SATA International, Economy Class – A 320: Lisbon to Oceanic Control in Santa Maria


From: Lisbon
To: Santa Maria
Date: 03. April 2014
Departure: 11:45
Arrival: 13:00
Flight time: 2 hours and 15 minutes
Airline: SATA International
Cabin: Economy Class
Seat: 5F

It’s time to move on. To be honest, I can’t say I’m too cut up about leaving Lisbon. It certainly a very nice city, but the weather has really been something nasty.


So where am I going today? Well, I’m off to Santa Maria in the Açores. I must confess I am rather excited about this trip because I’ve been invited to visit the Oceanic Control Centre, from where all the flights are released to cross the Atlantic. Jay!

Getting to the Airport

Mode of transport: Metro
Duration: 30 minutes
Price: EUR1.40

The entrance to the Avenida metro station is right in front of the Sofitel. To get from there to the airport you first have to take the blue line for three stops to Sao Sebastiao. From there you connect to the red line to the airport. It’s pretty straight forward, although if you’re carting around with you a heavy suitcase, then the metro may not be for you, as there are not escalators everywhere.



Where: Terminal 1, rows 34 – 39
Facilities: web check-in, self-service machine, dedicated check-in counters

Honestly, Lisbon airport is just such a complete mess. It’s quite apparent that the facility was extended in various stages over a period of time and, above all, seemingly without any concept or plan. Nothing is easy to find at the airport, including the check-in counters. Furthermore, the signage is utterly useless.


Lisbon airport does have one redeeming feature though: the security check! Honestly, the guys working here really deserve a medal as far as I’m concerned. Every day they are confronted with hoards of passengers, most of which allegedly have not yet heard that laptops and liquids must be removed from bags, and still these guys are so patient, friendly and nice. They always find time to have a chat and they’re really polite and friendly.


Boarding for the flight starts about forty minutes before departure. We’re using a bus gate today and our aircraft is parked on a remote stand on the other side of the runway, quite a distance away. There are two buses to ferry the passengers from the terminal to the aircraft. It’s hard to say what the load is on this flight, but I’d say the flight is not too busy today.


The Cabin

Seat: 5F, window
Configuration: 3 + 3
Facilities: overhead video screens, individual audio plugs with channel selection and volume, mini tray that extends from the armrest, drinks holder on the outside of the tray table

The first impression of the cabin is good. It’s well maintained and clean. The seats are very comfortable, they’re rather soft and at a pleasant height above the ground. The seat pitch is also good.


The Crew

There are four cabin crew on this flight, three females and one bloke. The crew are not overly friendly I’d say, but they’re not rude either. I think the proper term to use is ‘business friendly’.

We rake off in a northerly direction and then execute something like a 270 degree right hand turn, which first leads us out onto the river, before eventually bringing us back over the field to point us in the direction of the coast.


Before we’ve even finished the turn, the smell – or rather the stink – of cigarette smoke slowly starts wafting through the cabin. Quite obviously the cockpit crew have decided it’s time to have a smoke. I must say, I really can’t stand it when the crew do this. First of all, the air inside the cabin is only recycled once every two minutes, which makes it impossible to escape the smell of smoke. Secondly, I find it a bit of an insult to my intelligence that Mr. Pilot seems to think we won’t notice the smell. And finally, it is quite simply very unprofessional. You lead by example.

The Meal

It takes quite a while for the meal service to being. I’m feeling rather hungry so I’m hoping they will be giving us something decent. After all, the flying time is two hours and fifteen minutes.

Eventually the trolley pulls up at my row and I am handed a cardboard box containing a small bottle of plum juice and a cheese and ham sandwich. With that I have a still water to drink. I am also handed a paper cup in preparation for the coffee service after the meal.

The sandwich is rather tasty. Perhaps the bread is a tad dry, but apart from that it’s good, something in the sandwich has a decidedly strong smell of garlic. Lovely!



Unfortunately the weather starts to deteriorate as we near the Açores, and by the time we’re on the approach the fog is thick as pea soup. Eventually though, the runway appears out of nowhere and we land. The airport, and I’m using the term freely here, is pretty quiet when we arrive. There is just one Dassault business jet on the apron, presumably doing a fuel stop before continuing on its journey. It’s also very windy!


The airport literally only takes a minute to pass through.

Santa Maria is an interesting place. There are only 5000 inhabitants on the island and it’s very small. It is also very beautiful, green and lush. With a bit of luck the weather will improve tomorrow.