‘Re-privatisation is not on the table’ – (Pedro Nuno Santos, Minister of Infrastructure)
TAP (Transportes Aéreos Portugueses) was created in 1945 and nationalised in 1975. During the financial crisis, the center-right government of Pedro Passos Coelho decided in June 2015 to sell the company to the AtlanticGateway consortium (David Neeleman in partnership with Humberto Pedrosa), which took control of 61% of the carrier’s capital.
In the summer of 2020 – amidst the Covid pandemic – the center-left government of Antonio Costa took back a controlling stake of 72.5% in its technical bankrupt flagship TAP. ‘The national airline is too important for the economy, our territorial continuity – with Madeira and the Azores – and the connection to the Portuguese-speaking countries in Africa and South America to let it fall’, the prime minister declared that time.
After the European Commission approved 1.2 billion state support to TAP, the government had to present a restructuring plan to convince Brussels that the airline had future viability, in the meantime forced to implement austerity measures, such as a 16% reduction in workers and planes.
More than one year later – in late December 2021 – TAP finally received its much wanted Christmas present from Brussels: the approval for the government’s 2.55 billion euros restructuring package. However not without conditions.
The airline had to drop 18 slots per day (authorizations for landings and departures) – implicating the loss of over 6000 flights per year, get rid of its loss-making maintenance center in Brazil, and dispose of Groundforce, the luggage handling company.
The Aircraft Maintenance Technicians Union (Sitema) is happy with the decision as it ‘restores some of the calm that has been withheld from the workers since the austerity measures started’. The Union is especially interested in understanding the impacts for the technicians of the provision of 18 slots at Lisbon airport to other airlines’.
The president of the Porto Commercial Association meanwhile stated that the approval of the plan is bad news as a fully nationalized TAP ‘will cost the Portuguese taxpayers at least 3.2 billion euros (bearing in mind the hundreds of millions of state support already given during the pandemic). The money could be better spent on the ailing national health service’, he added.
Most of the Portuguese people – recently interviewed by the Catholic University – also disagree with the State’s intervention in TAP to save the airline, at the same time not supporting the construction of a new airport in the Lisbon region. An interesting finding a few weeks before the legislative elections on January 30.
Enjoy the New Year Aproveite o Ano Novo (pic Público/Ptnews)