My TAP A330-200 (named Bartolomeu Dias - reg CS-TOR) sitting at Lisbon - Photo: Katka Lapelosová

My TAP A330-200 (named Bartolomeu Dias – reg CS-TOR) sitting at Lisbon – Photo: Katka Lapelosová

Recenty, I was booked to fly on TAP airlines from Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) to Lisbon Portela Airport (LIS). On my way there, I flew on their Executive product (aka business class) and on the way home, I flew in economy.

Photo: TAP

TAP Executive cabin – Photo: TAP

At the airport, I looked for a priority line, but did not see one, so I waited in the standard line. Upon check-in, I was provided with a green sticker on my boarding pass, which indicated I was to receive an expedited security clearance. There was no discussion of whether I had lounge access and the ticket agents did not seem to know — actually, different agents told me to go to different lounges.

I was a bit frustrated, but it was only an hour until my flight anyway, so I decided to relax in a secluded part of the gate with the economy passengers. Checking out TAP’s website, I was able to confirm that I had access to the Lufthansa’s Business Class lounge in Terminal B.

A little something to drink is always a welcome sight when boarding - Photo: Katka Lapelosová

A little something to drink is always a welcome sight when boarding – Photo: Katka Lapelosová

I was hoping to pre-board to get photos of the business class product without other passengers, but it didn’t work out. There were quite a few elderly that needed to pre-board, so by the time I got onto the A330, almost the entire business cabin was full, and taking a shot of the cabin’s seats was not possible.

Once I found my seat (1A), I was offered a choice of water, juice, or sparkling wine before takeoff. Being the fancy gal I am, I went with the sparkling wine — a 2012 Luís Pato Espumante Blanc de Blancs.

WiFi was offered on the flight, but it didn't do me much good - Photo: Katka Lapelosová

WiFi was offered on the flight, but it didn’t do me much good – Photo: Katka Lapelosová

The cabin setup is 2-2-2, with only four rows. Although it was an intimate cabin, it felt a bit cramped for business class seating, despite being in the bulkhead row.

My first impression was that the business class product felt a bit dated. The seats had ample legroom, but were not overtly cushiony (yup, I am using that as a descriptor) and luxurious. I actually found the seats in economy to look fresher and feel a bit more comfortable (I did have an empty middle seat in economy).

Do not get me wrong — the overall hard and soft product of business excels over economy, but I didn’t feel that much of a difference between the two that I do on other airlines.

The Executive product on the A330 Photo: TAP

The Executive product on the A330 – Photo: TAP

There is also WiFi offered and I didn’t intend on really using it, but I wanted to see just how it worked, so I purchased 10MB for about $13 (you know, for science). You also have the option to “open a WiFi tab” and use it for as much as you want, and get charged at the end. I would not recommend doing this, as you will pay too much money for a super slow, basically useless WiFi connection. My 10MB ran out in about 30 minutes and the most I could do was wait for my Facebook page to load on my phone.

The amenity kit offered to Executive passengers - Photo: Katka Lapelosová

The amenity kit offered to Executive passengers. Yes, those are airplanes on the socks – Photo: Katka Lapelosová

Amenities kits were handed out after takeoff. Enclosed, in a square tin, were some pretty nondescript products; earplugs, an eye mask, a tooth brush and toothpaste kit, socks, a paper-covered pen, lip balm, and some French-made hand cream (why it was not a Portuguese brand, I’m not sure, as the Portuguese are known for their luxurious body lotions and soaps).

The eye mask was actually pretty amazing, and seemed to conform perfectly to my head despite having a single elastic band — not a shred of light was let in. I also liked the adorable airplane foot pads on the socks — it was a nice touch.

- Photo: Katka Lapelosová

Having the first round of food with some wine, of course! – Photo: Katka Lapelosová

Most impressively, their dining service provided a pleasant distraction and helped pass the time. My Portuguese seatmate explained that the wine selection was an excellent example of local choices, and I was able to try the 2010 Casa Ferreirinha Callabriga, produced in the Douro region of Portugal. I thought that was pretty cool and a nice representation of what was offered in the country I was traveling to.

A very tasty soup  - Photo: Katka Lapelosová

A very tasty tomato bisque soup – Photo: Katka Lapelosová

I also loved the tiny TAP-branded glasses, an adorable accompaniment to some of the best airline wine I’ve tried.

Canapes and bread came out first, followed by a choice of starter. I chose the soup, a creamy tomato bisque, then went with the chicken entrée which was both tasty, filling, and plated nicely.

- Photo: Katka Lapelosová

My chicken dinner, which was nice and juicy – Photo: Katka Lapelosová

There was a funny debate between the flight attendants and my seatmate – apparently halibut is difficult to translate into Portuguese, so they labeled it as “alibut.” Neither the flight attendants nor my seatmate knew what “alibut” was. It became the joke of the flight.

A nice, light plate of fruit to round out the meal - Photo: Katka Lapelosová

A nice, light plate of fruit to round out the meal – Photo: Katka Lapelosová

For dessert I chose a plate of fruit, as the former meal had been quite heavy. Bars of dark chocolate labeled with “Saudade” (the best of untranslatable Portuguese words) were handed out at the end. I still have mine and am not sure I will ever eat it – it’s just so pretty.

And of course, I closed out the meal with a glass of Port chosen by my Portuguese seatmate. Maybe more like three glasses or so — I’m not sure, it gets a little hazy. But the Porto Ferreira Quinta do Porto aged 10 years was some of the best Port I had all week.

My port and wonderful chocolate - Photo: Katka Lapelosová

My port and wonderful chocolate – Photo: Katka Lapelosová

With a full belly and a head full of wine, it was time to go to sleep. Perhaps the least preferable aspect of the trip was the angled-flat sleep setting for the seats. I had read about this prior to the trip, but never actually experienced it. I actually sleep better at a slightly raised angle, so I figured I’d be alright with the arrangement.

The different settings for the seat - Photo: Katka Lapelosová

The different settings for the seat – Photo: Katka Lapelosová

Oh hell no — I was wrong — angled flat is really just a flat surface, on an angle, like you’re sleeping on a playground slide. It felt awkward and became distracting when I couldn’t find myself in a comfortable position; I sort of felt like a mummy or a vampire.

My seat pre and post sleep mode - Photo: Katka Lapelosová

My seat post and pre sleep mode – Photo: Katka Lapelosová

I will give credit where credit is due, however; the pillow was fluffy and comfortable, and the blanket was an actual quilt, warm, soft, and large enough to wrap up in during the hour and a half or so I managed to sleep deeply.

A light breakfast - Photo: Katka Lapelosová

A light breakfast – Photo: Katka Lapelosová

I awoke to a breakfast that was light and nothing overtly special; bread, jam, and a sandwich with some ham on it (I am unable to eat pork and there was no other option, so bread with butter and jam it was). The coffee was good, thick and strong Portuguese espresso style.

The remote made me feel a bit dirty and I didn't like using it - Photo: Katka Lapelosová

The IFE remote made me feel a bit dirty and I didn’t like using it – Photo: Katka Lapelosová

The flight was super short – about five hours and twenty minutes total. Between the coursed dining service and delightful conversation with my seatmate, I didn’t even have time to watch a full film. I started exploring the options about an hour before we began our final descent. The on-demand entertainment system aboard TAP’s A330-200 was definitely something to note.

My video display on the bulkhead - Photo: Katka Lapelosová

My video display on the bulkhead – Photo: Katka Lapelosová

There was an excellent selection of films, television shows, music, games, kids activities, and informational programming. A mix of recently released movies (Birdman, Interstellar) and classics (tons of awesome Charlie Chaplin throwbacks and Audrey Hepburn films), along with some hot TV shows (Game of Thrones, House of Cards) made me wish the flight was slightly longer.

Photo: TAP

Economy class in TAP’s A330 – Photo: TAP

I was able to take advantage of this on the way back, as the same in-flight entertainment system is also provided in economy class. I actually preferred the clean, clear touch-screen seat-back TV to the far away business class screen that was navigated with a nasty joystick (I’m just not into joystick technology, it always feels gross to me).

But unlike economy class, noise-cancellation headsets were provided for business class flyers. These, coupled with the earplugs from the amenities kit, provided the perfect sound barrier when it was time to sleep.

A nice touch having a flower - Photo: Katka Lapelosová

A nice touch having a flower – Photo: Katka Lapelosová

Landing was smooth, and because of the jetstream we actually landed an hour earlier than expected. I’ve never been in an airport at 5am, and it’s a bit creepy – everyone is bleary-eyed and jetlagged.

Typically there is not an arrivals lounge for those arriving into LIS. However, I was fortunate enough to be given access to TAP’s Premium Lounge. Public transportation did not start running from the airport until 7am and instead of paying for a cab, why not hang out in the lounge for a while?

Inside the Premium Lounge in Lisbon - Photo: TAP

Inside the Premium Lounge in Lisbon – Photo: TAP

The lounge was quite nice. There are some great snacks (little appetizers really, not just cocktail peanuts) and a full bar to enjoy. I stuck to coffee and some pastries/fruit, which were fresh and tasty.

Because of my fatigued state, I did not take any photos. I wish I did however, because across from where I sat were a group of Portuguese punk rockers knocking back whiskey and beer at 6am. Baller.

TAP has X Airbus A350s on order - Photo: Airbus

TAP has 12 Airbus A350s on order – Photo: Airbus

There aren’t many choices when looking to fly from the New York area to Lisbon non-stop. The only other flight that really competes is United, which flies either a Boeing 757 or 767 from EWR to LIS (US Airways/American also flies seasonally from Philadelphia). A 767 United premium product could be competitive (possibly better — haven’t flown on it), but I am not sure if I would want to fly on a 757, when I have wide-body options.

There do not seem to be any short-term plans for TAP to upgrade their business class product, but they do have 12 Airbus A350-900s on order. The problem is, that they are not scheduled to enter the fleet until 2017.

Overall, I had a pleasant experience aboard TAP’s Executive product from Newark to Lisbon. But in the end, I’m not sure if what I received in business class versus economy is worth the upgrade. Yes, the food, wine, service and benefits at the airport are a sure win for the premium cost. But the hard product was quite dated and I found some positive aspects of the economy class product (especially if the seat next to you is empty).

Note: TAP provided a complimentary upgrade from economy to business one-way for this review. Opinions are those of the author.

Katka, the author, is a travel writer based in New York City and wrote this review for AirlineReporter. 

Review: Qantas First Lounge at Los Angeles (LAX)
14 Comments
Bob Dineen

Brilliant!

Your sense of humor is so refreshing, and the thoroughness of your review simply fabulous.

Many thanks for the information – and your effort!

@Katka: Thanks for the cheerful, fun review. I think you covered the subject very well. Some thoughts; some serious and some a bit less…
I love your excellent food porn shots! I always enjoy pix of SOUP being served on airplanes and I try gauge the degree of “Soup Slop,” the amount of splashing up the side of the bowl. Does this matter or affect the soup? Of course not! On a scale of 1-10, I’d rate the Soup Slop as a 1.5 and note that I’ve never seen a better score.
Sadly, most airplane-based WiFi is horrible (I no longer use even the rare, good ones) and I understand your frustration. You took one for the team!
While it was generous of TAP to provide your upgrade, most airlines’ services are at their best when departing their home station. There, they have far more control over the catering and one usually sees the best that the airline/nation offers. We all know the LAX caterers well and they simply do not provide their best to foreign airlines.
I agree that TAP’s Business Class cabin looks dated, it is. Not horrible, but far from seriously competitive. The general tone suggests that you had mostly pleasant flights and a great trip. I hope AR.com posts more of your reviews.
-Cook

Very well written, insightful and helpful!
Thanks!

Thank you for the truthful and funny review. I believe you did a great job and loved the pictures to substantiate your complete review.

Good review! BTW, I think the joke around “halibut” is that in Portugal it is also the name of a famous creme that is used on baby’s bottoms: http://halibutderma.pt/pt/uploads/52740a11da2ff.png.

isaa morgensztern

Katka Lapelosová,

Enjoyed reading your article..however one facet of your travel that you did not have the misfortune to experience was damage to your luggage, like my wife and I just experienced on a TAP flight (in conjunction with United Airlines) from Newark, NJ to Lisbon this past Tues, April 14, 2015.
Arriving on Wednesday morning, we retrieved our luggage at the airport and discovered that the pull-out handle on my bag was in the “out” position and bent near the base of the metal handle. Why any baggage handler would even need to do or use this was unexplainable. We reported the issue to the “Lost and Found/Baggage problem” person, who took all our information, gave us a file number, printed out the baggage damage form and showed us a European number on the bottom of the form to call..and basically shrugged his shoulders at any suggestion that he call this number and explain our problem in Potuguese, knowing full well we were going to have a hard time resolving this issue. TAP uses another company to handle all baggage issues, thus the airline has no responsibility.
Hard to believe in this day and age..but we do not own a cell phone. We have never had a need for one, even though we travel a lot. We are staying at an apartment with no telephone. We provided the address where we are currently staying. We used our laptop to go online and report our problem. The twice-sent mail came back because my mail was considered SPAM ! Such an easy way to discourage customers with baggage issues.
We ended up at a tourist information office. The woman was an immense help conveying our issue to some agent at the other end of the phone. She gave this person my mail and later we saw an e-mail from this agent. He requested photos (!!) of: my TAP ticket, the baggage claim ticket, size and dimensions of the damaged bag, plus photos of the damaged bag. Mind you, the original airport agent had already filled out the so-called necessary form with all the information and assured us that photos did not need to be taken. Anyway, I took photos of everything above and sent the attachments in an e-mail to the agent in my mail.
Thursday morning I received another e-mail, requesting the same exact information I had already sent. So, I sent the same information and photos.On Friday, there was no correspondence from this agent. Today is Saturday, and of course, the office is closed. Same with tomorrow, Sunday.
We leave Lisbon on Tuesday morning..and am sure that nothing will be replaced and no agent will ever be heard from again.
So..enjoy your in-flight meals.

Since you’ve flown both Business and Economy, would you say it would be better to stick to coach if we are flying TAP from Lisbon to NYC? I’m looking at a flight from LIS to JFK at the moment and I’m not sure what to choose. It looks like there will be a new business class seat on the JFK and Boston route starting this summer though, but not sure if I will get that plane with the new seats. What do you think?

Hi Ang! I actually just booked flights to Rome using TAP, and we are flying economy from JFK simply because the flight time is so short. If you would like a taste of luxury by all means, spring for the business class, but maybe on the way back when it’s a bit longer. I found economy to be comfortable and the in-flight entertainment was good as well, just the food in economy was very bad. So maybe pack some snacks, or request a special meal instead 😉 Have a good flight!

Richard

4th Business Class within the past year. Undoubtedly, Tap Business not worth the money. Seat is a slide, not a lie flat bed. Entertainment same as economy with only a few channels. Screen resolution so bad could not watch. On domestic Tap Business, no space for legs and I am no tall or overweight. Lufthansa domestic Business a 1000 times better. Best Business this year by far is Finnair, followed by Air France and then United.

Where did you fly to and from?. Was it one of their European flights or International.

Thanks and sorry to hear you did not have an agreeable experience in Business Class.

I will be flying TAP from Lisbon to Salvador in late October, in their Business Class on the A330-200.

Now I have been assured that the seat I have 3A is a full flat-bed 180 degree. They have obviously updated their aircraft since you last flew with them.

Flying TAP to Salvador makes sense for me. As flying from London to Brazil means, fly to Sao Paulo from London 11.5 hours, then 2 hours layover, then a further 3 hours I think it was to Salvador, so total around 16.5 – 17 hours +.

Flying TAP from London – Lisbon – Salvador made complete sense for my booking. The time saved looks substantial and more cost effective then using TAM and especially the outdated and hugely expensive British Airways Business Class package.

Now if TAP genuinely have upgraded their seating plans in Business Class to fully flat bed 180 degrees, then it has to be the most logical airline from my point of view to fly to Brazil. Remember, from Lisbon to Salvador the flight is only 8hr 55 mins. You could do that in Economy and certainly in a Premium Economy without busting your gut.

The TAP product looks like an agreeable service. Every airline is always going to have those people who can never be pleased and are to spoiled to care about anything else but themselves. But in general, I hear TAP are an agreeable airline with similar star ratings to TAM and British Airways. So they can not be that bad can they.

I just hope that they really do have a fully flat bed 180 degree which is what it says on the TAP website and what was advised to me when I spoke with their customer services.

£2,237.00 return and full flat bed, direct to Salvador from Lisbon in 8hr 55mins. No brainer.

Hey, Dave, how was your flight from Lisbon to Salvador? Would you recommend flying on TAP’s business class from/to Brazil?

Hi Roberta,

Sure I would recommend them.

A few reasons why, but the main reason why is that so few airlines fly direct to Salvador that finding one that does not take you via America or some other far flung destination is really hard.

KLM do, but you have to go via Amsterdam, then Sao Paulo, then Salvador, that is like 35 hours.

TAP Portugal are also updating their planes interiors at present and although Salvador is not a major destination apparently for TAP, flying TAP Business Class to Salvador may still require you to travel on the angle lie-flat seats in the 2+2+2 layout.

That said, 8 hours and 40 minutes from Lisbon to Salvador is hardly like going to New Zealand and the plane is comfortable and you just feel safe flying on TAP.

The A330-200 planes they use just feel so safe and are the smoothest planes I have ever flown on, they really are.

Food going out was great, food coming back was horrendous, but airline food has always been hit and miss regardless of who you fly.

I am back off to Brazil later in the year. I will fly TAP again to Salvador, then the 2 hour drive North-East of Salvador to my final destination of Sitio Do Conde.

I kid you not, TAP are the only airline I am aware of where you can in effect fly direct to Salvador, or at least just the one stop at Lisbon, then to Salvador. All the other airlines have you flying to Rio or Sao Paulo first, with massive overlays in some cases 20 hours of waiting for the connecting flights.

So yes, I do recommend TAP. They may not have the Emirates style Business Class, but they are upgrading their fleet to fully flat beds in Business Class throughout 2017, so you might get lucky with one of their new plane layouts.

Good luck, and where in Brazil are you off too?.

Cheers.

Hey Dave!! Thank you for yor reply!! 🙂

I live in Manaus/Amazonas/Brazil and I am travelling to Nice/France in july. I will have to fly from São Paulo, since TAP doesn´t have flights from/to Manaus. If I left Brazil from the nearest city that TAP flies to (which is Belém) I would have to leave during the night and my son has an english test in the morning. And the waiting time in Belém would be like 10 hours or so. My best option, then, is taking a flight to São Paulo on the afternoon and then a TAP flight in São Paulo at night. On my way back, though, I will fly from Nice to Lisbon, and then Lisbon to Fortaleza (which is closer to Manaus than São Paulo).

I decided to fly TAP and already bought the tickets. In the end, it was the best airline option when I considered the time of departure, total travel time and time at the connections.
I heard about the upgrade of their airplanes and hope that, until july, I can take one of these new flat bed seats 🙂

Thanks again for your time, and such a complete response.

Best regards,

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