Review: Azores Airlines Business Class A310 Boston To Ponta Delgada

Filed Under: Other Airlines

Before I get into this report, I think it’s important to differentiate between actual enthusiasm of a product, and aviation geek enthusiasm of a product. I suspect most aviation geeks will appreciate why I was excited to fly an A310, while others will probably be scratching their head.

Azores Airlines 250
Boston (BOS) – Ponta Delgada (PDL)
Tuesday, June 20
Depart: 9:15PM (+1 day)
Arrive: 6:00AM
Duration: 4hr45min
Aircraft: Airbus A310
Seat: 3B (Business Class)

I boarded through the forward door (the A310 only has two sets of doors), where the crew was stationed. Usually I’d say the crew welcomed me aboard, but that wasn’t the case here. They just stood there and looked at me, and said nothing.

However, when I saw the cabin I had a hard time controlling my excitement. Talk about a blast from the past! For what it’s worth, this plane wasn’t actually that old. The tail number was CS-TGV, and it looks like it started service for Air Afrique in 1992.

The Azores Airlines A310 business class cabin consisted of 18 seats, spread across three rows in a 2-2-2 configuration.

Azores Airlines business class cabin A310

Azores Airlines business class cabin A310

As you can see, the overhead bins on this plane were tiny, and could barely accommodate a standard size carry-on. Unlike usual, the middle bins on this plane were actually bigger.

Azores Airlines business class cabin A310

I also quickly glanced into the economy cabin, which is in a 2-4-2 configuration, and consists of a single long cabin.

Azores Airlines economy class cabin A310

I assigned us seats 3A & 3B, the aisle and window seat on the left in the last row of business class.

Azores Airlines business class seats A310

Legroom certainly wasn’t as good as you’d usually get in business class, but perfectly fine for a quick overnight flight. I’d say the seat pitch was maybe ~45″.

Azores Airlines business class seats A310

This seat has definitely seen better days, as the padding was so worn that it was uncomfortable to sit in. I could feel the metal bar underneath my seat.

Azores Airlines business class seat padding

On the outside armrest were the two buttons that manually controlled the seat recline and footrest (which didn’t work at my seat), as well as the audio controls for the overhead entertainment.

Azores Airlines business class seat controls

There was even an ashtray!

Azores Airlines business class ashtray

The center console was narrow.

Azores Airlines business class center console

The tray folded out of the side armrest, and was crooked — I couldn’t straighten it out.

Azores Airlines business class tray table

On the plus side, the seats had individual air nozzles, which is a feature that so many airlines don’t have nowadays, frustratingly.

Azores Airlines business class air nozzles!

In addition to the (inoperable) legrest was a footrest on the seat in front.

Azores Airlines business class footrest

While Ford’s worked when we boarded, it became stuck when he tried to adjust it.

Azores Airlines business class footrest

Waiting at each seat on boarding was a pillow and blanket. These were what I’d typically expect in economy.

Azores Airlines business class pillow & blanket

Calling this a “cloud pillow” may be a bit of a stretch.

Azores Airlines business class “Cloud Pillow”

Every seat on the plane was taken, and observing the boarding process was interesting. Passengers seemed to be a mix of people from the Azores, as well as lots of people who booked Azores Airlines simply because they have super cheap fares between Boston and mainland Portugal/Spain. Not surprisingly, the people from the Azores were unfazed by the plane, while overhearing the reactions from others was amusing. “Oh my God, how old is this plane? Is this safe?”

At 9:10PM a PA was made saying “all passengers seated, head count please.”

Even though everyone was onboard, it was a further 20 minutes until the door closed, at 9:30PM. At that point the lead flight attendant made an announcement informing us of our flight time of 4hr30min.

Azores Airlines business class cabin

After that the safety video was screened on the single monitor at the front of the cabin. However, the video quality was terrible — it was flickering the whole time, to the point that you couldn’t see many parts of it.

Azores Airlines safety demo

Finally at 9:40PM we began our pushback. There were no pre-departure beverages, amenity kits, magazines, newspapers, etc. Nothing.

Our taxi was pretty quick, and by 10PM we were cleared for takeoff on runway 33L. The seatbelt sign stayed on for 25 minutes after takeoff, even though it was a mostly smooth ride. At that point the flight attendants closed the curtains between the galley and cabin, though we didn’t see them again for a long time.

50 minutes after takeoff the captain made a welcome aboard announcement, advising that we were scheduled to land at 6:10AM. He seemed like a friendly guy, much more so than the rest of the crew.

Azores Airlines business class cabin

After takeoff I checked out the lavatory, located at the front of the cabin. I love how old the A310 lavatories look — so cool.

Azores Airlines A310 business class lavatory

Azores Airlines A310 business class lavatory

75 minutes after takeoff the crew finally made an appearance, and had a cart.

“Chicken or fish.” I ordered the fish, while Ford had the chicken.

Oddly the two meals came with different accompaniments.

My fish was served with a chicken appetizer, a bread roll, some cheese and crackers, and cake for dessert. The fish was dry and borderline inedible, the chicken was fine, and the dessert was really tasty. I’m not trying to be rude, but the food had a really bad odor — it smelled like dog food.

Azores Airlines business class dinner

Meanwhile Ford’s chicken was served with a shrimp appetizer, a bread roll, some cheese and crackers, and fruit for dessert. On the surface I can understand why they’d have two different sides with the dishes, though I’m not sure why they’d have different desserts. All the food also came with the wrapping still on it.

Azores Airlines business class dinner

Azores Airlines business class main course

Drinks were offered from the same cart. There was no glassware, but rather just plastic cups.

I asked the flight attendant if they had any sparkling wine to drink (mainly because I wanted to see what they served). “Yes, but we don’t have enough crew today, so we also have to serve economy. Do you need me to put it in the chiller?” You’d think they’d put it in the chiller sometime during the 75 minutes before the service.

I said it would be great if she didn’t mind, though after serving business class for five minutes, the crew was nowhere to be seen for the next hour, as they had to serve economy.

While we wanted to sleep after dinner, it was an additional hour before our trays were cleared (and I was never offered champagne).

After the meal was done we had about two hours left in the flight, so I decided to recline my seat as far back as it would go. While it wasn’t terribly comfortable, I managed to get a bit of rest. It wasn’t great sleep, but I think I at least fell asleep for a little, which is more than I was expecting. For what it’s worth, they showed the movie “Ice Age” during this time, though the video quality was so bad that you couldn’t really see it anyway.

Azores Airlines business class seat recline

I woke up about 30 minutes before landing as the captain made another announcement, informing us we were on our approach. We didn’t actually see the crew again until they did their safety checks a few minutes before landing.

Airshow approaching the Azores

On the plus side, the highlight of the flight was probably the stunning sunrise on our approach into the Azores — wow!

Sunrise approaching the Azores

Sunrise approaching the Azores

Approach into Ponta Delgada

Approach into Ponta Delgada

We ended up touching down in Ponta Delgada at 6:40AM. The airport is tiny, so we rolled to the end of the runway and from there had a short taxi to the apron.

Taxiing Ponta Delgada Airport

On the ground at Ponta Delgada Airport was a Ryanair plane, TAP plane, and a few Azores planes (including an A320 and two props).

Taxiing Ponta Delgada Airport

Azores Airlines A320 Ponta Delgada

We arrived at our parking position at 6:45AM, about 45 minutes behind schedule (which is basically early by Azores Airlines’ standards, based on what I’ve heard — just shortly after I took this flight, the Boston to Ponta Delgada flight was canceled several days in a row). It took them several minutes to pull the air stairs up to the forward door.

Ponta Delgada Airport air stairs

The rear door was opened a couple of minutes before the forward one, even.

Passengers deplaning Ponta Delgada Airport

It was cool to see the A310 from the outside.

Azores Airlines A310 Ponta Delgada Airport

On the plus side, at least they didn’t use buses, but rather we could walk straight to the terminal.

Walking to the arrivals hall Ponta Delgada Airport

Immigration was quick, and within five minutes we were through baggage claim and in the arrivals hall.

Ponta Delgada Airport baggage claim

Ponta Delgada Airport arrivals hall

From there we picked up a rental car to drive to our hotel. We reserved a compact and somehow got a minivan. Hmmm…

Our car rental in the Azores

Azores Airlines business class bottom line

How do I really do Azores Airlines justice?

On one hand, as an aviation geek I loved this flight. There was something cool about flying an A310.

Other than that, though, this had to be one of the worst flights I’ve had in business class. There were virtually no amenities, no entertainment, no power ports, the crew was rude, there was no glassware, and the food was edible at best. I understand that maybe the airline can’t afford more modern planes or great amenities, but smiles and friendliness don’t cost anything.

All that being said, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend avoiding Azores Airlines. If you’re traveling from the US to Azores, they’re the only airline that flies direct. The Azores were gorgeous, so the ability to do a free stopover there enroute to mainland Europe is a great opportunity.

I’d gladly fly them again on a ~$900 one-way business class ticket from Boston to Portugal with a stopover in the Azores.

Would you fly Azores Airlines?

  1. I admire your interest as an aviation geek, but man, that’s a horrible airline on so many levels. Can you imagine how bad it would be in economy? It’s too bad they don’t offer airport transfer in a vintage East German Trebant, then you could have the full nostalgic travel experience.

  2. Lucky you are being way too generous. That is a disaster. I would never fly that airline. Thank you for the sacrifice.

  3. Hi Lucky, with flights in Economy for under $300, do you really think there is $600 in value for Business Class? At what point is the upgrade not worth it? I understand the direct flight is great but I wouldn’t pay an additional $600 for a 4hr flight that Business and Economy are almost the same….

  4. I have to correct your wrong impression about the service. It’s only labeled rude if the crew throws the trays at you, comment you could use a being on a diet, tell you to talk to the hand because the ears ain’t listening and suggest were to put your drink requests. 😉

  5. I am flying that plane next month on a one-way economy ticket that cost me $218. It’s going to be horrible, but the price is right, and the flight isn’t long, and I’m really looking forward to spending a week in the Azores.

  6. Maybe the crew wasn’t rude. I say that for two reasons:

    1. The crew was short-staffed, according to the one flight attendant. I’m sure that put them in a lousy mood.
    2. Maybe language was a barrier. I flew TAP in business-class from New York-Lisbon and thought the staff was rude until I realized that most of the crew in business-class were not fluent in English. I was the only native English speaker in the business-class cabin on this particular flight.

    But, in reality, let’s be honest. This is a random airline that’s somewhere between a low-cost carrier and a flag carrier of an obscure island that most folks can’t find on the map. My guess is the airline is heavily subsidized/government-owned, which probably accounts for much of its poor service and lack of amenities. It’s basically viewed as a essential lifeline for the inhabitants of the island, like the puddle-jumpers in rural, wilderness Alaska.

  7. This is a rare find. I don’t think many of these 310’s are in service. The business cabin reminds me of the old style first class on Northwest/Delta.

    I loved the photos from up in the air. The sky was beautiful.

  8. If you want to fly an A310 again why not fly Air Transat? They’ve still got quite a few of them going from YTZ – LGW and other European cities. I think they’ve recently refurbished them too.

  9. For a different (hopefully better?) take on the A310, try the Transat A310 club class before they leave service. It looks like a PE or very low end Business product to me, but the interiors are quite new. Y is 9 accross, so I wouldn’t try that in a million years.

  10. I don’t see the appeal in the A310, other than that they are pretty old now and rare as a result. Lucky, maybe you’d care to elaborate. I’m glad you enjoyed what otherwise seems like an awful flight!

  11. @FNT Delta Diamond: surely “Hello” oder “How are you?” should be in their vocabulary, no? I don’t understand why people constantly make excuses for why some people don’t do their job right or are plain rude.

  12. Oh man, that looks rough! But I have to say it’s still pretty cool to fly such a rare plane.

  13. “Do you need me to put it in the chiller?” = WTF this passanger is talking about?

    Ben, you remind me of Sheldon Cooper that can’t understand SARCASM 🙂

  14. They have Airbus A321neo on order (4 of them, I think) to fly the noth american routes, the first one should arrive this year…so that plane wont be around for much longer.

  15. And yes, just like FNT Delta Diamond said, thar airline exists to connect the 9 azores islands in the first place. Those routes no the US and Canada exist because there are a lot of natives from Azores living there.

  16. Lucky: do you have sparkling wine?
    Attendant: Do you need me to put it in the chiller? (What the attendant really wanted to say: would you like some caviar and lobster along with the Dom Perignon?)

    1. If they had had sparkling wine, it WOULD HAVE BEEN in the chiller. Where did they have it? in the overhead bin or under the seat with the lifevest?

    Laught at a passanger is unacceptable.

  17. @ alpha — Nope, nothing. It is a short flight, so I can’t blame them (though you’d think they’d come around with coffee or juice or something).

  18. Small Typo. I hope you meant “after the meal was *done*” and not *dine* . Love your blog btw . 🙂

  19. Let’s also not forget that this flight was shorter than transcontinental domestic U.S. flights.

    @Marina: I wasn’t aware that Lucky’s review was verbatim, but it’s not being rude if the flight attendant has never been trained to a higher standard. It’s one thing if the flight attendant isn’t following the airline’s service standard.

  20. Oh man, Ford is so patient with you. If my partner dragged me on there when a lie-flat bed could’ve got me across the Atlantic… divorce!

  21. Lucky thanks for the review but I would never fly on Azores Airlines seemed like a horrible horrible airline that doesn’t deserve money

  22. Well, I guess it’s all relative. That plane looks brand new, and the crew and food great compared to my Air Zimbabwe flight on a 30 year old 762 a few weeks ago …

  23. Loved your review. My husband and I had the misfortune of being on the June 25, 2017 flight that was cancelled more than 3 nights in a row. SATA has no idea what customer service is. They never told us why our flights were cancelled, they never offered to help us rebook, and even didn’t know what time their ticket counter opened. They did give us hotel vouchers for 2 of the 3 cancelled flights because we were from California. The passengers from the greater Boston area where told to go home and come back the next day because they lived close enough! We ended up cancelling the rest of our tour of the Azores because we missed so much of it standing in lines at the SATA counter. NO, I will never fly this airline, because they are the prime example of how not to treat passengers. (That plane looks downright scary unsafe!) And no, we have not been reimbursed for all those cancelled flights. They don’t answer phones or emails either. Just say no to SATA.

  24. Horrible flash backs of Aeromexico Madrid to Mexico City service on 767 in the mid 2000s. The seats and J class cabin look alike

  25. @Eddie are you really telling me that greeting customers is something that staff has to be trainend in, because in Portugal it’s not normal to greet each other? Again, why make an excuse for bad service/attitude?

  26. So, I flew this flight last month in economy and thought it was fine. Really, at under five hours, it’s shorter than a transcon, and the quality and service I got were at least as good as I’d get on AA or UA. I really disliked flying HNL-IAH in United economy, but that’s over seven hours, and that’s been my limit for coach flights since.

  27. @Peter
    Ford & Lucky are husbands. Obviously. Look for other blog posts one here, by ford, or by them together.

  28. I flew this airline to Ponta Delgado in 2010 just when the Icelandic volcano erupted and its ash cloud shut down most North Atlantic air traffic for about a week. Consequently we were stuck there for several days. Azores Airline and the people in Ponta Delgado were great. The airline immediately contacted us and had us stay in our hotel for the duration (no problem since no one was traveling into the Azores either). They took care of the hotel bill and the meals we had in the hotel without us having to request it. It was just terrific service. See if you can get that from any US airline when a weather or other natural disaster event occurs.

  29. @Cascadia, the airline you flew with in 2010 does not exist anymore. The update to my previous comment, which happened 3.5 months ago:
    NO, SATA never returned our emails or phone calls about the 3 nights of cancelled flights in Boston in July. No, SATA did not reimburse us for the flights that never happened, but our (American) credit card did.
    Yes, SATA did send us a $200 check to pay for the 3rd night hotel stay due to non-existent flight. However, they got my name wrong. Mrs. Mendonca is probably still waiting for a check.
    We also lost money from a hotel in Terceira, and in fees from our travel agent (Portugal.Com). This trip was a disaster, and you can bet we learned to read reviews more carefully. Just say NO to SATA (which is now calling itself Azores Airlines to distance itself from all the complaints. )

  30. Flew Azores Airlines BOS-TER-LIS Boston to Lisbon (via Terceira) in June 2018. Equipment was an A330 that had not aged well, although I liked the whale art on the side of the plane.

    First row seats on either window seat of the plane were rough — they could not recline, although I eventually got mine to. The flight attendant came, fussed a bit with the controls underneath the thin seat cushion, and then became audibly and visibly irritated with me as I tried my hand at them myself, stating that there was no use – she’d file a report but I’d have to deal with it. BUT, I eventually figured out that my removing the table in the armrest I could eventually get the controls to respond. Later, after the layover in TER, maintenance had come to adjust the seat to work again. But it was a pretty rough introduction to the otherwise nearly-lie-flat seats in First/Business Class on Azores Airlines A330 (old-school planes). The entertainment unit didn’t work (I don’t think any of them did). The meals were forgettable.

    Boarding was also unusual, although rational — First Class boarded last, because they were ostensibly boarding back to front. All of us looked around and shrugged — certainly you could go line up, but they called children/assistance, then started boarding the entire plane back to front. Usually most larger airlines board children/assistance, First/Highest Elite Status, Elite Status, and then so forth.

    It would’ve been tolerable if it hadn’t been for the surly flight attendant (they switched her up by the way so I wouldn’t have to deal with her for the rest of either of the legs of the flight) who insisted I could do nothing about the seat. Thankfully I was able to recline the seat and get about an hour of sleep in during the red-eye portion.

  31. Santa/Azores is owned by its employee union, which ditrectly explains the lousy service, airline performance and general ineptitude.

    I’ve flown this flight many times as we have family in Sao Miguel, Azores.

    The only good thing about this airline is that you end up in the beautful Azores. Maybe. Sometimes.

    I’ve got more horror stories about this airline than there is room to write.

  32. I agree with all the negative comments. Staff are uninterested and often simply rude. The seats in business class are as described: uncomfortable, with the seat bar digging painfully into your legs and the footrest designed for someone with VERY long legs – I couldn’t reach it. I would never pay even the $250 for last-minute business class – it’s no better than their economy, which is an endurance test.
    Still, you can deal with rude, inattentive service and physical discomfort for 4.5 hours to get direct to the Azores. TAP is better but involves a layover in Lisbon – fine if you have time for it and wish to do so, otherwise a PITA.

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