Is TAP being prepared for privatisation?
The Portuguese Government, through its tourism bureau Turismo de Portugal, appears to have backtracked on statements said to have been made by its president that Portugal’s northern region should focus its strategy on Spanish airline Iberia, its routes and hub in Madrid.
Now it is stating that TAP as a company is essential for the entire territory as a strategic partner for Turismo de Portugal.
In a communiqué, Turismo de Portugal does not deny a report in Jornal de Notícias in which Luís Araújo appeared to encourage the North to focus its strategy on airline routes belonging to TAP competitor Iberia at a meeting organised by Turismo do Porte e Norte.
“The President of Turismo de Portugal, Luís Araújo requested support in making Madrid the international connecting airport for Porto”, said a source at the meeting and had pointed out “Iberia has links at that airport (Madrid) that cover practically all continents”.
It comes days after Ryanair boss Michael O´Leary suggested that TAP was being prepared for privatisation or a fusion with Spanish airline Iberia.
The president of Ryanair says that his airline company will soon be the Nº1 airline in Portugal from next summer onwards and says air traffic recovery has not reached full capacity simply because TAP has not handed over 18 slots that it is not using.
At a press conference in Lisbon on Wednesday, 25 May, O’Leary said his main concern was that TAP would hand over the slots to his competitor easyJet. The Ryanair boss said his company should have the slots as it meets all the requirements to have them. Brussels will take the final decision on the matter.
Ryanair says the 18 slots are essential to consolidate its position of growth in a phase when it wants to be the Nº1 airline in the Portuguese market in 2022 by increasing passenger numbers to 13 million.
Michael O’Leary maintains the expectation that it will overtake TAP in terms activity at Lisbon airport.
In an interview with online news source ECO, Michael O’Leary expressed the belief that the Portuguese State would eventually sell TAP to Iberia and that the Government would invest more in Lisbon airport while there would be “more competition, tourism and growth”.