New York Jewish Travel Guide sat down with Mr. Antonoaldo Neves, TAP Air Portugal Chief Executive Officer, during its inaugural flight between Lisbon and Tel Aviv to ask a few questions about the new route. The following interview was edited for clarity:
NYJTG: What inspired you to add these new strategic routes to Tel Aviv and why is the timing right for this launch now?
Antonoaldo Neves: We built a plan about four years ago to expand the connectivity from the Americas to Europe and we have been adding flights, especially to the U.S., over the past three years to North America. We have added Toronto, JFK, and Boston. We are going to add Washington, Chicago and San Francisco this year. So it’s a lot of investment for our clients to connect from the Americas. We added frequent trips to Brazil and to Europe and about two years ago we started to understand that if we could go beyond Europe, that Tel Aviv is a great market for us because Lisbon is so close. It is so close to North America and so close to the northeast of Brazil that there is no other way that you can connect to North America from Tel Aviv that is shorter than through Lisbon. So it’s shorter to go to Tel Aviv, from Tel Aviv to New York through Lisbon, than through Frankfurt, than through London. You won’t believe but it’s shorter to go through Lisbon than through London. Because the world is round and we have a great competitive position and this is what allows TAP to be very competitive in prices, because if the flight is shorter, I spend less money to fly the plane and so it’s going to be cheaper for me to do a flight from Tel Aviv to JFK through Lisbon than it’s going to be for my competition in Spain, France, Netherlands, and Germany — so that’s how Tel Aviv came into place. We are closer to London than Barcelona, for sure. So Lisbon is closer to JFK than Barcelona.
NYJTG: You are right in the middle.
Antonoaldo Neves: Yes – right in the middle, it’s the perfect spot.
NYJTG: If I may ask, what would be your estimate of total percentage growth in traffic and what would be the increase in tourism as a result of this new strategy for Portugal?
Antonoaldo Neves: It’s a lot, as TAP is growing about 1.5 million clients a year. Now we are 16 million clients, customers, passengers. Last year alone we had about 4.4 million passengers in Lisbon as tourists because of TAP. We are growing 10% a year. So every year we add from 400,000 to 600,000 new tourists to Portugal.
NYJTG: Does this include Porto or are you talking about Porto and Lisbon?
Antonoaldo Neves: Yes, because we have an air bridge between Lisbon and Porto and we have 13 flights a day and it’s actually our largest route. So all the clients that come through Porto go to Lisbon and vice versa. We have a stopover program, which allows customers to remain in Portugal for five extra days between connections at no extra cost so you can go from Tel Aviv to Lisbon and you get to stop over in Europe for free. So you can do Lisbon/Paris and spend up to five days in Lisbon for free and also from Lisbon to Porto, and you can spend up to five days in Lisbon as well for free or you can go to Paris or Rome. From Tel Aviv to Rome via TAP, you pay only Tel Aviv/Rome and you can stay up to five days for free in Porto.
NYJTG: What are your advertising programs to reach this strategic growth and do you have an established network in place?
Antonoaldo Neves: We invest a lot in that so we do traditional marketing. We have been investing a lot of money in New York, for instance, to promote all destinations. So if you go to New York, you will see that the yellow cabs have TAP logos on the top. We do a lot of digital media/marketing, so 50% of our sales are direct channel. It’s direct sales. We also do a lot of work with Influencers on the web. We also work very close to the agents and we have lot of programs with the agents so that we can promote our network.
NYJTG: Does this include the Jewish Heritage Program, such as [promoting Jewish tourism to cities such as] Belmonte, Porto, Lisbon, and others?
Antonoaldo Neves: We are starting that now and it’s a lot of work. We are not at full speed right now on the Jewish heritage. But even through these channels that I have explained to you, we can promote Tel Aviv in Brazil right now. We promote our destinations not only in Portugal — we promote Paris in New York, we also promote Rome in New York actually via our yellow cabs in New York; [prior to this campaign] these yellow cabs in New York had no Portugal promotions; it was all about other destinations. It is all about other destinations as well as Porto.
NYJTG: Are the daily flights consistent from winter and summer?
Antonoaldo Neves: Right now we have seven days a week in summer and five days a week in winter, but we are going to go to seven days round the year next year for sure. We may even add a little bit more. Summer is doing very well, so I think one day in the future we should have two flights a day.
NYJTG: Two flights a day would be great; I heard that you have incentive/perks for the travelers?
Antonoaldo Neves: They do have a lot of incentives. We have for instance free sightseeing for one day in Lisbon, special fares with the hotels, and we have a tourist guide.
NYJTG: For hotels also?
Antonoaldo Neves: Yes, hotel discounts and you can book all that online. It is available now by going online to the stopover link.
NYJTG: So they can book them directly online or through a travel agent?
Antonoaldo Neves: They can do this online for sure. I think the travel agents do it as well.
NYJTG: That’s sounds easy and a great perk. You had mentioned earlier about mileage rewards. How much mileage do you accrue with these promotions?
Antonoaldo Neves: It depends on the revenue on the fare you pay. Now we have it based on the fare you pay. So the mileage now is proportionate to the amount of money you spend on the ticket, not the mileage flown. It’s in the system which they call “revenue based mileage accruals,” which is based on the amount of money you spend.
NYJTG: That’s great. Is there any other breaking news that we should know about?
Antonoaldo Neves: No, not now with the airline, but we plan ahead because we don’t like surprises. We only announce surprises by year end. October, November is when TAP is going to announce new destinations for 2020. Right now, we have to deliver what we promised last year. This is a brand-new plane. We need to renew the planes because not only does it provide more comfort for the passengers but it’s also more efficient for the operation. We can save a lot of money this way. The new generation of aircraft burn less fuel, have better range, and they carry more passengers.
Thank you, Mr. Neves, for your time and all the information you shared with us. I really appreciated it, as will our readers.
New York Jewish Travel Guide was hosted by TAP Air Portugal on its March 31 inaugural flight from Lisbon to Tel Aviv.