TAP boss taken to task as Ryanair turfs passengers out onto tarmac

Long- or short-hop flying is certainly not getting any easier. News this week is that TAP boss Fernando Pinto is finally being called to Parliament to explain the endless delays and bad press that have tarnished TAP’s image as the nation’s flagship air carrier.
And as Pinto prepares to be quizzed by MPs, sparring partner Ryanair – whose boss has vowed to wipe the floor with TAP within the next three years – is also in bad odour. His low-cost airline turfed 200 short-hop passengers from Madrid to Porto onto the tarmac last night, minutes before they were due to take off.
The reason, explains Lusa, was that the aircraft was needed for a flight to Ibiza.
This morning, explanations for Ryanair’s sudden change of plan were not forthcoming.
Lusa reports that there were “some protests” from the Porto-bound passengers, and that Spanish police oversaw the mass ejection from the aircraft.
Passengers were then offered a sandwich as they were promised a new flight almost three hours later.
This failed to take off on time, but is understood to have finally left Madrid after midnight (Spanish time).
As 200 passengers are no doubt this morning counting the costs of modern-day ‘low-cost’ travel, TAP flights remain dogged by delays and cancellations.
Brazilian CEO Pinto has always maintained these are hiccups on the road to expansion, and this is expected to be his mantra when he faces parliament on October 1.
PCP communist MPs, who have called the meeting, maintain Pinto’s plans are unsustainable, as TAP’s bad news is “multiplying”, both when it comes to delays as well as all-out flight cancellations.
Packaging the bad news in media-friendly style, the PCP said: “In a period in which it launched 11 new routes, with operations conditioned by the delay in the arrival of 11 new planes and new pilots and crew, TAP cancelled 468 flights, which is the equivalent of 2.3% of its business in that period.
“The airline also had to use a high number of planes on loan from other companies. Then, in August it faced a 24-hour stoppage called by SPAC (the pilots’ syndicate), and continued to register a high number of cancellations and delays.
“The situation was made worse by technical incidents that occurred, obliging flights to turn back” – often in mid-air – “or face outright cancellations”.
Nonetheless, Transport minister Sérgio Monteiro has made light of all the issues, reiterating Pinto’s retorts that the problems all relate to the teething problems of expansion.
“The problem was localised in a determined moment in time,” Monteiro assured journalists recently – and never at any point was the safety of TAP’s passengers compromised.
Meantime, the ongoing “will it, won’t it?” wrangle over TAP’s planned privatisation continues, with Portuguese newspapers still hinting at a 100% purchase by flamboyant Portuguese aristrocrat Miguel Pais do Amaral – backed by airline ‘asset-stripper’ Francisco “Frank” Lorenzo.
In Expresso this week, however, Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary – also flamboyant but in no way aristocratic – suggests TAP should be incorporated into Spain’s Iberia airline.
“It makes sense,” he told Expresso’s Carolina Reis. “Despite the fact that the Portuguese don’t like to sell to the Spanish.”
Iberia already dominates a number of South American routes, O’Leary explained – an area into which Ryanair has yet to venture.