Taking this trip is probably not a good idea. Four weeks after the pain started, my back is still no better. But, in the end I couldn’t resist.
GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
I catch the 16h31 train from Winterthur, which arrives at Zürich airport at 16h44. Fortunately, this service has level carriages at platform height, so I won’t have to climb any steps.
I’ve checked in online. I don’t have the TAP app because I don’t really use them that often. But the web check-in works fine on my iPhone. Airport check-in for TAP is done in check-in 1, which is the Star Alliance area, or at one of the self-service ticket machines in check-in 3, above the airport’s railway station.
I arrive at the lounge at 17h15 and the place is crawling with people. I end up standing around for a few minutes for a seat to become available because the place is so crowded.
Eventually, I find a place to sit in a rather oddly shaped corner of the lounge. I’m guessing this is the ‘business’ area where passengers can work. One wall is kept in this really ugly and unfinished looking plywood. Or course, the opportunity to bullshit is too great for SWISS to pass up, which is why of course they have to put up a plaque declaring that this wall is hypoallergenic and made of freshly pressed hay from the Alps. Really SWISS, is that what you’re going with? You’re too cheap to properly renovate your lounge and now you’re going to pretend it’s because you’re doing your passengers a favour…
Eventually I figure I might as well step outside and find a place to sit there. It’ll be more comfortable for my back, and probably better for my blood pressure too…
Boarding is from gate A 75. There are four rows set up in front of the counter to queue. From right to left: one for ‘premium’ passengers, one for passengers without bulky hand luggage and two for everybody else. Boarding starts with a delay of fifteen minutes, which was caused due to the late arrival of the plane form Porto.
On the Embraer 190, Portugalia, who operated the flight on behalf of TAP under the TAP Express brand, has managed to squeeze in an impressive 106 seats. To this end, the aircraft only has a quarter of a Business Class galley, so that row 1is more or less opposite the L1 door.
Unlike many airlines, seat numbers on this aircraft are A and B on the port side and C and D on the starboard side. A and D are the window seats. There are no seats 1A and 1B. Thus, the seats with the best legroom are the bulkheads rows on 1CD or 2AB.
Other than that, I have to say that the Embraer 190 is a very uncomfortable little aircraft that really should not be deployed by any airline on sectors of more than one hour. I know I have a back injury right now, but that does not account for the fact that I and the guy next to me eventually agree that the seat is rather unpleasant. By the time we land in Porto, my back is pretty much jammed up and my kneecaps are more or less locked in the bent position.
Oh yes, and more thing: in Business Class TAP Express will not leave the seat next to you empty.
There are three females working the cabin on this evening’s flight. And I have to say, they really are very lovely. They have friendly, warm smiles and their service is attentive and chic.
While we’re on the ground, there is no service at all. Boarding is completed at around 18h10. At around 18h40 the captain comes on the blower to explain that only the first fifteen minutes of our delay were cause by the aircraft being late. He explains that Swissport, the handling agent, is have problems finding an available tug to push us back from our stand. ‘Swissport company provides bad service at this airport…’.
Eventually, at 18h44 we push back. We are airborne at 19h03, with a delay of one hour.
The other issue with the tightness of the Embraer 190 and the fact that both seats on a row are sold, is that it can be rather difficult to eat in this seat. At least not without shoving your elbow in the kisser of the person on your left.
But anyway, the tray arrives. It contains:
A small salad with shrimps, served with olive oil dressing
A pasteis de nata – which is something of a Portuguese national dish. It’s a filo pastry with a vanilla custard filling and burned sugar on top
A packaged refreshing towel
A small piece of milk chocolate
To drink with the meal, I have a sparkling water with ice and lemon. And then after the meal a cup of tea.
We land in Porto after a flight time of two hours and fifteen minutes. It’s already dark outside, which makes for a very nice approach right over the city with all the lights.
Porto airport is a bit of a surprise, because I was expecting the same kind of patched up facility as that in Lisbon. But instead, Porto has a very nice, spacious and airy terminal.
To get into town I take the metro, or tram rather, which makes the journey form the airport to the city in about thirty minutes, depending on where you’re going. A one way ticket will cost EUR2.30.