After just over a decade as TAP Portugal the airline is dropping the “TAP” portion of its name and bringing back “Air” to make sure you know it is involved in flying. Air Portugal launches this week, the fourth rebranding of the copmany since its founding in 1945. The goal is to sound more like an airline and associate with Portugal, according to the company. The initial rebranding is pretty simple, just a small section of the tail being repainted. But the move represents more than just a name.
— Anthony Ribeiro (@AvgeekAnthony) September 14, 2017
The carrier wants to be associated with Portugal and to be a stronger brand in North America. Today those flights focus on New York, Boston and Miami. But the transatlantic market is booming (or overflowing with capacity in an unsupportable manner which will ultimately collapse the market, depending on who you ask) and Air Portugal appears to want in on that connecting flow. The airline is shifting towards the LCC model in many ways (though no “Basic Economy” yet; ahem, Aer Lingus) to attract more of the TATL traffic.
One-way fares at half the round trip price is a start. The carrier is also working to shave costs on the ground and seek efficiencies with its new owner/partner airlines, including Azul from Brazil and China’s HNA Group. Adding additional markets in the USA to pull more traffic through to Europe and sub-Saharan Africa would not be especially surprising as the route map restructures. And, at least in theory, the rebranding helps with that.
Then again, WOW is an airline making a name for itself in US markets and no one seems to care that it is based in Iceland. Norwegian is similarly establishing a strong brand in US markets (60+ routes helps with that, as does a strong marketing team) and the vast majority of its flights across the Atlantic go nowhere near Norway. In that context “TAP” is likely not what’s holding down the company’s performance.
All of which is to say that it is unclear airline names really matter all that much. Changing a name can help shed a negative image, but that would require a far more significant shift. Plus, it is unclear that the image is sufficiently negative to justify such a change. Sure, we can joke that TAP really stands for “Take Another Plane” rather than “Transportes Aéreos Portugueses,” the original 1945 name of the company. But I’m betting most folks don’t go that deep on the AvGeek jokes.
As name evolutions go, the original was shortened to TAP Air Portugal in 1979 and then TAP Portugal in 2005.
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