TAP Portugal will launch new nonstop service from Boston to Ponta Delgada (in the Azores) in Summer 2020, along with new nonstop flights from Lisbon to Montreal and Maceió in northeast Brazil. The announcement of Boston-Ponta Delgada comes just weeks after Delta withdrew from the Azores, as the carrier canceled its seasonal nonstop service from New York JFK to Ponta Delgada in late October. The new routes will be operated by the Airbus A321LR, which will also enable TAP to grow frequencies from Lisbon to Natal and Belem in Brazil. TAP currently has three A321LRs in its fleet with nine more on order, and the effective range of ~3,600 nautical miles (~4,150 miles) is extremely powerful given Lisbon’s location at the southwestern edge of Europe.
The routing for Ponta Delgada – Boston will also include a tag on from Lisbon, TAP’s fifth daily flight in that market. While Delta drew primarily on American tourists to fill its flight from New York JFK to the Azores, TAP will be able to add in visiting family and relatives (VFR) traffic from Boston’s large Portguese population. While TAP isn’t the largest carrier at Ponta Delgada, it does have a substantial presence with four (soon to be five) flights per day to Lisbon and a daily flight to Porto. TAP has also carved out a successful presence in Boston with daily service in the summer and five weekly flights in the winter.
TAP has built a massive transatlantic business virtually from scratch
The launch of Montreal as TAP’s 11th North American destination is just the latest indicator of TAP’s remarkable transatlantic growth over the past four years. In the summer of 2015, TAP operated 15 flights per week on three North American routes (Miami/Newark – Lisbon and Newark – Porto). In summer 2020, TAP will operate 92 flights per week across 11 routes. From Lisbon, TAP will fly to San Francisco, Miami, Washington Dulles, New York JFK, Newark, Chicago O’Hare, Boston, Toronto, and Montreal. They’ll also fly Ponta Delgada – Boston and Porto – Newark.
However, this expansion hasn’t exactly been profitable for TAP. Lisbon has relatively limited origin and destination (O&D) demand from many US cities, and the demand that does exist is heavily leisure oriented. Portugal does tend to attract more affluent US tourists (relative to say London or Paris) but without business-oriented O&D, finding deep profitability in the transatlantic market is tough. So TAP has turned instead to offering cheap one-stop fares; it is routinely the lowest priced option on many one stop flights between the Eastern US and Europe.
Brazil, in contrast, is a much more mature and profitable market for TAP thanks to the historical ties between Portugal and Brazil. These ties create substantial O&D demand and there are many more business travelers between the two markets. In 2015, Brazil was a much larger slice of TAP’s network, and while the carrier hasn’t grown overall capacity, the A321LR has allowed them to add frequency to northwest Brazil. Maceio fits right into that pattern as a vacation destination in the northeast, and a sub-daily A321LR is the perfect plane for the route.
The only other South American route operated by the carrier is a twice weekly flight to Caracas (historically an important route for the carrier). TAP is one of few global airlines that continues to operate in and out of the troubled Venezuelan capital.