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TAP Air Portugal hopes for strong demand from the US this summer. There's just one big obstacle.

March 20, 2022
3 min read
TAP Air Portugal hopes for strong demand from the US this summer. There's just one big obstacle.
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It's been a difficult pandemic for TAP Air Portugal, as it's been for all airlines that rely on long-haul international travel. However, CEO Christine Ourmières-Widener believes things are finally looking up.

Ourmières-Widener, who was appointed in June, will head the airline through what many expect will be the first proper transatlantic summer travel season since COVID-19 brought the world to a halt.

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"We see some ramp up," Ourmières-Widener told TPG last month during a video conversation. She said that the airline had flown roughly 80% of its 2019 capacity around the holidays, and expected to fly "at least" the same level for the summer.

Part of Ourmières-Widener's optimism comes from the fact that restrictions have started to loosen, with local jurisdictions and national governments lifting mask requirements, rules for visitors to file locator forms for contact tracing and more. Countries have even lifted testing requirements, no longer requiring vaccinated visitors to present a negative test before departing or upon arrival.

Still, the U.S. has been a conspicuous outlier, keeping travel requirements— which were tightened during the omicron surge — in place. Everyone traveling to the U.S. by air, regardless of residency or vaccination status, must provide a negative test.

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Despite her optimism for the summer, Ourmières-Widener said that the U.S. testing requirement creates a particular challenge: Americans who may feel comfortable traveling again could be dissuaded by concerns over getting stranded abroad.

"It's uncertainty," Ourmières-Widener said. "Will I be stuck in my destination if I test positive on the way back?"

It's unclear whether the U.S. will lift the requirement by the summer. Aviation and travel industry representatives have lobbied the Biden administration, unsuccessfully so far, to end the policy. Meanwhile other countries lifting requirements — even as cases of the BA.2 omicron sub-variant spread across Europe — could exert pressure on the U.S., particularly if rising cases do not overwhelm healthcare systems like previous waves.

Read more: Senate says airplane mask mandate needs to end; will it?

In January, the federal government issued a 90-day extension of the public health emergency declaration surrounding the pandemic. The PHE designation is currently slated to lift on April 16 — two days before the federal mask mandate expires — and it's unclear whether it will be extended or what impact its lifting would have on travel restrictions lined to the pandemic.

Nevertheless, whether the testing requirement remains in place or not, Ourmières-Widener sees strong potential for this summer, particularly given the carrier's competitiveness for connecting passengers traveling elsewhere in Europe.

"Portugal is a great destination, it's a great country," she said. "I think probably we'll have the same mix between point-to-point and connecting."

Featured image by First A330neo for TAP Air Image courtesy of Airbus.
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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    Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.

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  • Annual Fee

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    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
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Why We Chose It

Sometimes it's worth a large investment to reap the benefits of a great credit card. That's exactly the case with the Amex Platinum card. In exchange for the annual fee, you'll unlock access to the Amex Membership Rewards program that let you access airline and hotel transfer partners, along with new lifestyle and travel credits. This card is also incredibly rewarding for travel purchases, helping you rack up a ton of Membership Rewards points for your next award trip.

Pros

  • The current welcome offer on this card is quite lucrative. TPG values it at $1,600.
  • This card comes with a long list of benefits, including access to Centurion Lounges, complimentary elite status with Hilton and Marriott, at least $500 in assorted annual statement credits and so much more. (Enrollment required for select benefits.)
  • The Amex Platinum comes with access to a premium concierge service that can help you with everything from booking hard-to-get reservations to finding destination guides to help you plan out your next getaway.

Cons

  • The high annual fee is only worth it if you’re taking full advantage of the card’s benefits. Seldom travelers may not get enough value to warrant the cost.
  • Outside of the current welcome bonus, you’re only earning higher rewards on specific airfare and hotel purchases, so it’s not a great card for other spending categories.
  • The annual airline fee statement credit can be complicated to take advantage of compared to the broader travel credits offered by competing premium cards.
  • Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Apply and select your preferred metal Card design: classic Platinum Card®, Platinum x Kehinde Wiley, or Platinum x Julie Mehretu.
  • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year and earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
  • Get $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings, which requires a minimum two-night stay, through American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card®.
  • $240 Digital Entertainment Credit: Get up to $20 back each month on eligible purchases made with your Platinum Card® on one or more of the following: Audible, Disney+, The Disney Bundle, ESPN+, Hulu, Peacock, SiriusXM, and The New York Times. Enrollment required.
  • $155 Walmart+ Credit: Cover the cost of a $12.95 monthly Walmart+ membership with a statement credit after you pay for Walmart+ each month with your Platinum Card. Cost includes $12.95 plus applicable local sales tax. Plus Ups are excluded.
  • American Express has expanded The Centurion® Network to include 40+ Centurion Lounge and Studio locations worldwide. There are even more places your Platinum Card® can get you complimentary entry and exclusive perks.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one select qualifying airline.
  • $200 Uber Cash: Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member only.
  • Get up to $300 back per calendar year on the Equinox+ digital fitness app, or eligible Equinox club memberships when you pay with your Platinum Card. Enrollment required. Learn more.
  • Breeze through security with CLEAR® lanes available at 100+ airports, stadiums, and entertainment venues and get up to $189 back per calendar year on your membership when you use your Card. Learn more.
  • $695 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees