TAP Air Portugal is ramping up service from the U.S. and points around the world as part of a new strategy largely overseen by David Neeleman, the former JetBlue founder and CEO, who is now a major shareholder in the Portuguese airline. TAP, which also just added the 100th aircraft to its fleet, an Airbus A330neo, inaugurated service on June 1 from Chicago O’Hare to Lisbon. Later this month it will begin service from San Francisco and Washington, D.C. Also on June 1, TAP introduced the A321 LR to its U.S. operations, flying between Newark and Porto.
A fleet of 100 is a record for the 74-year-old airline. In all, TAP has 71 new aircraft scheduled for delivery through 2025, including 21 A330neos, 19 A320neos, 17 A321neos, and 14 A321 Long Range jets. TAP is the launch airline for the A330neo aircraft and is currently the only airline in the world to operate all of Airbus’ latest generation NEO aircraft.
“With more than 70 new planes on the way, this is only just the beginning,” said Neeleman. “We have 10 gateways from Brazil to Portugal and believe we can support the same number from the U.S. Today’s expansion to Chicago and Washington, D.C., reflects what an increasingly popular destination Portugal has become, especially with visitors from the U.S. Our network beyond Lisbon is also growing. We now serve some 75 destinations in Europe and Africa and fully 50 percent of our American passengers are flying us to places beyond Portugal, many making use of our popular Portugal Stopover program.”
TAP on June 1 also became the first trans-Atlantic commercial flight with an Airbus A321 Long Range, departing from Porto for Newark Liberty International. This was the first time a narrow body aircraft, which routinely operates mid-range routes, was put into service on a longer range route. The new aircraft is designed to fly over the Atlantic, offering passengers the premium comfort of a long-haul plane.
Also on June 1, TAP began five round-trip flights per week between Chicago O’Hare and Lisbon. Five round-trip flights per week between San Francisco and Lisbon commence on June 10, and then five weekly round-trips also begin between Washington-Dulles and Lisbon on June 16.
“[June 1] is again a historic day. TAP is a pioneer across the Atlantic with one of Airbus’ latest new generation models, which is the most efficient and comfortable in the world,” said Antonoaldo Neves, TAP’s executive president. “The ability to operate trans-Atlantic flights is an added value of the Airbus A321LR, from which TAP can make the most of Portugal’s geographical position, given the proximity of the U.S. East Coast and the northeast of Brazil. The reach and flexibility of this aircraft allows us to increase the connections between both Porto-New York and Porto-São Paulo.”
With 16 full-flat, state-of-the-art executive seats, four of which are individual, the Airbus A321LR also offers more space in economy class with ergonomic seats, equivalent to that available on the Airbus A330neo, and an onboard entertainment and connectivity system free with unlimited written messages.
The renewal of the airline’s fleet, with 71 new aircraft planned through 2025, was an important part of the new shareholders plan presented at the time of the airline’s privatization in 2015. These latest generation planes, with more seats and lower costs, are at the heart of TAP’s transformation and modernization.
TAP’s fleet growth, from 2015 to 2018, represents a 21 percent expansion, the most of any European airline, which grew by an average of 13 percent over the same time, according to Flight Global data. TAP is one of the world’s top 10 fastest growing airlines this year, according to Routes. It the fastest growing European airline to the United States in the last four years, flying 39 percent more passengers, compared with competing European airlines’ average of 19 percent over the same period.
The new fleet means a more robust route network growth for TAP, including the new service to Lisbon from Chicago O’Hare, San Francisco and Washington-Dulles next month. These additions means TAP will serve eight North American gateways, four times what it served four years ago. TAP’s passenger growth between Portugal and North America grew 176.5 percent between 2015 and 2018. In Brazil, where the airline offers the most gateways to Europe, TAP saw a 22.8 percent increase in passengers in the same period.
Chicago flights will operate Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, departing Chicago-O’Hare on at 6:05 p.m., and arriving in Lisbon at 7:50 a.m. the following morning. Returning flights leave Lisbon at 1:05 p.m., arriving into O’Hare at 4:05 p.m.
San Francisco flights will operate Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays, starting June 10, departing SFO on at 4:10 p.m. and arriving in Lisbon at 11:25 a.m. the following morning. Returning flights leave Lisbon at 10 a.m., arriving into SFO at 2:40 p.m.
Washington flights will operate Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays, departing at 10:40 p.m., arriving in Lisbon at 10:50 a.m. the next day. Returning flights leave Lisbon at 4:30 p.m., arriving at Dulles at 7:40 p.m.
The A330neo will feature the new Airspace by Airbus cabin. The economy cabin now comprises two categories: Economy and EconomyXtra. The configuration and design provide a fresh atmosphere, with more legroom, deeper seat recline, and new seat covers in shades of green and gray, and green and red in EconomyXtra. The seat pitch in regular economy is 31 inches, while Xtra offers an additional three inches’ legroom with a pitch of 34 inches.
In TAP’s executive business class, TAP offers 34 new fully-flat reclining chairs that are more than six feet long when fully reclined. TAP has powered up its new business class chairs to include USB slots and individual electrical sockets, connections for headphones, individual reading lights, and more space, including more storage room.
The A330neo aircraft features state of the art personalized entertainment system and connectivity that allows for free messaging. TAP will be the first European airline to offer web-based messaging on long haul flights free for all passengers.
TAP introduced the Portugal Stopover program in 2016 to further attract the “beyond Lisbon” guest. Travelers to all of TAP’s European and African destinations can enjoy up to five nights in Lisbon or Porto along the way for no extra airfare. The Portugal Stopover comprises a network of more than 150 partners that provide exclusive offers for Stopover customers for hotels discounts and complimentary experiences such as free entry to museums, dolphin watching in the River Sado and food tastings, and even a free bottle of Portuguese wine at participating restaurants. Travelers can also enjoy a stopover in Lisbon or Porto even if their final destination is in Portugal, such as: Faro (Algarve), Ponta Delgada or Terceira (the Azores), and Funchal or Porto Santo (Madeira).
TAP’s network comprises some 84 destinations in 34 countries worldwide. The airline currently operates around 2,500 weekly flights, with a modern fleet of 63 Airbus aircraft. TAP Express, the airline’s regional arm, operates an additional 17 aircraft. With TAP’s privatization process, it has restructured its network, launched new fare products and is renewing its medium and long-haul fleet. TAP has 71 new Airbus aircraft on order and by 2020 its long-haul fleet will either have been replaced with new aircraft or newly reconfigured aircraft. TAP Express now operates a new fleet of 8 ATR 72 and 9 Embraer 190. For more information, click on www.flytap.com.
By James Shillinglaw,