The Chief Executive Officer and the Chairman of state-owned airline TAP Air Portugal have been dismissed by the Portuguese government. The high-level dismissals follow a scandal involving an irregular severance payment of €500,000 to a former executive board member.
Portugal’s Finance Minister Fernando Medina, together with Infrastructure Minister João Galamba told a news conference this week that the airline CEO Christine Ourmières-Widener and chairman Manuel Beja were dismissed after it was ascertained that the payment was illegal.
The recipient of the payment – former government official Alexandra Reis – has been directed to return the money.
In his statement at the news conference, Finance Minister Fernando Media remarked: “This episode has shaken the confidence of the Portuguese in TAP and it is essential, above all, to recover the bond of trust between the country and the company.”
The payment scandal had already claimed the scalps of government ministers in December last year. Payment recipient Alexandra Reis was forced to quit, having just gained the position Treasury Secretary of State.
The Infrastructure Minister Pedro Nuno Santos and Secretary of State for Infrastructure, Hugo Santos Mendes, also resigned at that time.
In December 2022, the Union of Civil Aviation Pilots (SPAC) had called for the joint resignations of the presidents of the airline’s Board of Directors, Manuel Beja and CEO Christine Ourmières-Widener.
The call was made over the controversial compensation payment of €500,000, which was made to Reis when she left the state-owned airline.
The news of the scandal has perhaps been exacerbated by the fact that the airline was the subject of taxpayer funded bailout last year, which ran out to €3.2 billion.
In his press conference, Finance Minister Medina broached the idea of a privatisation of the state-owned airline, saying: “The government expects to open the process of privatisation of the company soon.”
Infrastructure Minister João Galamba advised that Luís Rodrigues, who until now was CEO of Azores Airline SATA, would step in as CEO and Chairman of TAP Air Portugal in the wake of the two dismissals.
About TAP Air Portugal
TAP Air Portugal is the flag carrier airline of Portugal, with its headquarters located in Lisbon. The airline was founded in 1945 and has since grown to become one of the largest airlines in Europe, operating flights to over 90 destinations in 36 countries worldwide.
TAP Air Portugal operates a modern fleet of aircraft, which includes Airbus A320, A321neo, A330, A340, and A350 models.
In addition to its passenger services, TAP Air Portugal also operates a cargo division, TAP Cargo, which provides air freight services to destinations around the world.
TAP Air Portugal is a member of the Star Alliance, which is a global airline alliance that includes 26 airlines from around the world.