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26 JULY 2021
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# “Out of the frying pan into the fire.”
New Chief Executive, TAP Air Portugal, Christine Ourmières-Widener has been in “listening mode” during her first few days in charge of the European operator, as uncertainty surrounds the airline’s second tranche of state aid.
Ourmières-Widener is no stranger to difficult situations, the onetime Air France executive having very senior management involvement with CityJet at London City Airport, American Express in New York and the failed Flybe. For a short while she sat on the board of IATA.
With her recent appointment it is really the case of “out of the frying pan into the fire”
“We are still waiting for the EU approval of our restructuring plan, so it’s early days,” she told a FlightPlan event on 22 July.
On 16 July, the European Commission re-approved €1.2bn ($1.4 bn) in state aid to TAP – delivered in the form of a rescue loan – but concurrently announced that it was investigating whether a proposed further €3.2 bn in restructuring aid was in line with EU rules.
That followed Portugal formally notifying the Commission on 10 June that it intended to provide €3.2bn in restructuring aid to TAP through the airline’s parent company, TAP SGPS. The Portuguese Government took back control of TAP last year from Brazilian interest as the carrier struggled with the impact of the pandemic.
Amid this uncertainty, Ourmières-Widener’s task at the Star Alliance carrier is “making sure the organisation has a future… to grow again and to welcome more passengers on board, safely”, she states, adding: “We have an indication of where we need to be in four or five years’ time: being a sustainable organisation, profitable… being the pride of the country.”
Job cuts are, as is usually the case, the centre of controversy, one severe figure given to the European Commission (EC), and a fairly nominal number suggested by the State. Whether Portugal takes the Sabena/Belgium path remains to be seen.
All comments are filtered to exclude any excesses but the Editor does not have to agree with what is being said. 100 words maximum
Malcolm Forrest, Paris
That is a Brexiteer myth. State Aid in the EU is always possible, subject to EU approval. The limitation on state aid is to prevent it being used to gain competitive advantage. It still needs negotiation, mostly proving that the issue is survival/job retention.
Catherine Chetwynd, United Kingdom
If I remember correctly, Ourmieres-Widener was part of the Flybe problem rather than part of the solution; and regarding state aid, I thought that was against EU regulations?