TAP Portugal will look to deploy its upcoming Airbus A350s on new routes to China and Japan when they start arriving in 2017, chief executive Fernando Pinto says.
The Portuguese flag carrier has not served any Asian destinations since 1999, but Pinto says "historic ties" with Japan as well as "the volume and quality" of traffic into and out of Beijing makes both markets attractive to TAP.
"These two [China and Japan] are very important," he tells Flightglobal. "We will expand into Asia when we have the A350s. But for now it would be very hard with the A340s."
TAP's route network also includes a heavy focus on former Portuguese colonies in west Africa, and Pinto says the airline continues to explore new opportunities for growth across all sub-regions on the continent.
"We keep studying Africa and keeping growing in Africa, including destinations where the Portuguese have never been [colonially]," he says. "There are a lot of relationships with construction companies, and commerce and so on. Our strategy to Africa has been working very well."
Though TAP operates extensively to Brazil, its only other South American market is Venezuela. "We could look at one or two more countries in South America, definitely, or even in central America," Pinto says.
But the airline will first wait for clarity from the government about its stalled privatisation process, as Bogota-based Synergy Group, the parent of Avianca-Taca, is expected to re-submit a bid.
TAP has no plans to expand in North America beyond its existing services to Miami and New York, Pinto says, but he stresses that its partnerships with United Airlines and US Airways have worked "very well".
TAP Portugal route network, February 2013