In 2007, TAP Portugal placed an order for a new generation of wide-body aircraft from Airbus, which was later named the A350. This order had in mind a plan of fleet replacement and network expansion. However, as the years passed and the company was privatized, TAP decided to switch to the more recently announced A330neo aircraft. When asked why, a fleet manager at the airline stated that the NEO aircraft were chosen because they were a better fit for the airline’s future plans. This led to a bigger standing order in 2015.
In November of that year, TAP firmed the order for 53 state of the art airbus aircraft. Out of these, 15 were for the aforementioned wide body aircraft, and the rest were for the A320neo family aircraft. More specifically, 15 A320neos and 30 A321neos. Out of the 30 A321s, 14 would later be converted into the A321LR model. Being a long-standing Airbus customer, it wasn’t a surprise to see TAP pick the NEO family of aircraft when the time came to replace its ageing fleet, especially the ageing A340s the airline still flies.
As of March of 2019, the airline has received and began operations with 5 A330NEOs, 2 A320NEOs and 6 A321NEOs, one of which is an A321LR. With the first delivery of the latter type, which occurred on the 5th of April, TAP became the world’s first operator to fly both the Airbus A330-900neo and the Airbus A321LR.
The airline was quick to express its intentions of using these planes to expand their long-haul network, opening new destinations and flying more frequently to already serviced markets. In fact, since the delivery of the planes, TAP has announced 8 new destinations for 2019, with a big focus placed on the North American market. Opening their first flight to the West Coast of the United States, flying directly from Lisbon to San Francisco, five times a week beginning on June 10th.
In addition to the North American routes, TAP has also expressed its interest in expanding their current network of flights to and from Brazil, serving new destinations that were previously unconnected to the European market.
Besides the increase in its international route network, the operator will also use these new planes to retire old jets. The airline currently operates a fleet of A340s and A330-200s which are ageing quite rapidly. At first it seemed that these were the obvious choices when it came to fleet replacement, however it came as a surprise to most when instead of retiring these planes, the airline decided to retire an A330-300. For comparison TAPs A340s average an age of 24 years and their A330-200s an age of 15 years, while their A330-300s average only 10 years.
When asked about this decision, an inside source for AeroNewsX noted that while they do intend on retiring their A330-200s, some of which are at the end of their leasing agreements, the airline has chosen not to retire the A340 aircraft until the end of 2019 so they can mitigate any potential delays with the A330neo production and delivery.
Regarding the future of the airline, the same source stated “We are living in an exciting time here at TAP! Never before has a fleet renewal of this scale been seen in an airline as big as TAP.” The same source, when asked about a possible purchase of either the A350 or A220 aircraft stated that, although there are no plans for the near future to make such a purchase, the airline is observing all the advancements made by the Airbus corporation and could potential place an order in future years.
For now, we can only speculate about the future of the airline and enjoy the new products and services that the airline is offering with this “neo-revolution”.
TAP Air Portugal is one of the biggest players within the Europe-South America market sector and according to its current rate of growth, it is expected to become a very big, modern and advanced airline.
All figures came from the Airbus Sales Results for March 2019