Review: TAROM Business Class A318

Filed Under: Other Airlines

I don’t know why I was so excited about flying TAROM business class, given that intra-Europe business class is rarely anything to get excited about. I guess there were potentially a couple of reasons:

  • TAROM is one of the last several airlines belonging to the “big three” alliances that I haven’t flown; at this point the only remaining ones are Aerolineas Argentinas, Copa, Juneyao Airlines, S7 Airlines, and Shenzhen Airlines
  • It was my understanding that at least some TAROM planes have (or at least had) “proper” seats in intra-Europe business class, so I wasn’t sure what we would get; there’s not much info out there on them

Booking TAROM Business Class

Obviously reviewing flights is a big motivator in taking these trips. I was happy we were able to try Turkish’s new 787-9 business class on the way out, and on the return I also wanted to try something new:

  • Since we were leaving Romania, I figured it was the chance to finally try TAROM
  • I really wanted to review Virgin Atlantic’s brand new A350-1000 Upper Class, which just recently debuted between London and New York

In theory I could have booked all of this on a Delta SkyMiles award ticket, though there wasn’t award availability for our dates, not to mention the mileage cost would have been steep, and there would have been carrier imposed surcharges.

Fortunately there were some really good paid rates. We managed to book a roundtrip ticket from Bucharest to New York for $1,200, with the outbound in business class and the return in economy.

The outbound portion of the ticket (in business class) looked as follows:

10/30 RO391 Bucharest to London departing 12:20PM arriving 2:05PM
10/31 VS139 London to New York departing 12:30PM arriving 4:20PM

I’d say that’s a solid deal.

TAROM Business Class Review

Bucharest (OTP) – London (LHR)
Wednesday, October 30
Depart: 12:20PM
Arrive: 2:05PM
Duration: 3hr45min
Aircraft: Airbus A318
Seat: 2C (Business Class)

The A318 is such a cute little jet, and you don’t see them at very many airlines. It’s the smallest version of the A320 family, and the plane seats about 110 people. Economy was in a 3-3 configuration, with a fairly outdated cabin (which is often a good thing, since it means they haven’t installed the new “enhanced” slimline seats), though they did have dropdown monitors.

TAROM A318 cabin

Unfortunately on this plane business class just consisted of economy seats with blocked middles. There were a total of six business class seats, as there were two rows on the left side, and one row on the right side.

TAROM A318 business class seats

Both of the bulkhead rows had tons of legroom, and in the future I’d probably choose the bulkhead on the right side due to how much space it had.

TAROM business class seats A318

TAROM business class seats A318

But even in the row with seats in front, I found legroom to be quite good, well above average for a regionally configured aircraft.

TAROM business class seats A318

As it the norm in intra-Europe business class, the center seat had a tray on it, so you can place drinks there without taking out your tray table.

TAROM business class blocked middle seat

The tray table was a standard economy one, and folded out from the seat in front.

TAROM business class tray table

There were individual air nozzles and reading lights at every seat.

TAROM business class individual air nozzles

Waiting at each seat was a pillow and blanket, which you often don’t find in intra-Europe business class, so that was nice.

TAROM business class pillow & blanket

The reason there was an additional row on the left side was because there was a big closet in the front on the right side.

TAROM business class closet

As I boarded the plane I was obviously snapping a lot of pictures (with my iPhone) as subtly as possible. I guess it’s not every day someone boards a TAROM flight and is excited about the cabin, so when the cabin manager saw me do this she asked about it:

“Is everything okay?”
“Oh yes, it’s a very nice cabin. I just like trying different airlines, and this is my first time on TAROM.”
“Well then we will make sure it is a good flight.”

Whew, that’s a nicer response than I was expecting!

The flight was almost completely full in economy, so there wasn’t much service during boarding. Eventually the two other business class passengers showed up, who sat on the right side.

As boarding finished up we were offered pre-departure drinks in proper glasses, with the choice between water, orange juice, and sparkling wine.

TAROM business class pre-departure drinks

At 12:20PM the captain made his welcome aboard announcement, informing us that we’d be delayed by 15 minutes on departure due to ATC. He explained we would take off to the east, would cruise at 11,600 meters, and would overly Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Germany, Belgium, and Holland. He also explained that the flight time would be three hours.

As we waited to push back, the Qatar Airways A320 next to us departed.

Pushing back Bucharest Airport

At around 12:25PM the crew performed a manual safety demonstration — there were three flight attendants onboard.

At 12:30PM we began our pushback, and five minutes later we began our taxi.

Taxiing Bucharest Airport

At 12:45PM we were cleared for takeoff, and we had a quick takeoff roll and smooth climb out.

Taking off Bucharest Airport

View after takeoff from Bucharest

The seatbelt sign was turned off about five minutes after takeoff. About 10 minutes after takeoff we were presented with drink lists for the flight, though no food menus.

TAROM business class drinks menu

TAROM business class drinks menu

Then 15 minutes after takeoff we were presented with warm towels.

TAROM business class warm towel

20 minutes after takeoff we were offered drinks. I had a glass of the Feteasca Regala white wine, while Tiffany had the merlot. On the plus side, the presentation was cute. Unfortunately the wine was borderline undrinkable, at least according to my tastebuds.

TAROM business class drinks

Then about 30 minutes after takeoff we were served the meal. There were no choices, but rather everyone got the same meal. The lunch consisted of some sort of beef with rice and vegetables, a salad with cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, and feta, two pieces of bread, and a berry tart for dessert.

TAROM business class meal

The meal was… alright? It wasn’t terrible, but wasn’t good either.

Tiffany had ordered the gluten free meal, which consisted of a chicken breast with some potatoes, some veggies, and a side of fruit.

TAROM business class gluten free meal

After the meal we were asked if we wanted anything else to drink — I ordered a coffee.

TAROM business class coffee

The TAROM A318 had overhead monitors where they showed the moving map, but there was no other entertainment.

TAROM business class entertainment

In theory there’s supposed to be streaming entertainment — as you can see there are Airfi logos throughout the cabin.

TAROM Airfi A318

Unfortunately the service wasn’t actually functioning — they tried to reboot it, but didn’t have luck. TAROM also doesn’t have Wi-Fi.

TAROM streaming entertainment

So I just worked on my laptop for a bit without Wi-Fi, though note that TAROM doesn’t have power ports at seats, so make sure you board with your electronics charged.

Towards the end of the flight I checked out the lavatory, located at the front of the cabin. It was pretty bare bones. The crew let people from economy use the business class lavatory. That’s not a huge issue, but it’s something that other airlines strictly prohibit.

TAROM A318 lavatory

Even though the flight was “only” three hours, it felt so much longer than that. For about 90 minutes the flight attendant didn’t check on the cabin — though I imagine she would have responded if a call bell were pushed — and then a bit over 30 minutes before landing she came through the cabin again to see if we wanted anything.

At 1:30PM London time the seatbelt sign was turned on, and it was announced that we would be landing in 20 minutes.

TAROM moving map

We ended up circling for a bit, and landed in London at 1:55PM local time.

View approaching London

View approaching London

Landing at Heathrow Airport

China Southern 787 Heathrow Airport

Our taxi to our arrival gate at Terminal 4 ended up taking about 20 minutes. That’s because we had to wait for about 10 minutes to cross runway 27L.

Crossing runway at Heathrow

You’ve gotta love the politics of Terminal 4 — you have Etihad Airways parked next to Qatar Airways, and EL AL parked next to Kuwait Airways.

Etihad A380 Heathrow Airport

EL AL 787 Heathrow Airport

Kuwait 777 Heathrow Airport

We ended up pulling in at the very end of the terminal, next to a Kuwait Airways 777.

TAROM A318 Business Class Bottom Line

I may have been a bit too excited about my first flight on TAROM, as it ended up being your run of the mill intra-Europe business class experience. On the plus side, the flight attendant was friendly and each passenger had a pillow and blanket. As an aviation geek I was also happy to fly an A318.

But overall the food and service was just alright. I was also secretly hoping we’d be on one of their planes featuring “proper” business class seats, though perhaps those don’t actually exist anymore.

If you’ve flown TAROM, what was your experience like?

  1. They do have planew with proper business class seats, but the A318 isn’t one of them. The aircraft rotation is a bit a mystery to me as often you won’t find proper biz seats to LHR/CDG etc but can find them on extremely short flights (eg ATH/IST).

    As for the wine, TAROM has bottom shelf plonk retailing for around 3 EUR (Budureasca). Their choice of bubbly is even worse, bottom shelf prosecco retailing at 4 EUR. Bizarelly, the same wine is also served in economy class. Go figure. It must be the worst wines on offer in the air, a shame for a great wine producing country!

    I’m happy you had a decent flight as it could be much worse (broken down seats with parts falling apart, grump crew, and those menus and pillow/blanket are certainly not featured on every flight!)

  2. Curious – do you plan on using the ‘return’ trip in economy at a later date to get to Europe or are you going to cancel? Thanks!

  3. Actually, they have a 738 that shuttles OTP-AMS that has the “proper” business class seats for rows 1-4 (14 seats). The meal in economy was appalling: sludge-cooked penne with tomato sauce.
    The video screens they had on board were purely vestigial. Still, it’s better than the old 734s.

  4. As Michael asked, could you explain a bit about the RT ticket purchase? Was it cheaper that way than the one-way business fares? Thanks!

  5. Before state subsidies ran out in the ‘80s , many of those old Soviet- style airlines offered to cheapest deals around: including TAROM, Malev, CSA, LOT, Interflug, Aeroflot and others. They were always to cheapest from Asia to Europe ( and often had sectors within Asia as well, commonly Singapore- Bangkok, Jakarta-Bangkok).
    In those days the excitement of getting somewhere exciting, cheaply, far outweighed any discomfort and potential danger. Now they’re all just clones: same seats, same meals, same planes.

  6. Didn’t Tarom used to operate a flight to JFK? I somehow remember seeing Tarom at JFK a few years back.

    Food looks disappointing. Too bad!

  7. TAROM 737-800 and A318s don’t have proper business class but the 737-300 and -700 do. The A318 is usually the only aircraft which does the LHR rotation.

  8. @lucky, I’m not sure if i missed it but i thought you dad was going to do a review of your trip to south africa? Can you please advise?

  9. @Matthew.
    I flew the Tarom IL-62B FROM Budapest (BUD) TO JFK in the 80’s. It flew Bucharest-Budapest-Jfk and back with same Budapest stop

  10. All the 737’s except YR-BGJ and YR-BGK have proper business class seats.
    YR-BGJ and YR-BGK are in a LCC configuration with 189 seats.
    All the Airbus and ATR airframes have regular seats in business class.

  11. Lucky: “As it the norm in intra-Europe business class, the center seat had a tray on it, so you can place drinks there without taking out your tray table.”

    Me: *cries in British*

  12. they still have proper business class seats on their B733, B737 and two of B738s (BGL and BGM, ex-Malaysia)

  13. I had some good flights with TAROM, it’s a nice ‘old school’ airline. The choice of wine is appalling indeed.

  14. I flew their 737-300 when it was new on LHR-OTP. Flights stopped in Timisoara en route – I’m not sure they could make the route non-stop. I had the big armchair seat but the food was shockingly bad and they insisted on playing the boarding music for the entire flight (almost 4 hours). Last month I went for a day trip to BUH from ATH and went north on A3 and south on the RO 737-800 in economy. Very unexceptional flight; a biscuit and a drink. Big squishy seats and decent legroom in Y plus the evidence of in-flight entertainment that was not operational. For Euro50 I was happy. I think Blue Air keeps them on their toes.
    I booked via A3 website on A3 coded flight but I earned no Air NZ*A points, and I earned no Skyteam points as I was on an A3 ticket. Miserable no-mans land codeshare.
    As a side note A3 seems to play fast and loose with their Olympic operations – no points, no lounges, no benefits although sold as A3, on A3 tickets and on A3 planes; but this is for another day.

  15. Great review. I flew a TAROM ATR once from Sibiu to Bucharest, and it was a nice flight. Friendly flight attendants with instant coffee on offer. On time and a lot better than a CFR train, though we missed out on seeing the countryside. After reading about people’s experiences on the AN-24, the ATR felt safe and sound.

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *