On Wednesday November 23rd, TAP Air Portugal announced the cancellation of 360 flights ahead of a two-day strike by cabin crew scheduled for December 8th and 9th. Unions called for the two day industrial action after the negotiations between the two parties stalled. “In order to protect our customers and to avoid uncertainty, we have decided to cancel 360 flights on December 8 and 9,” TAP’s general manager, Christine Ourmières-Widener, said at a press conference.
According to Simple Flying magazine, the strike was called by the SNPVAC, one of the unions representing TAP’s cabin crew, after the negotiations between the two parties stalled. Ricardo Penarroias, the union leader, said that the most recent offer did not address staffing shortages, break times, and low wages. The airline has proposed wage cuts and flexible schedules, but crew members want the latest offer to be the base for future negotiations.
It is not an easy decision to take, but it is a solution so that our customers do not go to the airport in vain.Christine Ourmières-Widener, TAP’s CEO
Despite efforts to extend the discussions, it was not possible to reach an understanding, said Ourmières-Widener, adding that the cancellations affect some 50,000 passengers and generate a loss of about 8 million euros.
“It is not an easy decision to take, but it is a solution so that our customers do not go to the airport in vain,” Ourmières-Widener added. The Portuguese airline group, whose difficulties have increased since the Covid-19 pandemic, was acquired by he Portuguese in 2020 in exchange for the implementation of a restructuring plan imposed by Brussels.
Portuguese authorities have recently announced their intention to re-privatize the carrier, attracting interest from Air France-KLM, Lufthansa and IAG (parent company of British Airways and Iberia in particular).
TAP Air Portugal, which was founded by the Portuguese state in 1945, sold off in 1953, and re-nationalized after the 1975 Carnation Revolution, has shifted back and fro between private and public ownership during its recent history too. In 2015, the Portuguese government was forced to sell off 61% of the company to secure an IMF rescue package. It took back control again just a year later.
Lufthansa, like Air France-KLM, wants to expand, mainly toward Brazil. The flagship German carrier has been interested in TAP since way back in 2019, a year before Atlantic Gateway investors David Neeleman and Humberto Pedrosa re-sold part of their TAP stake to the Portuguese government, after controversial bonuses awarded to managers.
In mid November, TAP was fined $ 1.1 million by the United States Department of Transportation for delaying the refund of more than $123 million to individuals who suffered from Covid-related travel disruptions, reports Simple Flying magazine. TAP, however, claims that all refunds have been paid to customers. After the original fine, the Department of Transportation reduced the fine by 50%.