My review of TAP Portugal is not of one flight but of two. One was a short haul European flight whilst the second was long haul to Brazil. Both experiences left me feeling that the airline was just average in terms of what it has to offer.
I must admit that I’ve never asked myself what is the national airline of Portugal? I’d always assumed that was Iberia, but no it appears to be TAP Portugal. After all Iberia represents Portugal and Spain. So now I am able to provide my truly independent TAP Portugal review.
My journey to Brazil began with a short haul flight from Manchester to Lisbon in Portugal. This was a flight taking slightly longer than 2 hours on an A321 aircraft. The very first noticeable point about this flight is that there was no in flight refreshment. Flying for over 2 hours and I couldn’t even get a hot cup of tea.
This was explained to me at the TAP check in and even the check in agent couldn’t fully explain why. She did however give me a food voucher for £10 which could be spent in the airport before the flight. I was flying Business Class so am unsure if and how much Economy Class passengers were given in vouchers.
Thankfully there are quite a few places to pick up sandwiches and bottles of drinks in the airport to carry onto the flight with you. Also as a TAP Portugal Business Class passenger I was able to use the Escape Lounge in Manchester Airport Terminal 1.
On boarding the flight one of the aircrew told me that I could sit wherever I liked. It was clear that I was the only Business Class passenger on this flight with at least 12 seats to choose from. It is well known that the financial crisis has hit Portugal hard with soaring unemployment. The lack of premium passengers is something I dare say that could hit TAP Portugal hard too.
In spite of the wealth of premium luxury I found the leg room sufficient as opposed to generous. Sat in row 1, a baulk head seat saw me able to sit with my legs straight down but little room to stretch.
I was given 3 complimentary items of reading material, The International Tribune, a copy of The Economist and Londoner (a monthly edition). There was also the self publications from the TAP airline of Portugal. These consisted of reasonable size magazines in dual language. There was the destination, features and travel writers magazine creatively called “Up”. Plus an entertainment, fashion and shopping guide called “On Air”.
The entertainment guide was a little wasted on this flight as there were no personal TV screens. An overhead screen did drop down from the ceiling and this was placed in front of the seat to my right. It was not a great viewing angle and with an LCD screen the picture was hard to see clearly. No complimentary headphones were handed out nor could I see a socket to plug in my own. So it was silent movies and an episode of Mr Bean to watch.
The seats were leather and relatively comfortable. However when I did attempt to recline my seat it was obvious that the seats were too narrow. My shoulders would rub on the seat beside me and there was very limited elbow room to move about.
I was hoping that this experience was just a short haul one and my long haul flight would be more enjoyable, if I made my connection!
My flight out of Manchester was delayed to the “late arrival of the incoming flight”. This meant I had about 20 minutes at Lisbon Airport before the scheduled departure of my next flight to San Paolo Viracopos in Campinas, Brazil.
TAP Portugal showed some efficiency here. As we were about to unboard a uniformed member of staff was waiting for me. He chauffeured me in a black van to my next flight. Just as well since it was estimated as 36C outside.
This next flight was on an A330 and would take 9 and three quarter hours to complete.
The Business Class cabin of 24 seats was admittedly much bigger and half full. Most people including myself had an empty seat beside them.
Initially it appeared that the aircraft had been fitted out quite recently. Everything looked clean and new. If TAP Portugal have put so much cost into the design of their aircraft then I do wonder why the design is so poor.
The seats whilst fairly comfortable were again short of elbow room. Reclining your seat to sleep meant keeping your arms straight and down by your side. Even then it was a tight squeeze and I’m of average size. The seats also did not recline a full 180 degrees.
TV screens were fixed into the back of the seats in front. To be honest the screens were quite small. So much so that I really struggled to read any writing or subtitles on the screen. It also said in the “On Air” magazine that TAP offered video on demand, well this was not the case on this flight. There were around 12 channels yet this meant about 6 or 7 items to watch at a time. This is because one channel would be in English and the next would show the same film dubbed in Portuguese. Since it was not on demand you also had to figure out what you were watching and be lucky to catch the start because you could not rewind.
After all that on the plus side the head phones were quite good. They were noise cancelling and seemed to do a decent job.
You may remember that I mentioned it was 36C outside. Well this badly designed craft did not help. There were no visible controllable fan / air con overhead. It was quite stuffy and uncomfortable on the air craft before departure and for a period during the flight. These controllable air fans are in place on so many aircraft that it baffles me why an airline from a hot country would fail to include them.
The air safety video was a little bit of a novelty as it featured real passengers giving the demonstrations. It still wasn’t as amusing as the flight safety video offered by Delta which is the best I’ve seen to date.
On both flights I was puzzled as to what to make of the staff. I found the female members of the air crew quite direct and offered little by way of polite manners. Is this just a Portuguese thing? A male member of the cabin crew was a very happy and pleasant chap and I’m glad that he served me at least half the time on this long haul flight.
I was given a metal tin just after take off which contained some complimentary toiletries. There was not a wealth of stuff inside but it did claim to make lots of the items from recycled materials. The metal tin actually reminded me of the tins that KLM used to provide their complimentary toiletries in. Maybe this is where TAP got their inspiration?
Like the flight, the food was a mixed combination of good and bad. For the main meal I began with sweet potato soup which was actually quite pleasant. I then took the special for the main which was monk fish. I have to be honest and say that for a special this was very disappointing as it was very chewy and not very tasty.
Without realising it at the time, by ordering the special I was entitled to a bonus. Towards the end of the flight a stewardess came up to me with a bag and a box inside. The box contained a designed plate which was quite a nice souvenir. The stewardess explained that by ordering the special you receive this complimentary plate. I was pleased with this surprise and it countered for the monk fish which was pretty poor.
Hey don’t forget to check out my cool shop.
My review of TAP Portugal is not overly complimentary. This is the first time I have flown with them and it may not be the last. The Iberian based airlines seem to have a lot of routes to South America from Europe so my choices may be limited.
I found the lack of in flight refreshment on the first flight (2 hours) unique to say the least. There were issues of space with Business Class seats on both flights. The in-flight entertainment was disappointing and difficult to watch. The food was also nothing to write home about.
Happier female stewardesses who avoid being so direct is an area of training or personality selection which can make the experience more pleasant for passengers.
TAP Portugal is not the worst airline out there, not by any means. However flying with TAP Portugal will not provide a Business Class passenger with a truly luxurious and relaxing experience.