TAP Air Portugal has announced San Francisco as its newest U.S. destination, saying that nonstop flights to its hub in Lisbon would begin in June.
The move continues a rapid U.S. expansion for the Portuguese carrier, which also announced just two weeks ago that it would add service from Chicago O’Hare and Washington Dulles.
The new San Francisco service will launch June 10. TAP will operate five flights a week on its new Airbus A330-900neo jets.
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“We’re excited to keep adding new cities from the USA to Portugal,” David Neeleman, founder of JetBlue and a major shareholder in TAP, said in a statement announcing the new route. “Despite being a 73-year old airline, this year TAP is one of the world’s top 10 fastest growing airlines. As Portugal has become a more popular destination, U.S. travelers have not only found out about Portugal but also about flying TAP beyond Lisbon to our 70-plus destinations across Europe and Africa.”
With San Francisco, TAP will fly to eight destinations in North America, including seven in the United States as well as Toronto in Canada.
Neeleman had already hinted that San Francisco was being considered as a new destination in a November interview with USA TODAY’s Today in the Sky blog.
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"The West Coast is important to us," Neeleman said then. "There are a lot of Portuguese that live in that area. Getting from the West Coast to Lisbon is an important market for us."
TAP has grown aggressively both in North America and in Europe since Neeleman bought a stake in the carrier in 2015. He’s been particularly bullish on the North American market, saying even more destinations are likely in the coming years.
“It was always our goal to have at least as many destinations in North America as we have in South America," Neeleman said to USA TODAY after announcing service to D.C. and Chicago in November. “With Washington and Chicago, we’re up to seven. And we’re going to be able to – hopefully by next summer – make it to 10, which is what we have in Brazil.”
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TAP’s Chicago-Lisbon flights begin June 1 while the Washington-Lisbon service starts June 16.
Beyond TAP, Neeleman also has big plans for the U.S. domestic market.
In June, he confirmed that he’ll launch a new U.S. airline, codenamed “Moxy” in investor presentations.
Neeleman and investors have already placed an order for 60 Airbus A220 planes for the effort. The first jets from that order won’t arrive until 2021, but – given Neeleman’s successful track record with startups like JetBlue, Canada’s WestJet and Brazil’s Azul – the effort has generated a lot of buzz.
For now, Neeleman was relatively tight-lipped about plans for his new U.S. start-up.
“I think it’s kind of premature. Planes have to get delivered,” he said to Today in the Sky last month. “Once we get them, we’ll be able to talk more about it."
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