TAP Air Portugal Has Sent 6 Narrowbodies To England

To fulfill the requirements of its restructuring plan, TAP Air Portugal needs to shrink its fleet by 20 aircraft. Over the past few months, six of its Airbus narrowbody jets have already made their way to Cotswold Airport in the UK.

TAP A319
Four of TAP’s A319s and two of its A320s have been relocated to Cotswold Airport. Photo: Getty Images

Airlines all over the world have spent the past year in severe crisis management mode. During this time, one of the main questions, beyond sheer survival, has been how to properly recalibrate fleets for a post-pandemic reality. TAP Air Portugal is no different.

The Star Alliance member could lose up to one-third of its workforce under a rescue plan proposed by the Portuguese government last month. Not only is the airline looking to cut 3,500 jobs, but it will also need to shrink its fleet from a pre-crisis 108 to 88 aircraft.

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Six aircraft since September

The exact details regarding which planes will be retired have not been made official, but part of the 20 jet exodus has already begun. Starting in September and up until mid-December last year, TAP Portugal has flown six Airbus narrowbody aircraft – four A139s and two A320s – to Cotswold Airport in the UK.

The small airport, located in the west of England between Bristol and Oxford, was previously known as Kemble Airfield. It is a private general aviation airport, but it also has a large aircraft storage and processing site, home to Air Salvage International.

TAP A320
The fate of the retired aircraft remains uncertain. Photo: Pedro Aragão via Wikimedia

In regal company at Cotswold

Cotswold Aiport is also the location of British Airways’ Negus livery Queen of the Skies. The recently retired 747 will be turned into a cinema and private hire venue. However, the fate of TAP’s four A319s and two A320s is yet unknown.

The aircraft in question are:

  • CS-TTU – flew from Lisbon’s General Humberto Delgado Airport (LIS) to Kemble (GBA) on September 9th
  • CS-TTV – flew from LIS to GBA on October 9th
  • CS-TTE – flew from Porto Airport (OPO) to GBA on December 4th
  • CS-TTF – flew from OPO to GBA on December 11th
  • CS-TNG – flew from OPO to GBA on December 16th
  • CS-TNI – flew from LIS to GBA on December 18th

Data from Planespotters.net suggests that the aircraft have already officially exited the Portuguese flag carrier’s fleet. As the six narrowbodies have an average age of close to 20 years between them, it is difficult to imagine who would be taking them on given the current industry climate.

TAP Air Portugal planes grounded
More of TAP’s aircraft will exit the fleet following the approval of the airline’s restructuring plan. Photo: Getty Images

One A319 to St Athan

Meanwhile, they are not the only TAP retirees on UK soil. Another of TAP’s A139, CS-TTC, is stored at St Athan (DGX) since October 28th last year. The St. Athan Airfield in Wales was transferred from the Ministry of Defense to civilian control in 2019 and is since known as Bro Tathan.

It was also the destination of the last ever British Airways Boeing 747 flight. Fortunately, the BOAC liveried jet will not be taken apart but preserved at the business park adjacent to the airfield.

These exits leave TAP with 12 A319s, averaging just over 21 years, 16 A320s at just over 15 years of age, and three A321s on average 19 years old. However, it also has eight A320neos delivered between April 2018 and November last year, as well as 16 A321neos delivered between June 2018 and October 2020.

We could well see more of TAP Portugal’s older narrowbody aircraft make their way to aircraft graveyards before the fleet recalibration is done.

Simple Flying has reached out to TAP for a comment but was yet to receive a reply at the time of publication.