Goodbye, TAP; Hello Air Portugal


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.

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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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

15 Comments

  1. Makes sense. Portugal is an amazing place as more and more people who have visited (like me) know, so it is good to have a brand to associate with it. Like Air Pacific rebrand to the very appropriate Fiji Airways.

    1. I guess my confusion on that line of thought is that “Portugal” was already in the name. I know I’m more informed about the industry than many, so “TAP” alone has that connotation to me but I cannot help but wonder if there was a way to make a play on the “TAP” part as in “tap into our history/culture/wine/whatever” and build on that with the national tourism board rather than dropping it completely. TAP Portugal and Air Portugal aren’t all that different. And “Air” just doesn’t present the same marketing opportunities IMO.

  2. LMAO….”(or overflowing with capacity in an unsupportable manner which will ultimately collapse the market, depending on who you ask”

    Basically, every other American city is getting 2 flights to Iceland ???????? CVG & DFW are now serviced by WOW & IcelandAir

  3. Thanks for sharing this update on TAP Air Portugal / TAP Portugal / Air Portugal, regards Alastair Majury

  4. I’m all for the return of the original name, Transportes Aéreos Portugueses, which has a lot more personality.

    1. Yeah, but really hard to make work with marketing. Or for people outside Portugal/Brazil to easily pronounce correctly. That’s tough to sell, especially if the goal really is to increase market share into North America.

  5. So, I just flew them for the first time last month, having earlier purchased one of those $407 one-way (sale? mistake?) biz fares that went OSL-LIS-BOS. And I also flew them from the Azores the mainland TER-LIS.

    The TER-LIS flight was terrible. A “business” seat didn’t even get me a cup of water on a 2-hour+ flight, because they were short a person and only had five FAs instead of six, so they did no service whatsoever, even in “business class” — they “focused on safety” — and an LCC flight would’ve been better. In total contrast, my LIS-BOS transatlantic flight was wonderful, with perfect service and delicious food in an excellent seat — a long-haul biz experience that would compare to the very best.

    You mentioned pronunciation in another comment, and that’s a good reason for this rebrand. I didn’t know how to pronounce the name of the airline. Was I supposed to say the letters one by one like “T-A-P” and say them with English sounds or Portuguese sounds? Or was I supposed to put them together like “tap” or “top”? It turned out that the last one is correct, but it’s not the most fun thing in the world to ask someone about an airline when you don’t know how to pronounce the name of it.

    1. In Brazil and in Portugal the pronunciation is /Tahp/, where the “a” sounds like that in “archive”.

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