Slovenian president Borut Pahor has discovered Portugal’s flagship airline TAP waits for no-one – not even a VIP being ferried across the tarmac all of three minutes late.
The Portuguese State meantime has paid €40,000 for this bizarre lesson in timekeeping – an incident one newspaper claims was actually caused by the VIP transport vehicle, not the unfortunate visiting president himself.
TAP has simply said that “in all phases of this process, rules and current legislation were applied and complied with…”
The fact that it cost the taxpayer thousands, embarrassed the government and State, and shows TAP to be less than accommodating when the airline is being massively bailed out by public finances appears to have been completely unimportant.
So what happened? It was very early on Wednesday morning – so early in fact that all calls by the exasperated Slovenians to ministerial offices to try and get help to sort out the problem reportedly rang unanswered, due to no-one having arrived to start the day.
Mr Pahor and his committee had checked in for the scheduled TAP flight from Lisbon airport to Zurich on time, says Correio da Manhã (Expresso in a much later report said check-in was late; confused, with more people than originally expected and more baggage).
Due to being VIPs the group was ushered into the VIP lounge and given the luxury of remaining there until the rest of the plane had boarded.
The VIP transport vehicle then came to pick them up, carried them across the tarmac, whereupon, according to schedules, they arrived three minutes late.
The plane was still immobilised, with brakes on the wheels, explains Correio da Manhã, but the pilot was “intransigent”. He simply would not let the group board.
There then followed a delay in the plane’s departure because the Slovenian baggage – which had been loaded shortly after check-in – had to be removed. (Sources told CM that much less time would have been spent allowing the group onto the plane, than was spent locating their baggage and removing it.)
Thus, add to the list of ‘damages’ from pilot intransigence ‘late arrival in Zurich’ for all the other passengers on the flight.
While the unnamed pilot insisted his orders “came from above” (no one can be sure how high he was suggesting), the upshot of this situation was that a presidential committee from an EU Member State had been up since the crack of dawn, possibly earlier, in order to be left on the tarmac, with official business waiting back in Slovenia.
CM explains the flight to Zurich was part of a two-stop trip back home, where the Slovenian head of State was scheduled to receive the new ambassador for the United States.
As it was, a scrambled plan to hire a private jet from Tires, and get back to Slovenia in one hop, was formulated, and ‘naturally’ as the Slovenian president had been in Portugal on the invitation of President Marcelo “the costs were borne by the Portuguese State”.
On Thursday, no official sources appeared willing to discuss this latest embarrassment, President Marcelo having referred reporters’ questions to ‘the ministry of foreign affairs and State Protocol’, with the ministry saying nothing.