Portuguese flag carrier TAP Portugal has revealed plans to cut its capacity by an additional 20% for the rest of February. The airline was already flying just 27% of its 2020 capacity for the month but will now operate at just 7% of its originally planned schedule. This comes as Portugal locks down hard and other nations restrict entry from those originating in the country.
Capacity cut by 93%
Portugal’s flag carrier TAP Portugal has revealed this weekend that it is implementing deep capacity cuts to its operations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. National travel restrictions in force at home and overseas means the airline’s ability to operate its route network had been severely restricted.
Compared to the flights it was operating in February 2020, the airline will reduce its capacity by a staggering 93%. Flight data shows that, up to today, it was flying a capacity down 75% from 2020 levels. The airline explained that the decision was taken following additional restrictions imposed by national authorities and the countries in which it operates.
Despite the deep cuts in capacity, TAP will continue to fly some routes. It plans to maintain national air mobility between the mainland airports of Lisbon and Porto to Madeira and the Azores. It has said it will also keep connections going for destinations where there is a strong Portuguese diaspora. In a statement, the airline shared,
“Additionally, it will ensure international air connections to cities with significant Portuguese communities, such as Newark, Boston, Toronto, Madrid, Barcelona, Malaga, Valencia, Amsterdam, Brussels, Geneva, Zurich, Luxembourg, Paris, Nice, Toulouse, Marseille, Lyon, Milan, Rome, Bissau, Conakry, Dakar, Maputo, Praia, São Vicente and São Tomé and Príncipe.”
TAP stated that it will also continue to operate humanitarian and repatriation fights, in coordination with national and foreign authorities, as well as cargo flights. The EU is expected to approve a rescue deal for TAP’s failing finances soon.
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Portugal’s state of emergency to continue for two more weeks
With Portugal experiencing one of Europe’s worst outbreaks of COVID, the country has entered a state of extreme lockdown. The state of emergency in the nation was, at the weekend, extended by a further two weeks, restricting movement of people domestically. The latest decree from the Portuguese government states that,
“…trips out of the continental territory by Portuguese citizens effected by any form, namely road, rail, air, river or maritime, are prohibited”.
Many non-essential businesses in the country remain closed, and citizens are advised to stay at home. Some counties have a nightly curfew in place, and movement between municipalities at the weekend is prohibited. Travel, at home and abroad, is strongly restricted.
But it’s not just internal restrictions that are hampering TAP’s ability to fly. Further afield, other countries have added Portugal to their ‘red’ lists as cases in the nation continue to surge out of control. Last week, the UK added Portugal to its ban list, as it introduced hotel-based quarantine for those arriving from high-risk countries.
Worse than that, for TAP at least, was the Portuguese government’s announcement of the suspension of flights to Brazil for 15 days, beginning January 29th. TAP’s long-haul network had a very strong Brazilian focus, with Recife, Belo Horizonte, Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Salvador de Bahia, Brasilia and Fortaleza all key cities for the airline.
With very few places left to fly, TAP won’t be flying anywhere much at all until Portugal gets its COVID-19 outbreak under control.