Recently, I was invited to take a special tour of one of TAM Airlines’ brand-spanking new Boeing 777s that was parked at Paine Field. The plane was so new that Boeing was still prepping it for delivery. How could I refuse?
The aircraft I toured (PT-MUJ) and was TAM’s fourth 777-300ER, which was delivered on August 29th, 2013. The airline has ordered a total of nine of the type.
The 777 is the first aircraft that TAM has equipped with their new First Class product, and I was excited to check it out.
Touring a brand-new plane is quite a treat; it never seems to get old. The first thing to remember is not to break anything! (That is actually a pretty good rule to have anytime that you’re on a plane, but especially one that has not been yet delivered.) Boeing obviously wants to deliver the plane in pristine shape and I would figure that TAM likes getting their aircraft, valued at over $300 million, in working order.
After reaching the top of the air-stairs, I put on some white booties to go over my shoes to ensure the carpet and flooring would not have unnecessary wear. The booties are pretty standard operating procedure and they make gliding on the flooring quite easy.
I have to say I was a bit surprised when I first boarded the aircraft. On the nose of the plane, it clearly states, “The Magic Red Carpet,” but stepping inside, the floor was wood. Now, don’t get me wrong, I always like a wood floor (especially on a plane) but I felt I was missing something. Stepping into the aisle, I looked up and down and still no red carpet, just gray – what gives?
Turns out the “red carpet” is more of an concept than a physical thing. “This refers to Rolim Amaro’s idea of red carpet service that goes back to the founding of the airline in the 1970s,” TAM explained to AirlineReporter.com. “Today we don’t actually have a red carpet (except for at the door/stairs) – it is a promise of red carpet service for all passengers and to treat customers with human warmth and affection. For TAM flights, the Captain and Co-pilot and all of the staff line up in a receiving line a great you as you board. This is the red carpet service in action.”
I guess I’d rather have the level of service versus the actual red carpet. Plus, I think that the wood flooring in the galley and gray carpet down the aisle match the decor much better.
I know that after entering, I probably should have taken a right to check out the passenger cabin, especially First Class. But I couldn’t help myself – I headed left to check out the flight deck. Each cockpit just seems like a technical work of art and this one was a bit more impressive, since I was able to see those large Boeing factory doors out of the windscreen.
After getting my fix on the flight deck, I got down to business and headed to the First Class cabin.
The immediate impression I had of TAM’s new First Class was it looked like I was standing in a living room – this is a good thing. The section is super-exclusive, with only four seats, and has a welcoming energy that is not found in many other First Class sections I have experienced.
It turns out that the homey feeling was no accident. “Our concept was to design a ‘Home away from Home’, moving away from hard finishes and creating a softer, luxurious cabin more in keeping with high-end interior design,” Luke Hawes, director at Priestmangoode (who designed the new seats) and head of the TAM project explained. “The two central seats have a feature sofa that replaces standard footstools, offering a relaxed and comfortable social setting for passengers travelling together.”
The new product is laid out in a 1-2-1 format, so each seat has aisle access. There are also dividers that can be put up to create privacy or you can keep them down, as shown, to easily work, connect, and talk with the person next to you. This is one of those products that I have to admit looks even better in person than it does in photos. Many other times I feel that photos make a product look better.
On the 777, First Class passengers enjoy a vast array of amenities:
- 180-degree ergonomic, full-flat beds
- Personalized entertainment system featuring an expanded movie and television series selection, a second screen that allows the passenger to do two things at the same time, and an e-reader application with a varied selection of international magazines
- Individual furniture including a couch, closets, and dining table
- Library equipped with a selection of reading materials, including books, as well as editions of the international guidebook Wallpaper and general interest magazines and newspapers
- An award-winning wine list selected by Arthur Azevedo, one of the most respected wine consultants in Brazil
- An in-flight menu designed by the leading Brazilian chef Bel Coelho
- Nespresso service and an exclusive tea blend developed just for TAM by Brazilian tea blender Carla Saueressig, a leading tea-blending specialist
- A luxury amenity kit courtesy of cosmetics brand Rituals on long-haul flights
Although my main goal of the tour was to see TAM’s new First Class, I figured I should probably check out the rest of the plane.
The next section back is Business Class, which is arranged in a 2-3-2 layout, which unfortunately means that someone is still going to get a center seat in each row. I have not flown TAM’s version of the seat, but have flown it on other airlines and found it to still be competitive in the international long-haul market, although a bit dated.
The seats do not recline fully-flat, but it does go down to a respectable 170-degrees into a fixed shell. The seat also provides passengers with 63″ of seat pitch.
The next section back contain Space + seats, which are in a 3-4-3 configuration and give a little extra seat pitch versus the standard economy seat. The 10-abreast seats are a bit cramped, but 10 is becoming the new normal for most airlines on the 777.
Compared to the skittle-like red, blue, and green Economy Class seats farther back, the gray Space + were a bit drab.
The seats in the back might have the least room for passengers, but no one can argue that they aren’t the most colorful. TAM states that, “the colors reflect the warm, vibrant tones of South America and Brazil to create a relaxing, cozy environment especially geared to the benefit of the passenger.”
Although some passengers will care about the bright colors, more are likely to enjoy personal entertainment systems at each seat to help them pass the time during long-haul flights.
Currently, TAM uses their 777-300ERs, with the new First Class, on routes from São Paulo–Guarulhos International Airport (GRU) to cities like Paris, Frankfurt, Miami, Buenos Aires, London, Santiago and starting on September 21st, New York.