“I don’t know how the privatisation can be reversed. €180 million came into the coffers, but we have spent half of that already”, Fernando Pinto said at a meeting with travel agencies in the Algarve.
“I understand the political will, but one thing is what I would like, and another is what is possible. I have spent 15 years trying to find someone to invest in TAP (…).
The previous centre-right government led by Passos Coelho approved the final draft of the privatisation of TAP on 12 November that involved selling 61 percent of the carrier’s capital to the Gateway consortium (which belongs to US/Brazilian national David Neeleman and Portuguese businessman Humberto Pedrosa), despite Socialist hounding.
Now the Socialists are in power, there is the possibility that they want to increase their stake from 39 percent to 51 percent.
Earlier, Fernando Pinto told the 41st Travel Agents and Tourism Congress that following its privatisation, the TAP carrier is a normal airline company in the European context with treasury, capital and plans for the future.
Adding that such factors were only recently “finally” in place, the airline boss said that he was now able to sleep better but that such was also caused by tiredness: “It has been 20 days since privatisation but it seems like 20 years as we have not stopped,” said Pinto.
Pinto added that while he continued with his team “new people had arrived with a lot of enthusiasm and many ideas bouncing around.”
The TAP boss also explained that the company’s introduction of a levy for this year’s festive season was designed to protect passengers and maximise seat availability.
“This surcharge is irregular and applied in some more critical periods (…) with the overall objective of protecting passengers,” said Pinto before explaining how this meant that passengers with reservations would have to either confirm and pay for them or pay the surcharge.
This would ensure that those wishing to fly actually confirmed their intent, leaving other seats available to other “passengers who are ‘desperate’ to fly at Christmas” with Pinto adding that in the past the reservations simply lapsed.
TAP is to apply a surcharge of between €25 and €100 to flights booked after 6 December, but only for the festive season on the grounds of the high level of demand and the shortage of seats already in effect on many routes.
Meanwhile, in related news, the leader of the Upper Minho Intermunicipal Community in the far north of Portugal, José Maria Costa, has criticised an alleged intention by flag-carrier TAP to stop long-haul flights from Oporto airport.
In a statement, she said, “I am saddened by the chance of TAP abandoning long-haul flights from Oporto airport, which, if it turns out to be true will cause losses for the diaspora and the national economy “.
Oporto’s mayor had last week said that TAP intended to stop long-haul flights from the northern airport and if that was the case, then the north would abandon TAP too.
Acknowledging that he is unaware whether “the decision has been taken”, he announced that if the carrier fulfilled its intention “Oporto will just have to find other operators who are interested in the flights or which hub is most convenient for the region”.
Contacted by Lusa News Agency, TAP spokesman, António Monteiro, said he was not aware of any plan to end long-haul flights from Oporto and that there had been no formal decision regarding the matter.