Aircraft Type: A330-200
Class: ‘Previous Generation’ Business Class
Flight time: 9:50
Date: October 2015
Best for: Passengers flying between Europe and South America. A high proportion of passengers on short haul flights connect on to Long haul flights.
The crowd: Trans-European base – with a few Brazilian fliers too. Mix of leisure fliers and business travellers.
Business or pleasure: TAP’s current long haul fleet is fairly mixed, with some aircraft offering WiFi, as well as AVOD, however the majority still fly without connectivity and IFE on loop. The schedules however are suited to business travellers.
Routes: TAP has won quite a few awards for its flights to South America. It’s route network heavily focuses on South America and short-haul European flights.
Frequent Flyer Programme: Victoria. Odd name, but a star alliance aligned frequent flier programme. Well connected with partner airlines including Etihad.
Best bits: Service level and the food offering are very good.
Worst bits: Sadly the ageing hard product does let the cabin down, although the bed was perfectly decent for a day flight, and the IFE loop offered a large selection of movies and programming.
TAP Portugal A330 Business Class Trip Report
TAP Portugal is one of only a few European carriers that are still relatively unexplored by TheDesignAir. We were lucky enough to secure a return ticket to Brazil in October. Avid readers may have spotted we’ve done a fair share of Europe-South America flights recently, but it’s actually allowed us to quite fairly compare the business class offerings on half a dozen carriers in the space of a few months. TAP Portugal is on the verge of a shift in product offering, whilst the company is going through a transition, there have been no reveals on what the new product will be. Our educated guess, based on the established competition on their network is that they will either go down the route of Iberia, Avianca or LAN, offering lightly-customized versions of an off the shelf business class seat. However, only time will tell.
On the ground
We started our journey, like most, in London Heathrow, and TAP being one of the Star Alliance group, calls Terminal 2 its home. It is still by far one of the best terminals in Heathrow, and while our early start no doubt helped smooth out the check in and security process, as always it was a breeze.
TAP’s check in counters are situated in Zone D and like all the desks at Heathrow, offer kiosk check-in, followed by a line of serviced bag drop desks. For most this check in process is all that would be required, even for business class passengers.
However, for those wanting the personal touch, behind the bag drop, TAP offer two desks for business class passengers, which allows passengers to effortlessly check-in.
After checking in our bag, we were handed a lounge pass and passed through security. TAP actually use the Plaza Premium lounge in Heathrow, which we have used before, and whilst it has no windows, it’s a very comfortable and spacious space, situated in the main terminal building, rather than in the satellite building.
Sadly though, our early morning departure (the 6am TP353 flight) meant that we were unable to use the lounge as it opens at 6am. All other TAP flights wouldn’t have a problem, with the next departure taking off a couple of hours later. Being a Star Alliance carrier, business class passengers and Star Alliance frequent fliers have their pick of the partner lounges in T2.
The flight this time took off from the B gates, which have the irritatingly long walk under the apron. Boarding was on time and the flight wasn’t too full which meant for a quick boarding process. Very soon doors were closed and we were on our way.
On the short haul flight, TAP lives up to its European counterparts, offering 2 x 2 seating in standard economy seats with the middle seat kept free. The business class cabin can flex to reflect the demand for the cabin, by the use of a moveable curtain. The seats aren’t the most up to date, and aren’t slimline, meaning seat pitch feels fairly tight, however, the extra padding in the seat meant for a very comfortable couple of hours.
The flights don’t offer any entertainment, apart from some of the aircraft offering overhead screens with a variety of vignettes and short videos, so like most trans-European flights, we recommend bringing an iPad or tablet to keep yourself amused, however TAP does offer a very good magazine ‘Up’ which will certainly keep you well entertained on a short flight.
The food onboard was fairly decent, even though a 6am departure meant we weren’t super hungry. The tray we were presented, consisted of a cold continental breakfast accompanied by hot rolls and pastries, yoghurt and fresh fruit. Throughout the short flight, the service was very attentive.
On arrival at Lisbon, we parked on a remote stand, and waiting at the bottom of the stairs were private shuttles to take passengers with short connections direct to their plane, whilst the rest of us boarded a bus which took us to the terminal (via what seemed the most convoluted route ever)
As boarding commenced only 15 minutes after we cleared security, we headed straight to the gate, where business class passengers were allowed to board first, with their own priority lane.
TAP’s long haul business cabin, whether on the A340 and older A330s or the new A330s is situated ahead of the entrance door. The cabin offers 24 seats in a 2 x 2 x 2 configuration.
The cabin is a muted sea of cool greys, which are offset by royal blue seat fabric and a bright green geometric patterned carpet and navy curtains. Whilst on initial impression this is a little drab, the carrier has managed to allow their brand colours pop through the use of uniforms, printed materials – even down to the cocktail stirrers that arrive with a drink.
The grey is actually very calming, and no different to the cabin environment found on Lufthansa aircraft. Whilst the cabins are old, their upkeep is very good, with most finishes seeming pristine and limited signs of wear and tear. All the surfaces are also very clean.
The bathrooms, situated in the rear of the business class cabin (past the galley – meaning there aren’t really any bad seats in this cabin), are also slightly dated compared to the latest airbus basic model bathrooms, however, they are looked after through the fight by the cabin crew, and even feature fresh flower arrangements.
The cabin doesn’t offer mood lighting, however, lights are dimmed to comfortable levels throughout the flight, including lower level lighting during food service, which is a nice touch.
TAP offer the Recaro lie-flat model seats which allow the passenger to recline to a variety of seat positions, whilst also turning into an angled lie-flat bed which for the most part is very comfortable.
The seats in the cabin don’t offer much privacy, and the best seats for solo travellers, as we always state are the middle row (E&F), which allow for aisle access without having to step over your companion.
The seats are in pairs, offering limited storage space, but do offer a large centre console, magazine storage in the seat infront, as well as a small tray situated under the TV to allow for passengers smaller belongings to be kept at arms reach.
Nice touches of the seat include the retractable arm rest, which allow passengers to slide in and out of the seat when the large and sturdy dining table is extended from the centre console. The table can also swivel 90 degrees by the flick of a switch to provide a little more space if not used for dining.
There is a privacy divider, along with personal reading lamp (as well as overhead lamp) and for those who aren’t used to the seat, lifting the arm rest on the centre console reveals a plethora of seat controls allowing the passenger to select a myriad of seat positions beyond the presets found on the buttons normally on display.
The bed is decent. It’s comfortable and well padded, and whilst it is lie flat, the use of fabric seat cushions limits the amount you slide down the seat as you sleep.
Once sat down, we were offered a welcome drink of sparkling wine, juice or water. We have to say we were impressed by the quality of the food on TAP. It was beautifully presented and felt clean, fresh and light.
After take off, we were handed a menu, which consisted of a lunch, followed by cold afternoon snack.
Courgette Cigar, smoked salmon and salmon roe, Black grape skewer and toasted hazelnuts
Salt Cod Confit, served with tomato and olive oil
Roast Beef, served with pear chutney
Cauliflower and rocket
Pumpkin Soup and Beetroot Mousse
Beef Empanada with Pureed mushroos, aubergine and herb vinaigrette
Braised Octopus with fresh plums and pennyroyal
Old Style Duck rise with Serra Cheese and Rosemary
Pappardelle with Saffron, Shrimp and rosemary
Monte da Vinha cheese
Chestnut Pudding, Anise flavoured yoghurt cream
Fresh Fruit platter
Mushroom Pastry, mint mousse and green salad
Espumante – Luis Pato Espumante Blanc de Blancs 2014
Port Wine – Ferreira, Quinta do Porto 10 Anos Porto Tawny
Quinta da Alorna Reserva Arinto, Chardonnay 2014
Esporao, Verdelho, 2014
Dona Maria, 2012
Churchill’s Estates Grande reserve 2011
Very shortly after take off, the cabin crew came out with a trolley service and laid our tables, taking our drinks orders and delivering an amuse bouche. The quality of the amuse bouche was of a very high standard, and a perfect accompaniment to the Espumante.
Then in a choreographed service we were delivered course after course, starting with a salad with choice of topping, we opted for the Salt Cod, which was light, tasty, and of restaurant quality.
We regretted not opting for the soup (or taking a photo) which had a presentation that wouldn’t be out of place in a fine dining restaurant. It was a real treat for those that had it.
The main course, of beef empanada was also very succulent (and tasted much better than we could photograph), and perfectly cooked, with the mushrooms having the perfect bite to them.
We decided to opt for the cheese, and not knowing what cheese it was, suddenly had a bit of a regret. It was one of the most potent cheese we have ever smelt. We had to quickly seal it back up to save embarrassment as if you are a cheese lover, this would knock you for six. Luckily we also opted for the chestnut pudding, which was light, refreshing and perfect in size to polish off the whole serving.
After a coffee and chocolates were handed out, we settled into the inflight entertainment, until approximately two hours before landing, at which point, the lights were once again raised and our light meal was supplied. The meal was good, (although not as good as the earlier hot meal) and again, perfectly proportioned.
After the mushroom pasty and salard, we tucked into a light Lemon mousse and fresh fruit plate, whilst enjoying a gin and tonic. (It’s a shame they use the small bottles, rather than service a house pour from the galley – a missed trick we think)
TAP offer two different entertainment options depending if you are on an AVOD (Audio Visual on Demand) equipped plane or not. The feedback we’ve heard about the new aircraft is that they offer a great selection of movies and the interface is great. There are also a small handful of WiFi equipped A330s too.
However, our aircraft was the older generation which offered 6 looped channels of approxamtely 3 films worth of entertainment on each. This actually gave us the opportunity to watch a fair amount of programming without having to wait for the system to recycle itself.
The screens are ok in size, at 10” the screens situated in the back of the seat infront, aren’t the biggest, but still match the screens found on British Airways’ older club-world seats for example.
The Phitek headsets provided are good quality, and noise cancelling, and were comfortable to wear for 10 hours without causing discomfort. For those wanting to use their laptop for entertainment, the business classs seats provide inseat power, but no USB port.
One of the good elements to TAP is their inflight magazine, which is recognized across the industry as one of the better inflight magazines, and has won quite a few awards. It’s of a similar quality to Norwegian Airlines N by Norwegian.
We have to say we love the breadth of publications TAP keep onboard, from New York Times to Economist, a variety of German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish titles too. The most impressive element is TAP’s tin case amenity kit, which features an iconic photograph on the lid. Inside are a large collection of high quality products, such as quilted eye mask, ear plugs, non-stick socks, and branded moisturisers. It’s a real keep sake.
The carrier also provides lots of little touches, from personally handed out chocolates through to hot towels. The whole way through our flight, we were constantly impressed by the cabin crew, who went out of their way for their passengers.
TAP is a solid carrier. It may not be a ground breaking airline, however, they are possibly on the verge of being the next Alitalia in Europe, and with a small injection of funds and inspiration from another carrier, could elevate their product to really compete with the other carriers crossing to South America. We were thoroughly pleased by the service we received, the food and whilst we were on an older aircraft, just an upgrade to an AVOD equipped aircraft with their slightly larger TV screens would have eliminated most of our negative comments. If fares are affordable, they are certainly worth booking a flight on. We really do believe they have the right recipe, and for them to really change their fortunes, they only need to invest in a new business class cabin.
The Big Picture