Infrastructures minister “downplays criticism”
Ahead of the parliamentary debate on the government’s programme, Portugal’s minister for infrastructure and housing, Pedro Nuno Santos has admitted that, even with the benefit of its 2.55 billion euro restructuring plan, TAP will need public subsidies for certain loss-making routes.
Which routes those are, however, he hasn’t said.
According to Lusa, Mr Santos has “again downplayed criticism of TAP’s strategy by politicians, particularly in the north of Portugal” (who maintain TAP is much too Lisbon-centric).
In a Cat’s cradle of political-speak, the minister said: “It is one thing to understand that there are routes that are public service routes that should be financed, but it is another thing to think that a public company, because it is public, should run loss-making routes.
“If there are unprofitable public service routes, there should be public subsidisation. But we have to understand what they are. We have, for example, the trips from the archipelagos of Madeira and the Azores to the mainland that are subsidised, and rightly so, to ensure that citizens of the autonomous regions can fly to the rest of the country.
“If we understand that there are routes that, at the moment, are not covered, this should be the approach. I am not making any commitment. The commitment is for us to work with those who have proposals,” the minister stressed.
“Recently, we have seen a permanent attack on TAP when TAP is increasing the number of flights from Porto,” he said, stressing that it is necessary to “stop and think”.
“We are all having this debate on an airline that is strengthening,” he said, adding that “TAP is recovering flights and its presence in Porto and is the only one that connects Porto to the other side of the Atlantic.”
Pedro Nuno Santos said that the government’s strategy for TAP “is not holding back the economic development of the North”.
“Connections to Porto are not made only by TAP. The others are also growing and that is good,” he said.
“We have to start looking at TAP without dramatisation“, the minister concluded.
Which is all well and good, critics might say, if the airline wasn’t costing the country a small fortune.
TAP said on Saturday that it had doubled the number of flights from Porto compared to last year – an increase that came into effect this month and will remain in place until the end of the summer.
The announcement was made in a statement released on the same day that Jornal de Notícias reported that, compared to the summer of 2019, TAP would operate seven fewer routes and offer 705,000 fewer seats from Porto Airport, which prompted criticism from the mayor of Porto, Rui Moreira, and several parties.
The airline said that “TAP doubled the number of flights from Porto compared to last year (98% increase),” adding that “this reinforcement strategy came into effect in April and will remain in place until the end of summer this year.