Neeleman demands PM apology
The Brazilian-American airline mogul David Neeleman, who was a shareholder in now-nationalised airline TAP, has accused the country’s prime minister of what is tantamount to lying.
Demanding a public apology, the founder of jetBlue Airways has accused António Costa of “false statements” as the socialist politician faces a general election at the end of January.
However, the Portuguese Prime Minister balked at the idea of an apology saying, “I wouldn’t hold his breath if I were him”.
Neeleman said that certain comments made on a televised pre-election debate “lacked truth” and have besmirched his “name and reputation”.
In a communiqué sent to the Portuguese news agency Lusa, David Neeleman has issued some clarifications on the allegedly “false statements” made by the leader of the governing PS party who is expected to win the election on 30 January by around 40% without a clear majority.
The airline mogul states in his communiqué that the Prime Minister had said that the State bought the company to “prevent precisely that private person who was there (Neeleman), and who did not deserve to be trusted, from ruining TAP the day it went bankrupt”.
Neeleman said “since the beginning” of his career, he (Neeleman) had the opportunity of creating five airline companies in different countries such as the United States, Canada and Brazil, and that “although in the last two years the aviation industry has gone through its biggest crisis ever (due to Covid-19), none of these companies have gone bankrupt, or been subject to similar (cash injection) interventions (like TAP had) to date”.
In the live election campaign ‘face-off’ debate broadcast on 13 January on the TV channels RTP, SIC and TVI, in which the leaders of the two main parties took part, António Costa (PS) and Rui Rio (PSD), António Costa was asked if he would promise not to plough more taxpayers’ money into TAP beyond the €3Bn already injected.
Costa replied that if the State had not repurchased 50% of the national carrier’s capital, TAP would have “gone down the drain” when the various companies owned by private shareholder David Neeleman went bankrupt.
“We bought (TAP) to precisely prevent that person who was there, and who did not deserve to be trusted, from ruining TAP on the day it went bankrupt”. “In 2020 Mr. Neeleman’s companies went down all over the world”, the prime minister said.
But David Neeleman countered “contrary to what António Costa said in that debate, all the aviation companies I founded were, and continue to be highly successful projects with considerable valuations for their stakeholders, having proven to be sustainable and resilient enough to survive in this crisis scenario”.
The airline tycoon gave the examples of jet Blue, AZUL and his latest project in the US, Breeze which began operating in the middle of the pandemic.
“António Costa was untruthful with his statements and affected my name and reputation, so I expect an apology”.
The conservative party PSD leader, Rui Rio, who says he’ll privatise TAP if he gains power, said the national carrier was providing an “absolutely rubbish service” while António Costa said that State intervention had “saved” the airline. Portugal’s General Election is on 30 January.