In what can only be seen as good news for Star Alliance based all over the world but mostly North America and Europe, TAP Portugal (TP) has announced a major expansion drive through the next year to – get this – 11 new destinations. That’s a staggering number for any airline, let alone an airline of TAP’s size.
Whilst notable news, details are still sparse regarding exactly what cities will be introduced. The most we know, through TP president Fernando Pinto is that of the 11 new flights to be introduced, 7 will be in Europe, 3 to Africa and 1 to North America.
He also elaborated that of the 7 destinations in Europe, some have already been served in the past by TAP but was discontinued (I suppose that’s one more clue to the puzzle).
So let the guessing games begin!
First up, the mysterious new solo North American destination. Currently TAP serves New York (through fellow Star Alliance partner’s Newark Liberty (EWR) hub), Boston, and Miami. There’s room for expansion here, with Washington Dulles (IAD) and Chicago O’hare (ORD) our primary guesses here – both are also Star hubs because of United’s presence there and both are important markets to serve. Some have touted Toronto Pearson (YYZ) as another option given again it’s a Star hub, but what makes us less sure about this one is the fact that Air Canada (AC) already fly to Lisbon from there. Another possibility is that they are considering more far flung opportunities in San Francisco (SFO), a UA fortress hub or LAX, who have been successfully attracting airlines like mad as of late. We shall wait and see, but our vote remains with either ORD or IAD on this one.
For the African routes, we’d say the most likely addition is Abidjan, in the Cote D’Ivoire – it’s a big hole in their current West African route network and would be a great top up to their current offerings. TAP has a role to play in the African market, and are a major presence in the extremely lucrative Europe-Luanda (LAD) market due to the country’s historical ties to Angola as a former colonial power. Secondary destinations in Morocco and Algeria might be good bets as well, given the countries’ proximity to Portugal so it would be a low risk move from them. Or perhaps they could go as far down as Johannesburg (JNB), a destination they have served in the past but has since been terminated. It’s a ‘hot and high’ airport so that means some operational challenges for the airline regarding aircraft performance (thin air and high temperatures makes plane struggle at take off).
For the waft of European routes to be added, taking into account some will have been previous routs, we’d take bets on Edinburgh in Scotland, Birmingham in England or Dublin in Ireland – all are again gaping holes in TAP’s network and we harken there’s enough of a market there for a flight to Portugal – even if not to Lisbon but rather to the Algarve, Faro or Funchal – to fly all those British holidaymakers out to their second homes in the area. TAP also has started flights to Bucharest, in Hungary as recently as last year so you wouldn’t want to rule out a new Eastern European destination.
What this means for US based travelers, especially those aligned with Star Alliance, is that you have yet more options to already the biggest alliance in Europe. When you have the likes of Lufthansa, Swiss, Austrian, SAS, Brussels Airlines already at your fingertips, you know you have it good. When you add TAP to the fold, even if they might end up going into cities already served by the aforementioned airline, mileage redemption and pricing will be much more reasonable with TP in comparison to the others.
Yes, they might not be the best out there in terms of service and the food is mediocre at best. But if you’re flying Business Class, they do offer a decent personal entertainment system and flat beds across the Atlantic and to points further aloft and when they undercut the big boys by sometimes as much as 20% in the premium cabin they are definitely worth at least a look at.
For that alone, you should be quite pleased with TAP’s massive expansion plan. Add to that that Lisbon is hardly a bad place to transit through and maybe take a side trip into, what’s not to love about these latest development at TP?
What are your thoughts on this, and where do you think we’ll end up seeing TAP fly into?