TAP Portugal expecting break-even in 2012: Pinto

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TAP Portugal chief executive Fernando Pinto says he is cautiously optimistic the airline will break even in its 2012 financial year to 31 December, having continued growing throughout the Eurozone sovereign debt crisis.

"We don't have the net result for 2012 yet, but despite the high fuel cost I would say that we will be maybe a bit better than break-even," Pinto tells Flightglobal.

Although the airline witnessed a 3% reduction in domestic sales over the past two years, Pinto says international demand has outperformed. "We grew more than 4% last year," he notes. "The year before was about 7%. So despite the crisis we keep growing."

He downplays the Eurozone's troubles as "not our main problem", saying the airline is more focussed on what it regards as excessively high oil prices.

Arguing that global economic realities are not reflected by Brent Crude prices - currently at a nine-month high of $119 per barrel - Pinto insists: "The main question is how come fuel is still going up when there is crisis all around...We expect fuel to come down."

TAP Portugal has reduced its fuel hedges over the past three months in anticipation of a price decline, the chief executive confirms.