was a decision made based on the support of TAP’s services and that they had assured him that “there was no problem”.

Asked by the communist MP Bruno Dias whether he was aware, at the time of drafting the restructuring plan, that workers were being laid off who could be missed when the operation restarts, as is now happening, Frasquilho reiterated that the “horrible decisions” that had to be taken were based on the International Air Transport Association (IATA) projections available at the time.

Miguel Frasquilho told social democrat MP Hugo Carneiro, who questioned TAP’s strategic plan from 2017, with the entry of David Neeleman, that he thought it was a “well-designed” and “well-founded” plan. “The strategy seemed to make perfect sense,” he stressed.

The former secretary of state explained that Portugal’s geographic position is privileged to access markets such as North America, South America and Africa and that swapping Airbus A350 aircraft for Neo also made sense to him.

“From what I learned through, for example, Fernando Pinto, is that the A350s were only better in terms of use and more efficient than the A330s if TAP made flights longer than 11 hours. At the time, TAP only had two flights longer than 11 hours: Porto Alegre and Maputo”, he explained.

On the operation in Porto, where TAP abandoned routes, Miguel Frasquilho said that although the airline had tried to meet the demands of the different regions, these routes had to be profitable.

“TAP is not strong in point-to-point, it is strong in the ‘hub and spoke’ model [an airport distributes to other locations]. I think Porto is very important, it is in the north that the Portuguese business fabric has more weight, so TAP should try to offer as many routes as possible from Porto, […] but a ‘hub’ does not work 300 kilometres from another, nor 600 let alone 300,” he pointed out.

This is why the airline has had to close some routes from Porto airport because “point-to-point, TAP will never be competitive with the low-cost airlines,” Frasquilho said.