New TAP Air Portugal owners vow expansion in US, Brazil, and more passengers to Europe

Associated Press

TAP Air Portugal's new owners say they intend to expand operations to 10 more U.S. destinations and eight more in Brazil, while bringing more passengers from those countries into Europe.

David Neeleman, whose Gateway consortium is paying 354 million euros ($397 million) for a 61 percent stake in the flag carrier, said at the formal signing ceremony Wednesday he intends to inject fresh capital into the airline, which has debts of more than 1 billion euros.

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Neeleman founded the JetBlue airline in the United States and is the CEO of Brazil's Azul carrier. He holds U.S.-Brazilian citizenship and is partnering with Portuguese bus company owner Humberto Pedrosa in the consortium.

The new owners also plan to renew TAP's aging fleet of aircraft.

Regulators' endorsement of the sale could take months.