TAPPING INTO THE DREAM

Portugal 2019 | TRANSPORT | INTERVIEW

As one of the most successful PPPs in history, TAP has captured as many Portuguese hearts as it has foreign destinations.

Miguel Frasquilho
BIOGRAPHY
With a bachelor’s in economics from Católica Lisbon School of Business & Economics and a master’s in economic theory from the Nova School of Business & Economics, Miguel Frasquilho is chairman of the board of TAP Air Portugal Group, a visiting professor at Católica Lisbon School of Business & Economics, and president of the advisory board at the Portuguese Digital Economy Association. He was previously chairman and CEO of the Portuguese Trade and Investment Agency, a Member of Parliament for the Social Democratic Party, and Secretary of State for Treasury and Finance of the XV constitutional government, among others. He has also authored or co-authored a number of books and articles.

What major transformations and milestones has TAP seen in the past few years?

TAP Air Portugal was owned by the state until 2015. Due to restrictions in the European framework, it was not a profitable company, and the state could not capitalize it. Between 2009 and 2015, Portugal had a tough time, and after the bailout of 2011-14, we had a difficult task convincing investors we were worth investing in. Conversations surrounding the privatization of TAP solidified in 2015 because of Portugal's agreement with the troika of the IMF, European Commission, and European Central Bank (ECB). TAP was subsequently privatized, and the shareholder agreement was reconfigured so the state could remain a shareholder. TAP is a successful example of a public-private partnership (PPP) in which 50% is owned by the state and 50% by private shareholders. It is a company that is extremely dear to Portuguese people; everyone feels as though they are a partial owner. This ensures a great environment and atmosphere within the company. It is also great outside because it leaves no room for rumors and creates a calm environment for the company to operate in. Since the privatization, we have been pursuing an ambitious strategic plan that includes renovating and expanding our fleet, reaching a lot more destinations, whether in Europe, North America, South America, or Africa, and, consequently, carrying more passengers.

Can you provide an overview of your key routes and new aircraft?

Our fleet is currently composed of 90 planes, and the plan is to have 120 or 125 in four or five years. We have also added many new routes. We have an important position in Latin America, mainly in Brazil; we are the most important European carrier connecting Europe to Brazil and have roughly one-third of the market. We serve 10 destinations in Brazil and will serve 12 in one or two years' time. We will also significantly expand our operation in North America and are more than doubling our destinations in the US. In Canada, we fly to Toronto. We will also expand in Africa and Europe. From 2019, we plan to fly to Washington, Chicago, Tel Aviv, Montreal, and San Francisco. In Europe, we will fly from Lisbon to Tenerife, Dublin, Basel, and Naples, and from Porto to Brussels, Lyon, and Munich. In the coming years, we will have plenty more destinations. TAP is growing significantly, and we are benefiting from and contributing to Portugal's global popularity. We are experiencing growth pains and need to recruit more pilots and cabin crew and order new planes. There will also come a point when we will need better infrastructure, as we have already been and will continue to suffer from bottlenecks in the airport, since we are responsible for more than 50% of its traffic. There are plans to expand Lisbon Airport by opening a new terminal in 2021, but until then we need improvements in the current infrastructure (facilities, parking for planes, runways, among others), as we want to continue to grow and transport more passengers. In 2017, we reached a new high of 14.5 million passengers, and in 2018 hope to achieve 16 million. We are growing at a great pace, but need the infrastructure to become more productive.

What are your key priorities for 2019?

We seek to continue to grow with quality and better serve our customers. That is what we are most focused on, and with the arrival of the new aircraft, our onboard and airport service will be much more efficient. This will spare customers a great deal of trouble and bureaucracy. We will also look at technological advances where necessary. We are on the right track.