Angola and Brazil in TAP rescue plan

By CHRIS GRAEME [email protected]

Angolan airline TAAG and Brazilian carrier TAM could join forces with floundering TAP in a project that could save Portugal’s debt-ridden national airline.

But it will be up to the Portuguese government to decide what to do with TAP: let it fold, sell it off, find strategic partners or inject capital and start again.

The first hypothesis, one which has curried favour among some parliamentary deputies, government figures and airline executives, would be to wind-up the company and then start a new one under a new name.

This was the case with bankrupt Swissair, which was dissolved a few years ago and then restarted with a clean slate under the name Swiss.

However, Swissair had one overwhelming advantage: Arab capital which financed the operation and which TAP Portugal doesn’t have.

And most of the 800 pilots and staff oppose that measure because they would lose their job security.

The privatisation option has also been rejected since the company’s 1.5 billion euro debts are unlikely to make the airline an attractive proposition for a buyer given the current financial climate.

Therefore, a government capital injection with strategic partners seems to be the most viable option and it is here that Portugal’s relations with Angola and Brazil come into play.

Portugal could put pressure to bear on the European Union to allow TAAG pilots and planes to fly to European destinations.

Currently, there is a ban because years of war meant poor maintenance of flying stock.

The objective would be for the European Commission, with Portuguese assurances, to open up an experimental supervisory window of 180 days with regular check-ups by the National Civil Aviation Institute to ensure planes are safe and well-maintained.

A deal with Angola would also be important for both Portugal and Angola since Holland and France are Angola’s two main trading markets.

This could pave the way for an eventual partnership between TAP, TAAG and TAM – which has also been having budgetary problems but controls 44.15 per cent of the Brazilian market.

Between the three companies, given Angola’s current expansion, the forthcoming Olympic Games in Brazil in 2016 and TAP Portugal’s enviable safety record and links with Europe, the new resulting airline just might get off the ground.