Review: TAP Air Portugal A321LR Business Class

Filed Under: Airline Reviews, TAP Portugal

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I arrived from Lisbon at 5:15PM, and my connecting flight to Newark was at 6:05PM. I rushed to get to the connecting flight, since I was still hoping to be among the first onboard to get cabin pictures.

I was surprised by just how much time it took to get to the departure gate. First I had to clear security (why, though?), then I cleared immigration, and then I made my way to gate 10, located at the far end of the terminal. Once at the gate I had to undergo the typical ridiculous security questioning for US-bound flights, before eventually finding myself in the “sterile” gate area.

Porto Airport departure gate

While boarding was scheduled for 5:20PM according to the boarding pass, in reality boarding started at 5:35PM. And while boarding started at 5:35PM, we had to stand in the hot jet bridge until 5:50PM, because they crew wouldn’t let us onboard yet.

TAP Air Portugal 213
Porto (OPO) – Newark (EWR)
Monday, August 5
Depart: 6:05PM
Arrive: 9:10PM
Duration: 8hr5min
Aircraft: Airbus A321LR
Seat: 2A (Business Class)

Entering the TAP Portugal A321LR business class cabin was almost like deja vu. The cabin is a near identical layout to what I had on Aer Lingus the night before, minus the cabin finishes. TAP’s A321 business class cabin consisted of a total of 16 seats, spread across five rows.

TAP Air Portugal A321LR business class cabin

In rows one, three, and five, seats are in a 2-2 configuration.


TAP Air Portugal A321LR business class seats


TAP Air Portugal A321LR business class seats


TAP Air Portugal A321LR business class seats

Then in rows two and four, seats are in a 1-1 configuration, consisting of what many of us call “throne” seats. These are the seats to be in, thanks to just how much personal space they offer. There’s no extra fee to assign these seats — they’re available first come first served.


TAP Air Portugal business class seats A321LR


TAP Air Portugal business class seats A321LR

TAP has the same business class seats on the A321LRs that they have on their newest A330-200s (which is a good product, but not as good as their new A330-900neo business class).

Given the A321’s cabin layout, this configuration is also almost identical to JetBlue Mint, except the “throne” seats on TAP don’t have sliding doors.

To the left of my seat was a big counter where I could store things during the flight. While Aer Lingus had a storage compartment underneath the left of the seat on the same plane, TAP didn’t, so I guess they didn’t select that option.


TAP Portugal business class seat

To the right of my seat was an enclosed storage compartment, entertainment controls, headphone jacks, and a water bottle holder with a water bottle in it.

TAP Portugal business class seat storage


TAP Portugal business class seat storage

The seat controls were on a button to the right of the seat.


TAP Portugal business class seat controls

The tray table also folded out from the right side of the seat (I’m not sure what exactly that huge stain is — it wasn’t just that the table was wet).


TAP Portugal business class seat tray table

The 110v and USB power outlets were located on the front right of the seat.


TAP Portugal business class outlets

There was also an individual air nozzle above my seat.


TAP Portugal business class air nozzles A321LR

The only downside to these throne seats is that they have fairly small footwells, which feel a bit tight when you’re trying to sleep. That’s because the footwell is located in between the two seats in front.


TAP Portugal business class seat footwell

Waiting at my seat on boarding were an excellent pillow and blanket. The blanket in particular is really soft and cozy.

TAP business class pillow & blanket

Then there were a pair of alright headphones.


TAP business class headphones

There was also a pretty well stocked amenity kit with some colorful socks, a pen, a toothbrush and toothpaste, a comb, eyeshades, earplugs, lip balm, moisturizer, and more.


TAP business class amenity kit

The boarding process was fast but hectic, given that everyone was boarding through the forward door. Interestingly just a day before departure the business class cabin was two thirds empty, but business class ended up going out full.

My guess is that economy was oversold and they had to upgrade people, or maybe they just have really attractive upgrade pricing. The problem is that no one seemed to be assigned seats together, so the boarding process turned into a game of musical chairs.

I was amazed by how quickly everyone boarded, because by 6:05PM the door closed, and then five minutes later we began our pushback.


TAP business class cabin

Pushing back Porto Airport

There were no pre-departure beverages. I’m not sure if that was due to laziness, due to the late start to boarding, or because of the challenges of serving these on a single-aisle plane.

At this point the safety video was screened, and the cabin manager announced our flight time of 7hr25min to Newark.

At 6:15PM we began our taxi. Is that a 727, and if so, does anyone know who it belongs to?!

Taxiing Porto Airport

We had a short taxi, and by 6:20PM we were cleared for takeoff on runway 35.

View after takeoff from Porto

We had lovely views of the coastline on departure.


View after takeoff from Porto

10 minutes after takeoff the seatbelt sign was turned off, at which point the crew closed the curtains between cabins.

TAP A321LR business class cabin

To start I had a look at the entertainment system, starting with the map for our flight.

TAP Portugal entertainment selection


Moving map enroute to Newark

The entertainment system was surprisingly impressive, with 100 movies to choose from. I ended up watching “Isn’t It Romantic,” starring Rebel Wilson, which was decent enough for an airplane movie.

TAP entertainment selection


TAP entertainment selection


TAP entertainment selection

TAP has wifi on their A321LRs. Unlike on Aer Lingus, it’s not free for business class passengers, though. The wifi pricing is as follows:

  • TAP Free Messaging — 0EUR
  • TAP Email — 6.99EUR
  • TAP Browsing — 14.99EUR
  • TAP Total Wi-Fi — 24.99EUR

TAP Air Portugal wifi pricing

One annoying thing about how the packages were displayed is that it didn’t actually show how much data was included with each package until you got well into the purchase process. For example, I purchased the biggest package, which included 200MB of data.


TAP Air Portugal wifi

That’s definitely on the steep side as far as wifi pricing goes, though at least the speeds were good. It’s also nice that TAP offers free messaging. When you sign up for this it’s technically only for an hour, but after an hour you can sign up with another email address and start your time over. The process of doing that is really easy.

Service began about 25 minutes after takeoff. The dinner menu read as follows:

The drink list read as follows:

25 minutes after takeoff warm towels were distributed.

TAP business class warm towel

Then about 45 minutes after takeoff the lead flight attendant took dinner orders. While the crew wasn’t terrible, there was zero charm to the service. “What do you want to eat?”

50 minutes after takeoff a cart was rolled down the aisle with drinks. I ordered a glass of sparkling wine, which was Montanha Reserva Premium. While not great, it was surprisingly not-terrible given the price point. That was served with some packaged snack mix.


TAP business class dinner — champagne & snack

1hr10min after takeoff the starter and soup were served. The appetizer consisted of confit codfish with chicory, which was flavorful and surprisingly good. Then there was a cream of pear and cauliflower soup with spinach. The soup was also pretty good, though it was only lukewarm when served. I was also offered a bread roll.


TAP business class dinner — appetizer & soup

The main courses were served 1hr35min after takeoff, and I thought the choices were underwhelming. There were just two choices — duck rice or pappardelle pasta with shrimp and saffron sauce. I chose the latter. It wasn’t great, but also probably not as bad as it looks?


TAP business class dinner — main course

A dessert trolley was rolled through the cabin about 2hr5min after takeoff, with the choice between a cheese plate, macadamia ice cream, or a fruit plate. I chose the ice cream, which was served in a plastic container.


TAP business class dinner — dessert

Lastly the crew served coffee, tea, and port. I had a cup of coffee, and was offered a small box of chocolates to go along with it.


TAP business class dinner — coffee & chocolate

My tray was cleared about 2hr30min after takeoff, so it was a pretty drawn out meal service. Overall I thought the food was… fine? I wasn’t impressed by the food, but it was edible, and given TAP’s price point, I thought it was good enough.

The service was strictly the two flight attendants going through the motions, though they didn’t particularly seem to love their jobs.

After the meal I checked out the lavatory, located at the front of the cabin. While it was a decent size, it had no special amenities.

TAP A321LR lavatory

By the time the meal was done we were under five hours from our arrival in Newark.

Airshow enroute to Newark

Since I had taken a redeye the night before I was tired at this point, and decided to sleep. I reclined my seat and made myself comfortable.

TAP A321LR business class bed

I got a great three hour nap, and woke up with 1hr50 remaining to Newark, as we were over Canada.

Map enroute to Newark


Map enroute to Newark

About 30 minutes after waking up the lights were turned on in the cabin in preparation for the pre-landing service. The menu read as follows:

Admittedly this isn’t that long of a flight, and it was also departing in the evening (so I guess they assume most people aren’t hungry at 1AM?), but the “snack” was super underwhelming. It was a tiny plate with cold cuts, as well as two small slices of pineapple, two slices of orange, and a roll.

TAP business class pre-landing snack

At 8:20PM Newark time we began our descent, and 10 minutes later the captain made an announcement that we’d be landing at 8:50PM. Sure enough we touched down at that time.

View approaching Newark

From there we had a 10 minute taxi to our arrival gate, where we arrived at 9PM. I cleared immigration in minutes thanks to Global Entry, and was excited for the next portion of my adventure (bonus points to anyone who can guess the next segment!).

TAP A321LR business class bottom line

TAP’s A321LR is a cool little plane. As was the case with Aer Lingus, in some ways I think I prefer this plane to the A330-200/300 thanks to how exclusive the cabin is. In the case of TAP I’d note that their A330-900neos have new business class seats, so I’d probably prefer the plane.

The flight had comfortable seats, good bedding, and pretty good wifi.

Otherwise I find TAP’s soft product to be subpar — the food and drinks are meh, and the service is hit or miss (and in this case was sort of a miss).

Still, given the price point, TAP offers unbeatable value.

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Comments
  1. Service seems incredibly slow for such a short flight and that was my biggest gripe on my flight from ERW to LIS last month. On such a short flight they putzed around way too long and after the appetizer I told them to forget the entree.

  2. I’m going to guess an Egyptair 787 on this trip (hopefully!). Also Lucky, I don’t know if this is news or not, but I noticed Turkish has scheduled their new 787 on flights to JFK in the fall. I found it on Oct 3rd and potentially other dates.

  3. Wow lucky! This sure seems like a great way to get from Hartford, CT to Newark, NJ. I think it beats taking Amtrak 🙂

  4. Ohhhhh this is exciting!!!! (Guessing your Itinerary and not TAP)
    La Compagnie to Paris, then CDG to Mauritius and somewhere in there is Air Tanzania and then you’ll get to Athens on EK from DXB.

    “Trying new airline products and not necessary airlines”….

  5. I just got off the A330 from LIS to SFO last week. I am not a fan of that flight. For one, the seat wasn’t very comfortable. You can’t recline the seat without sliding the seat forward or backward and it automatically kick the leg rest up. The cleaning crew did a horrible job in cleaning the plane, so I didn’t bother using a lot of the bins and stuff. To get into the single window seat, you have to slide sideway into it. Even when I slide in, I feel like my knees touching the seat pod. The seat was even worse when you tried to turn it into a bed, not comfortable at all. When you are in bed, you just feel like you are sleeping in a coffin. The 777 on Turkish is way better.

    The flight crew were nice, but they weren’t attentive and honestly the service felt more like E+ on Singapore than business class. I experienced more attentive attendants on local US First class flights. The food was also crap. With the exception of the appetizer, everything felt like food from E+ on asian airlines.

    Here is the worst part, the attendants don’t really keep the cabins separate. People from the back would keep blocking the business class bathrooms, it happened on the A319 and it happened again on the A330. The attendants actually encourage them to use the business class bathrooms.

  6. You had to clear security because you arrived from a non schengen country, the same as if you had arrived from US or Qatar. If you had arrived from a schengen port then you would have satisfied schengen security requirements and would have had to clear again.

  7. @Iain Under EU law passengers arriving from any EU/EFTA country (not just the ones in Schengen), the US, Canada or Singapore, do not have to reclear security when transferring. AMS is the only airport I know to actually implement this.

  8. Not enough footroom in the throne seat on this or MINT. Of course MINT is the best I can get from LAS to NYC .

  9. Can you do another post about headphones.

    I just took yet another $&#@!! Flight where the headphones require 3 prongs. My 2 Prong Bose adapter works somewhat but the sound is quiet.

    Annoying that airlines insist on all theses bespoke headphone adapters

  10. You went from domestic to international… doesn’t this happen all the time? does everywhere else…

  11. You continue to perpetuate the myth that the taste/quality of sparking wine/champagne is mostly related to price rather than to clueless snobbery.

  12. I was sitting right behind you in 3C on this flight (I recognized you but you were in full documenting mode, so I didn’t want to bug you). I agree with your conclusions. After flying J primarily on Turkish I was underwhelmed by the food and service. The seat was fine and I was impressed by the screen of the IFE system, but I’m in no rush to fly TAP again.

  13. Lucky, you’re a plane nut. Please tell me you don’t have to wonder if you’re looking at a 727; the short and medium-haul workhorse of just about EVERY AIRLINE IN THE WORLD for more than three decades! You’re young. But you’re not THAT young!

  14. I am booked to take this plane on TAP from IAD to LIS next March, after service begins. I have blocked “throne” seats for my daughter and I, but it appears that there is more room in the duo-seats. It looks like a tight squeeze to get into the throne seat, and the foot well is much narrower than the duo seats. I have set to see a full comparison of the two, at not for MINT, which is the longer product out there. Both the review of Aer Lingus’ 321LR and TAP’s, were in thrones. Anyone have a review of the duo seats?

  15. Regardless of whether you’re transiting from an EU to an EU via an EU country (where yes, technically passengers shouldn’t need to re-clear security), the Schengen/Non-Schengen country division tends to dictate matters. I have had this in numerous EU airports. It’s simply how the sterile vs non-sterile parts of the airports are setup, more than overarching regulations.

  16. TAP is in the process of revamping all their airplanes, which is a major step. Another one is to step up the “soft product”. They have to catch up with the other europeans airlines if they wanna compete in a fair game.
    They should offer an express meal service, like the one that Swiss does beautifully (even United does it quite well).

  17. The amenity kit is cute. 🙂 Even better, the bag looks like sturdy material and is a good size so you can reuse it. I can’t stand impractical and cheap amenity kits.

  18. That is indeed a 727 and it belongs to Gordon Getty. He was doing a tour of wine regioms in europe recently.

  19. “I was surprised by just how much time it took to get to the departure gate. First I had to clear security (why, though?), then I cleared immigration, and then I made my way to gate 10, located at the far end of the terminal. Once at the gate I had to undergo the typical ridiculous security questioning for US-bound flights”

    As a seasoned traveller, I am shocked that you considered a 50 minute connection to a US bound flight to be OK.

    The “typical ridiculous security questioning for US-bound flights” is mandated by the United States government

  20. The only TAP business class flights I’ve found with great prices between SFO and Europe are DUB-SFO one-way. Are there other route options available at that low price?

  21. The Getty’s 727 dates to 1971 and originally flew for CP Air (Canadian Pacific Airlines), and later for LAB (Lloyd Aereo Boliviano). My husband had business dealing with Gordon and his wife Ann, who refer to the tri-jet as ‘the jetty’.

  22. With such a big investment in their hard product, new planes and new seats it’s a pity they haven’t made much effort on the soft product. That plastic bowl with a tiny scoop of ice cream in it looks like the saddest business class desert I’ve ever seen. And from my experience on TAP smiling at passengers must prohibited by their unions!

  23. For the security checks and Schengen rules, there are technically 3 flows of inbound traffic:
    1 Schengen, sterile
    2 Non-Schengen, sterile
    3 Non-Schengen, not sterile

    The Non-schengen, sterile flow is limited to EU countries which are not in Schengen (like UK, Ireland) and specific treaty countries. (e.g. USA)

    So technically, connecting from DUB to EWR in OPO, you didn’t need an additional security check.

    However, separating three flows requires a lot of infrastructure and therefore most EU airports handle all Non-schengen traffic as non sterile (including big hubs like CDG and FRA).

    AMS actually separates the three flows since 2015, eliminating security checks for all transfer pax from the above-mentioned countries. In order to do so, they added additional floors on the E, F and G piers to separate the pax.

  24. Seems Lucky you expect wide body service on a narrow body. You’re also departing from an airport that until recently has very few intercontinental services. Sounds like TAP ground staff need some training in Porto. The food service appears to cater its’ passengers from Portugal. Typical negative food comments from an ignorant North American. Sorry they didn’t have a steak for you.

  25. Seems to me more like Ben expected business class service for business class prices.

    We had that same ‘line ‘em up in a hot jet way’ routine with Vueling at OPO. That saves what-5 minutes on the turnaround (if that) for, in our case, a flight that was an hour late already.

  26. I would love to try the narrow body service. I think I did LIS-JFK-LIS two years ago (in their then new Azul-configured 330s). I remember the meal service on the outbound to be quite different from the red-eye (the latter had a tray service which was good for catching some more zzzzs). The thing I remember most fondly was the cheese on the outbound, which was packaged in a plastic bag, because it was ultra gooey, stinky and delicious 🙂
    Liquors were bottom shelf though – to the point of a G+T served as a glass of Tonic and a pouch (think ketchup packet – didn’t know that even existed) of no name gin. Pretty disgusting. Very tasty wines though.

  27. I’ve flown the A330 in business both ways to and from SFO. I basically like the seats for the all-aisle access and decent privacy (especially if you’re in a window seat situated right next to the window as opposed to the aisle) , though agree that they have little storage space. The IFE screens and movie selections are pretty good. But like others here, I’ve found the service spotty: attitudes range from very friendly to indifferent (and I’m not sure all FAs speak decent English) and actual delivery of service is mediocre.

    Also, LIS is not the most user-friendly airport to pass through, in terms of lines and signage. On the other hand, the city itself is a pretty nice place to visit if your flight schedule or deliberate stop-over allows you some time there.

    As with my previous post here, I’m not sure of what all the great TAP low-cost trans-Atlantic business fares are to/from SFO, since I’ve only found them on DUB-LIS-SFO.

  28. Interersting to read this honest review after reading rhe previous Are Lingus review (aboard the ame aircraft). For the airfare and subsequent airlmiles, these TAP flights seem like fun:)
    Happy and Safe travels

  29. I just read a report in the newest issue in Airways of Newark-Porto with TAP on their new A321LR and that report made it seem like the service in J was very average, and your report also makes it seem like J with TAP is a bit underwhelming.

    Thanks for sharing!

  30. TAP do seem to be very slow in starting service.

    I flew LIS-BOS in February (thanks to you publicising a very attractive fare from the UK for £750) and thought the crew fairly friendly but the s l o w service was irritating when compared to other airlines when all I wanted to do was have my lunch and have a sleep!

    More infuriating on the return leg when most people wanted to eat then try and get some sleep

  31. I can tell you that slow service, no pre-deparure drinks and unappetizing food have nothing to do with single isle – same is the norm even on their old widebodies (you just have additional inconvenience of sleeping in lounge position). Crew had no clue which wine they were serving, there was only one red and one white, and breakfast was laughable (or good to cry over, if you decided to skip dinner in favor of sleep on red-eye flight). Price point is only thing going for them for tatl, frequent aircraft swaps spoil any bets on getting lie-flat product.

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