TAP Portugal eyes opening direct flight to China

Portuguese airline TAP Portugal aims to open a direct air route linking Portuguese capital Lisbon to a Chinese city. The flight would be the first direct air connection between the two countries.

The announcement was made by aviation entrepreneur David Neeleman, Portuguese news agency Lusa reported this week. Mr Neelman and a partner last year became TAP’s largest shareholders via private consortium Atlantic Gateway. The airline company was previously state owned.

“We are still looking into which [Chinese] city the [direct] flight would be made to, as well as other details, but we hope to announce it as soon as possible,” Mr Neeleman said.

According to Lusa, the Portuguese Government and Atlantic Gateway have recently signed a memorandum of understanding to allow the Portuguese Government to regain a 50-percent stake in TAP. The agreement authorises Chinese company Hainan Airlines to become a shareholder of Atlantic Gateway.

Mr Neeleman told Lusa the Chinese group would probably “indirectly” hold “10 percent to 13 percent of TAP”. He added the deal should be closed later this year, close to the announcement of a direct flight between Portugal and China.