Sunday, February 26, 2017

Trip Report: TAP Portugal, Newark to Lisbon (February 2017)

Trip Report: TAP Portugal, Newark to Lisbon
comment below and let me know your thoughts :)

I have a two-pronged goal: I want to see new places and also try out new airlines.  As part of this goal, I decided to visit Lisbon, Portugal and decided to fly TAP Portugal.  TAP is the national carrier of Portugal, and they have been heavily advertising their low fares and free "Portugal Stopovers".  They even have a "Portugal Stopover" app with free activities and other suggestions for those with a day in Portugal.

I was connecting to TAP in Newark.  As TAP is part of the Star Alliance network, I had booked the ticket through United as my starting journey - from New Orleans to Newark - was on United.  Once I had booked the ticked through United, I called TAP to obtain my TAP reservation number.  My ticket included one free checked baggage (50lb, 23kg), a free carryon, a free meal onboard and free seat selection.   Even though I had the reservation number, I was unable to manage my booking online - including selecting seats or a special meal.  This meant I had to call TAP again - their hold times are minimal and the service is really good.  They also send email confirmations of the reservation to ensure the information has been updated.

Because I had booked through a Star Alliance partner, I had to check-in at the gate to
obtain my boarding pass.  My flight was scheduled to depart at 6:30p from Newark and arrive into Lisbon at 6:05am.  I had arrived to the gate area very early – around 4 hours prior to departure – and the plane was already there (it arrives from Lisbon at 2:50pm).  There was nobody at the gate so I returned about an hour prior to departure to get my boarding pass – even though I had confirmed my seat assignment and special meal a month before, and reconfirmed the night before, it was not registered and the airline could not find any record of it.  I had to wait for a manager to come and reassign me a seat close to the front of the plane.  It was not a good way to start the journey.

TAP boards in group, so after business class and premium class group A boards.  I had
group A so I went through and boarded the Airbus A330.  The plane was divided into three sections – one business class and two economy sections.  The economy seats were laid out in a 2-4-2 layout and the interior of the plane looked nice – not brand new but not too old.  Originally I had the aisle seat on the 2-person seater, but that got switched and now I was in the aisle seat of the 4-person seater with no one next to me.  The seat itself was comfortable, looked nice, and felt like it had been updated recently.  The padding was decent and the legroom was also good, especially for the 6hr flight.  The seat contained a headrest which could be moved and contoured to your head, and a footrest was provided which was a nice touch. 

Each seat contained a PTV on top, the tray table, and then a space for the airline magazine, duty free, safety card, and air sickness bag.  As you boarded the plane, each seat also contained a pillow, a blanket, as well as headsets.  The PTV was touchscreen and pretty responsive – the selections of movies was pretty good but the selection of TV shows was poor.  There were enough movies to keep you occupied for the 6 hour flight, but the TV selection was limited and odd.  Another negative was the lack of USB ports.

The plane was generally full, with some empty seats here and there.  We boarded on time and the front door was closed for an on-time pushback and departure.  The safety video was shown in the monitors, and the crew came around to check on the passengers.  Generally the service onboard was average, the attendants provided enough service to get the job done; they were generally pleasant but the service was not extra ordinary.

Around 8p, about 1.5hr after departure, the inflight service commenced.  Drinks,
including free soft drinks and certain alcohols, along with dinner were served.  I had requested a special meal but that was not honored, and I had eaten in the lounge, so I generally just picked at the meal.  After the meal, coffee, tea, and additional drinks were served while the trays were being cleared.  The cabin lights were then dimmed so people could get some rest.

The scheduled flight time is 6h 35m but we had very good tailwinds so the flight time was shorter and we were expecting to land early, around 5:30a.  About an hour prior to departure, a snack box and drinks were served.  The snack box contained a granola bar, fruit, and yogurt.  Overall, the food was fine for the short flight time.  We landed early, taxied to the gate, deplaned, went through immigrations and then waited for our luggage.  I flew TAP twice and each time it took almost 45mins for my luggage to come through – each time the wait was ridiculous.

Overall, it was generally a pleasant flight with TAP.  The seats were generally comfortable, the legroom decent, and the availability of movies were also decent.  The negatives included the lack of USB ports, the ordinary service, and the lack of confirming requests for reservations.  I had gone out of my way to book myself on TAP to try out their product and the question is, would I do it again?  i would not go out of my way to book TAP, but I would also not avoid flying them; if the price and schedules were good then I would book TAP again.

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