TAP Air Portugal Enters 75th Year Of Operations

Portuguese national airline TAP Air Portugal (Transportes Aéreos Portugueses), or just TAP for short, has just entered its 75th year of operation. Founded on the 14th of March, 1945, TAP Portugal flew its first commercial flight on the 19th of September, 1946, connecting Lisbon to the Spanish capital Madrid with a twin-engine Douglas DC-3.

TAP Portugal flew its first commercial flight in 1946. Photo: TAP

In December of the same year, the Lisbon-based airline began what was known at the time as the Linha Aérea Imperial. The route was a 12-stop journey to Portugal’s colonial colonies in Africa, a 15 day each way trip to Luanda, Angola, and Lourenço Marques (now Maputo) in Mozambique.

At the time, the flight had the distinction of being the longest flight in the world operated by a twin-engine airliner.

TAP was the first European all-jet airline

In 1947 the fledgling airline purchased four Douglas DC-4 Skymasters which it immediately put on its colonial routes and destinations throughout Europe.

In 1953 TAP was privatized before commencing commercial services to  Tangier and Casablanca in North Africa.

TAP used to operate a DC-3 to Angola and Mozambique. Photo: TAP

By the time 1955 rolled around, the airline was ready to expand again. This time it added a pressurized four-engine Lockheed Super Constellation that it used on a test flight to Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.

TAP Air Portugal entered the jet age in 1962 when the first of three French-built Caravelle VI-Rs joined the fleet. By the time 1967 rolled around, TAP was the first European all-jet airline.

Not resting on its laurels, the airline introduced regular flights from Lisbon to New York with Boeing 707s and then later Boeing 747s.

TAP Air Portugal’s only fatal accident was in 1977

In 1975 following The Portuguese Revolution, TAP was nationalized and its name changed to TAP Air Portugal.

The only accident involving a TAP aircraft occurred when TAP Air Portugal Flight number 425 overran the runway while landing on the island of Madeira on November 19, 1977. The aircraft, a Boeing 727-200 from Brussels, Belgium, was attempting to land in bad weather and overshot the runway before exploding and killing 131 of the 164 people on board. The incident, to this day, remains TAP Air Portugal’s only fatal accident.

TAP Air Portugal Enters 75th Year Of Operations
The 727 involved in the incident. Photo: Udo K. Haafke via Wikimedia

During the 1980s the Portuguese flag carrier struggled while consistently losing money yet still managed to be the first airline to introduce land-air calls via satellite in 1988. One year later non-smoking flights were introduced and the airline welcomed its first female pilot Teresa Carvalho.

By 1990 the airline had for the first time carried three million passengers in a single year and began to purchase European-built Airbus A320, A340 and A319 aircraft. By 2003 the airline was, at last, showing a profit while now operating a fleet of 40 aircraft before going on two years later to join Lufthansa and United Airlines in the Star Alliance.

When the JACDEC Airliner Safety Report was released in January 2011, TAP Air Portugal was rated as being Western Europe’s safest airline and the fourth safest in the world after Qantas, Finnair and Air New Zealand.

By 2012 TAP Air Portugal was flying to 78 destinations in 34 countries.

TAP Air Portugal, Venezuela, Flight Ban
The modern iteration of TAP is making the most of new planes. Photo: TAP Air Portugal

Airliner entrepreneur and founder of JetBlue and Azul, David Neeleman saw TAP Air Portugal’s potential of being a bigger link between the Americas and Europe.

In June of 2015, together with Portuguese entrepreneur Humberto Pedrosa, Neeleman, under the umbrella of the Atlantic Gateway Consortium, purchased 61% of the Portuguese carrier from the Portuguese government.

This move did not go down well when a new left-wing government came to power. In February of 2016, the new government immediately returned a majority share to the state, while leaving Neeleman and his partners a 45% stake in the airline.

TAP Air Portugal has one of the youngest fleets in Europe

Rather than seeing this as a step backward, the now 60-year-old Brazilian-American stuck with his plan of modernizing the airline’s fleet by ordering 53 new aircraft, 14 of which were the new Airbus A330-900neo.

Now operating one of the newest fleets in Europe, TAP Air Portugal was growing at a staggering rate promoting Lisbon and Porto as stopover cities for North Americans looking to travel to other destinations in Europe.

TAP has a modern fleet of aircraft. Photo: TAP

Currently, all airlines are dealing with the biggest crisis since 9/11 with the coronavirus pushing many to the brink of bankruptcy.

TAP Air Portugal, however, is better positioned than most and should emerge from this latest crisis without too much harm being done.

Having flown with TAP Air Portugal from Lisbon to Miami not too long ago, I have to say that I like the airline and would choose them over many others.

How about you? What do you think about TAP? Please let us know in the comments section.