TAP Portugal air link to Miami thrives
By Patricia Hoyos
Almost five months after its launch, TAP Portugal's direct flight service linking Miami International Airport and Lisbon International Airport is still flying high, but flight frequency will be reduced for the route during the winter months.
"Our average load factors for the first months of operation were a lot higher than expected at close to 80%," said Jennifer Branco, TAP Portugal sales and marketing coordinator for North America, via e-mail.
Chris Mangos, Miami-Dade Aviation Department marketing division director, said TAP Portugal is averaging 77% occupancy on the route, which is "extremely good." Most of the traffic comes from Lisbon, Portugal, to or through Miami rather than vice versa, he said.
About 33,000 passengers have used the airline's service to Miami since its June 6 launch, said Rolando Aedo, executive vice president and chief marketing officer for the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau.
"While it's still a relatively small market, we do feel it has potential," he said. "It's the closest direct flight from Europe. There's also a natural affinity between Portugal and our No. 1 South American market, Brazil."
The route's current frequency is four days a week. However, during the winter, frequency will be cut to three days a week because of the maintenance schedule and availability of the aircraft, Ms. Branco said. The frequency will go back to four days next summer, she said, with planes flying five days a week during the summer's peak.
"We will have to unfortunately briefly reduce our frequency," she said. "The demand for travel during the winter period is most certainly there, and we do anticipate a very good winter period ahead of us."
There is no slow season for European routes, Mr. Mangos said, just a leveling off of demand. For most European services, it takes some time for an airline to build up to offering daily flightsRo, he said.
Mr. Aedo said it's not unusual for airlines to go through seasonal adjustments, especially during a new route's first year in operation. He said the bureau hopes TAP Portugal makes the service between Miami and Portugal a daily route.
Over 101,000 passengers are expected to use the Miami/Portugal service annually, including the passengers using either location as a connecting spot, Mr. Mangos said.
The direct route has served both leisure and business travelers looking for a convenient way to travel between Miami and Portugal. Ms. Branco said.
"Miami is a very popular tourist destination for Europeans," she said, "and we have a significant number of leisure travelers from Portugal as well as all over Europe."
The flight schedule is also appealing to business travelers because it allows them to work a full day and take an evening flight without losing a day of work, she added.
Prior to the direct flight, TAP Portugal travelers had to make time-consuming connections. According to Mr. Mangos, no other airline serves the Miami/Portugal market with a non-stop service.
Ms. Branco said the airline is currently adjusting schedules to permit better connections to and from southern US cities, the Caribbean and Central America. She didn't elaborate on what the changes would be.
For the route, the airline uses Airbus jets that can carry 250 to 300 passengers.
Miami International Airport and the Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey are the only two US airports to have TAP Portugal flights.
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