Flying Around Europe With TAPered Expectations

Filed Under: TAP Portugal

After landing in Dublin from Hartford, my next destination on this very long journey to Greece was… Newark?!

That’s right, I decided to fly TAP Air Portugal’s new A321LR from Porto to Newark, which is their first transatlantic route for the aircraft type. I figured flying transatlantic on an A321LR twice in 24 hours would make for an interesting comparison, given how this plane is becoming increasingly popular.

Aer Lingus and TAP Air Portugal are also the only two airlines currently flying these planes transatlantic with flat beds.

How I booked TAP Portugal business class

TAP is in the Star Alliance, so there are lots of opportunities to redeem miles on them. However, the airline is known for their incredibly low fares, in both economy and business class. Perhaps the most surprising part is that even their one-way fares are cheap, which is otherwise rare for network carriers on long haul flights.

So I booked the following for about $1,000 one-way in business class:

8/05 TP1323 Dublin to Lisbon departing 10:40AM arriving 1:15PM
8/05 TP1960 Lisbon to Porto departing 4:00PM arriving 4:55PM
8/05 TP213 Porto to Newark departing 6:05PM arriving 9:10PM

Perhaps that was against my better judgment, since TAP is just about in American Airlines’ league when it comes to their punctuality, and a 70 minute connection in Porto sure seemed risky. But I like to live dangerously, and I figured if I misconnected I was entitled to 600EUR compensation thanks to EU261, so why not? 😉

I’ll be writing a detailed review of the Porto to Newark flight in the next installment, but first I wanted to write briefly about my two intra-Europe flights. This won’t be as detailed of an installment as usual, given that I’ve reviewed TAP’s intra-Europe business class before.

TAP’s A319 business class Dublin to Lisbon

On intra-Europe flights I’ve started assigning myself bulkhead seats in business class whenever possible. Everywhere else I avoid bulkheads, but with legroom being so bad within Europe, I find the bulkhead is usually the best option.

TAP A319 business class seat

TAP A319 business class seat legroom

The flight wasn’t off to a great start. We boarded on-time, and at 10:45AM the captain announced that we were just waiting on some last paperwork. A few minutes later the door closed, but then we just sat there for quite a while. Unfortunately I find this to be the norm for the airline.

At 11:10AM the crew came through the cabin offering all passengers water, which made me think we might have a much longer delay. After all, often you can’t even get TAP flight attendants to provide service in-flight. 😉

TAP business class water during delay

Fortunately about five minutes later we pushed back.

Other than that, the flight was pretty uneventful. I will say that TAP has some things going for them. For example, on demand they have the best blankets and pillows of just about any airline within Europe, since many airlines don’t even stock these.

TAP business class pillow & blanket

Many of their planes also have power outlets, which is still a treat within Europe.

TAP business class power outlet

In general I find that TAP has among the rudest service within Europe, though I do have to give the two flight attendants working this flight a lot of credit, and in particular the cabin manager. They were friendly, and my water glass was refilled an unnecessary number of times.

The snack on this flight wasn’t exactly exciting for a 2hr30min lunchtime flight, and just consisted of some fresh fruit, some sort of cold cuts with some sort of creamy goop, and a Portuguese egg tart (yum).

TAP business class meal

The views approaching Lisbon were beautiful, as usual.

View approaching Lisbon

We arrived at a remote stand, and they sure took their time getting us to the terminal. We were over an hour late getting to the terminal.

TAP plan upon arrival in Lisbon

Bus to terminal

The Lisbon ground experience

My 2hr45min connection in Lisbon was now closer to 90 minutes. I’ve reviewed the TAP “Premium Lounge,” so won’t be doing so again.

All that I’ll say is that the airport was busier than I’ve ever seen it before. Unfortunately the lounge wasn’t much better. The airline has expanded significantly recently, and this lounge just doesn’t have the capacity to meet the demand.

The lounge literally smelled like a bathroom — I don’t know what was going on, but the lounge smelled so bad. Furthermore, the only seat available was on this booth right by the bathroom. In order to walk between where I was sitting and the buffet I had to walk through the shared sink area for the bathrooms.

“Appetizing,” I’d say, but the whole lounge smelled like a bathroom, so…

I was amused on my connecting flight how before the inflight entertainment they have the below ad about the lounge:

The two people both live in “Hollywood” but happen to run into one another at the airport in Lisbon. One says “at the best lounge in the world,” and the other responds “well, that’s true.”

I’m curious what their point of reference is, the No. 7 First Class VIP Lounge Changsha Airport?

TAP’s EMB190 business class Lisbon to Porto

Fortunately my connection was departing (nearly) on-time, and this time the flight was operated by an EMB190.

TAP EMB190 cabin

While I’m a fan of Embraer jets in general, I’m confused that they don’t block any seats in business class, so you actually sit next to someone else. On the plus side, the legroom was exceptional in the first few rows of the cabin.

Amazing legroom

The 10 seat cabin was full, with half of the cabin being occupied by a deadheading TAP crew. Then in row one was a kid who was playing a shooting video game without headphones for about 15 minutes. Nice.

TAP EMB190 business class cabin

We ended up departing about 15 minutes late, though fortunately it was just a 35 minute flight to Porto. Once airborne, we were served the choice of juice or water, then an egg tart, and then coffee or tea.

TAP business class snack

The cabin manager on this flight was also very friendly. She spent most of the flight talking to the kid in row one, and it was nice to see how she interacted with him. We ended up arriving in Porto early enough so I could make my connection, which I’d say is almost a small miracle.

TAP business class bottom line

I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with TAP. They mostly have an above average hard product on long haul flights, and they also have incredibly low fares. At the same time, I find their service is hit-or-miss, food isn’t great, and they’re not very punctual.

In this case my intra-Europe experience was pretty good. I wasn’t that delayed, and both of my crews were friendly. I also appreciate that they offered proper pillows and blankets, as well as power ports, on the A319.

If you’ve flown TAP business class, what was your experience like?

  1. Cold cuts and fruits only on DUB-LIS? Hm. Don’t know what happened, but don’t judge based on that flight. In my opinion, they have one of the best caterings, alongside TK, within Europe too. Even of 1.5-2 hours flights i have always had a fantastic hot meal.

  2. I’ve been flying TAP more frequently to get to the US.

    From LHR-LIS, they use a retrofitted A340 sometimes – in fact, 3 out of my last 4 flights used one. It’s pretty great to get the “throne” on that flight even if it’s overkill for 2hr30

    Service-wise, yeah, a little hit or miss but they’ve been warming up in my opinion over the past 3 years I’ve flown with them. Given the incredibly cheap fares, I’m really not expecting the same service I’d get on Singapore. But in general, up front, on the short hauls, I’ve been fortunate with decent service. And it’s been better than what I’ve had within the US on both Delta and United in first

    That lounge needs serious expansion and redesign given the layout of the restrooms

  3. I travel frequently to Madeira – via Lisbon or Porto – and do so from various European cities. Perhaps I’m just fortunate, but I’ve found the cabin crews to be friendly and professional, as well as being some of the best-groomed flight attendants in Europe. Most flights are operated by TAP, while others are flown for TAP by Portugalia, with Portugalia crews (such as a recent ERJ-190 flight in Business Class from Lisbon to Toulouse). Sorry your experiences have been so hit or miss.

  4. I was in the LIS lounge 2 weeks ago. It smelled fine but indeed it’s way too small, especially since this is their flagship airport. The shower rooms were pretty nice though.

  5. Lisbon is cool for a few days but the abyssal lack of “local” talent (not talking about tourist) make it a pretty boring city for the adventurous and successful Frequent flyer Bachelor

  6. I just flew TAP DUB-LIS and then LIS-EWR (on the A330-900neo) and was pleasantly surprised by the service. Perhaps I’m just jaded by my experiences on AA and United, but I thought that the flight attendants on both flights were attentive and genuine without being overbearing. I flew both flights in EconomyXtra, so we had the same crew as economy. I would note that the pricing for the extra legroom seats was great, especially for the 7+ hour transatlantic flight was great – only about $52 (and reasonable $25 for the DUB-LIS flight).

  7. I’ve had the SFO-LIS flight in mind on their new A339neos as it has some of the best J fares to Europe from California. Good to know not to count on them for connections once across the pond.

  8. Just want to join the growing chorus and say that I think TAP is getting a raw deal here. Of course they are not a luxury airline, but everybody knows that going in. And I’ve found both their hard and their soft product on transatlantic flights to be consistently above that of comparable (i.e. cheap) airlines, like Aer Lingus. Admittedly, LIS is not the world’s greatest airport.

    As Rob points out above, if you decide to fly Economy, definitely spring for the extra-legroom seat; the pricing is well worth it.

  9. ‘The best lounge in the world’. Pre poured glasses of wine at the start of the video. It’s marketing department has no shame lol

  10. “Aer Lingus and TAP Air Portugal are also the only two airlines currently flying these planes transatlantic with flat beds.”

    AFAIK, La Compagnie operates a A321neo TATL on ORY-EWR with flat beds? Arguably not the LR version, but then a pax would not notice the difference.

  11. @ JJJ — I didn’t. I flew American, and my flights were actually on-time. I guess you could say that’s noteworthy!

  12. The one thing that’s really sets them apart is reasonable oneway fares, as Lucky said. I paid I think just under $1,000 for CGN-LIS-MIA on their new a330 neo in business class a few months ago, and that was booked on fairly short notice. Other than that there are much better options transatlantic and the fairly long feeder flight within Europe is a big minus. We built in a one night stopover in LIS, I think they actually allow multi day stopovers but not quite sure about that ?? That makes it interesting again since LIS is worth a short stay for sure.

  13. I only have a single datapoint, a 12 hour business class flight on the A330-900, and was totally unimpressed with TAP’s service — it’s as bad as AA or UA. The personnel was lazy and did the minimum necessary with no charm or warmth, with an attitude that you, as a paying passenger, were inconveniencing them. Absolutely no announcement when we were delayed, and no acknowledgment at all. Hard product was decent, but that’s not enough.

    At least I paid less than with AA or UA, so it was a better deal.

    The lounge in LIS was outright filthy in addition of being a total embarrassment.

  14. Lucky, I would appreciate a review of an on-time AA flight. Granted, it’s an experience most of us are not likely to have but your blog is about these type of out of the ordinary flying experiences.

  15. Hi Lucky – where do you credit your paid star alliance flights like this one? UA? SQ? Aeroplan? Elsewhere?

  16. @RBD

    I had the exact question for lucky!

    I flew TAP and credited it to UA, but was very nervous about receiving mileage. TAP’s fare classes don’t really show up when searching for flights and not every fare class receives credit. Really think they could improve on their transparency.

  17. I flew the DUB-LIS flight two days before you. We were delayed about 20-minutes and had a half-hour wait in the immigration lines (I took advantage of the stopover) and had the same lunch. However I chose row 2 and found the leg room akin to UA’s E+…and much better than on my BA ClubEurope flights. (It’s a scandal what passes as business class in Europe.)

    My flight on Sunday was on the A330Neo to YYZ and I too found the lounge less than advertised (based on the inflight ad…far from the world’s best!) but not smelly, just overcrowded. And with too many unsupervised children…one of whom ran right under my feet as I made my way across the room with some mini chicken pies and a glass of wine. I did find a seat in the corridor to the washrooms and did not notice any bad smells (other than from a few sweaty men passing through).

    I must say the highlight of my TAP experience was discovering Sharish gin…and the best part of the lounge was the G&T prepared elaborately (chilling the huge goblet with ice before preparing a mixture of Sharish and Schweppes enhanced with slivers of orange and apple) by the young bar tender.

    The Neo’s J seats are not bad but lack storage and counter space. Other than that can’t say I was impressed by the plane itself any more than its counterparts (787 and A350).

    Had very attentive inflight crews on both flights which dispels that reputation. Miles from my flights posted to my Aeroplan account in less than 48-hours, faster than my AC flights post.

  18. TAP has great fares, and its stopover program is outstanding. I am flying SFO to LIS (on a brand new plane, no less) and then to DUB. On the return, I’m flying from DUB, stopping over in LIS for three nights (for free as part of the stopover program), and then back to SFO, all in business, and am paying less than $2,000 roundtrip. In fact, the price of SFO to LIS was more expensive, but when I added the DUB leg, the price dropped. Of course that makes no sense, but it worked for me.

    Plus, my business class ticket gets me access to the United Polaris lounge at SFO on my outbound trip and the LIS lounge (derided though it may be).

    All I really want is a lie flat seat so that I can sleep on the flight. TAP’s business fare was cheaper than many economy flights.

    Finally, as for the service, try saying a word or two in Portuguese. Many Americans are so ignorant that they think everyone in Portugal speaks Spanish and can’t say a single word in Portuguese. A simple “Ola,” “Bom Dia,” “Por favor,” or “Obrigado” will go a long way to ingratiating yourself and showing respect for the local culture.

  19. He he the ‘egg tarts’ are the ultrafamous pasteis de Belem… Possibly in English it should be better to call them cream pies, no? … Egg tart?? And yummy for sure, in LIS I eat minimum 6

  20. @Lucky
    I’m loving this trip review! There’s sth very exciting not knowing where you’re going next. Please keep this up. Very much looking forward to the next review.

    That said, i’ve been lucky enough to have had great experiences with Tap. Though i have a friend who wouldn’t get on their planes even if they remaned the airline after him!

  21. I really hate that airline. Rude staff, disgusting food in economy, dirty planes, LIS is a real mess, etc.

    Will avoid at all costs…

  22. LIS airport is chaotic and highly inefficient all the time. This is even the sentiment of the locals. It really needs to be replaced. You will note that there would be plenty of space to do that, in the lengthy meandering bus ‘tour’ of the whole airport from the inevitable remote stand to the anus of the terminal where you get deposited.
    I guess you was lucky not to have suffered the frustration of going through immigration at LIS.
    By contrast OPO is a dream!

  23. I’ll disagree with some of the comments, I’ve now flown TAP twice for their business class price point from Newark to Marrakech and Tenerife via Lisbon. Both were in business and I’ve found the service to be pleasant but no where near what you’ll get on other airlines (Singapore or Cathay or Emirates). For all the flights including the one to the U.S. there was a clearly marked line for premium boarding that cut down on the lines. Food on most of the flights was pleasantly surprising and fairly delicious given my expectations. Staff I agree at times is cordial but not exceptional. Flights were on time with the exception of one delay for 40 minutes. My biggest gripe about TAP is all the remote gates, it’s such an inconvenience when there are plenty of gates available. I’ve always credited the flights to UA and the miles have been properly credited within days.

  24. The “egg tart” is the favourite snack of Portugal. Perhaps they should have boarded “butter pecan tarts” for all Americans on board. Your cultural bigotry comes thru on this review too.

  25. Just came back from a trip that leveraged cheap one-way on TAP plus a 4-day stopover in LIS. On TA we got downgraded to old aircraft (and not informed not even on checkin, that I was forced to do at airport), so no flat bed and very bland food. The breakfast consisted of single croissant and couple of pieces of fruit. Crew was ok, reasonably friendly. No pre-departure anything, not even a glass of water. Intra Europe was so bland, I can’t even recollect if we had a snack or not, crew was mostly invisible. OK for price point, just not for business travelers – way too many delays (and some quite long); airport immigration is a mess and priority lines are arbitrary. Lounge is already showing the signs of heavy use, seats are mucky and floor is dirty. Food in the lounge is fine, but finding a spot to eat is challenge (ANA lounge next door is much quieter even if food is not as good).
    Would still fly them for leisure and on budget, just don’t book anything close-in.

  26. How tall are you, or rather how long are your legs? I’m 190cm tall and avoid bulkheads in Euro-C like the plague, as they give you a little more roam at knee level, but significantly reduce the space you have to extent your leg into. I just came of a Condor flight of over two hours where they reseated me to row 1 as that was the only row of premium seating in the end and that was a pain despite the isle seat.

    Back when I flew Easyjet about 10 years ago I really liked how they did not have a divider at all before row 1, that is unlimited legroom to be proud off! Same for the Dash8-400.

  27. Pasteis de nata can get old, I can attest to this after eating a dozen. Also love how the word “bacalao” can send tourists into a foodie trance…

  28. I have flown with TAP many times but hopefully my last time will be my last time. From rudeness and inefficiency, you choose. And let’s not forget inflexibility.

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