TAP Air Portugal, Economy Class – Embraer 195: Porto to Lisbon

Introduction

Porto is a nice, modern city with a lot of tradition. It’s also very touristy. In Porto I stayed at the Intercontinental, but to be honest, I don’t think I’d stay there again.

Getting to the Airport

From the Intercontinental you can either walk ten minutes uphill to Trinidade, or you can take the metro line D for one stop and then change onto the E line from Trinidade to the airport. Which is what I do to save me some walking.

The metro in Porto is nice. It’s quiet, clean, easy to use and modern. The metro to the airport only runs every thirty minutes, although I’m not sure if perhaps that’s because it’s the weekend. The journey time to the airport is thirty minutes. And it’s a very nice journey too!

Check-in

TAP has a shuttle service between Porto and Lisbon. On weekdays, the first departure from Porto to Lisbon is at four in the morning, with subsequent flights running hourly during peak hours and every two hours for the rest of the day.

There are dedicated check-in counters for the Lisbon shuttle.

The Lounge

Luckily there is a fast track for security, which is much less busy than the queue for the general security checkpoint.

TAP does not operate its own lounge here in Porto. However, there is a lounge operated by Nav Portugal. I am entitled to use this lounge because although my flight to Lisbon is in Economy Class, it was booked on the same ticket at the Business Class fare from Zürich to Porto.

The lounge is nice and has a good selection of finger food and snacks. There’s even a freshly made fruit salad, which is just excellent!

The entrance to the lounge is right opposite gate 32, which is the dedicated gate for the Lisbon shuttle.

Boarding

Boarding for the flight starts at 17h30, although by the looks of it, it’s not going to be a full flight. The boarding process is the same as yesterday in Zürich, with a separate queue for premium passengers.

The Cabin

Much to my surprise, this aircraft has a different – and much nicer – cabin configuration than the dreadful old plane I arrived with from Zürich yesterday. This aircraft has different, more comfortable seats. The most prominent difference though, is that this aircraft appears to be equipped with an inflight entertainment system, because there is a screen in the back of each seat and a control panel in the arm rests.

I am seated on the emergency exit, which is row 14. The legroom, obviously, is very good on this row.

The Crew

There are three ladies working in the cabin this evening and again, they seem very nice and interact with the passengers in a relaxed and unpretentious way.

The flight time is announced as forty minutes.

The Meal

Much to my surprise, all passengers are served a snack and a drink on this flight, despite the short flight time. The snack box contains a packet with four crackers and another packet with a soft but tasty cheese. No cutlery is provided. Although it turns out it’s not really required, because the cheese is quite soft.

Arrival

About twenty minutes into the flight, the pilots ease back the throttles and we start our descent. I’m assuming here that the Porto shuttle probably gets preferential treatment for the landing, traffic permitting. So eventually, we touch down in Lisbon after a flight time a few minutes short of the announced forty minutes.

TAP Air Portugal, Business Class – Airbus A 319: Lisbon to Luxembourg

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Getting to the Airport

My meeting yesterday was close to the airport, which is why I decided to stay at the TRYP Lisbon airport hotel for just the one night. The TRYP is a nice hotel with spacious rooms and all the amenities you might expect from an airport hotel.  My only grippe about it, is that the breakfast is not very nice.

Originally, I had planned to walk from the hotel to the terminal building. It’s not more than five minutes to walk. But when I woke up this morning, it had started raining and I could even see the occasional burst of lightning in the distance. And so, instead of walking, I decide to take the complimentary shuttle, which runs every twenty minutes and takes approximately five minutes as well to complete the journey from the hotel to the terminal.

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Check-in

I’ve checked in online the day before. TAP Air Portugal has its own check-in area, and there is even a dedicated, separate section for Business Class passengers. Despite the fact that the terminal complex is a labyrinth of halls, corridors and building sites, all of which have been added haphazardly over the years, it’s still fairly easy to navigate and well signposted.

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There is a fast track for security, which is brilliant. First of all, because the queue is much, much shorter than the regular Economy Class queue. And secondly, because the staff here are just so relaxed and friendly!

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The TAP Portugal Business Class Lounge

Since I was here last, TAP has moved its lounge. Or rather, they now have their own lounge and no longer use the contractor lounge next door. Which is, quite frankly, a shame because the new TAP lounge is definitely not as nice as the other place. I also think it’s quite apparent that it’s not large enough to handle all the traffic at the airport.

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Boarding

Boarding is from gate S26, which is the last gate in the newest part of the terminal. There are three queues for boarding: one for premium passengers, another for zone A and a third one for zone B passengers.

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‘Il pleure dans mon coeur comme il pleut sur la ville…’
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The Cabin

The aircraft I am flying on has already been refitted with the new cabin interior. It’s the regular RECARO slimline seat but the colours TAP has selected are quite elegant. Every seat has an adjustable headrest and there are two power plugs for the three seats.

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The seats are arranged in a typical 2 + 2 configuration, with the middle seat left empty in Business Class. As my luck would have it, the aisle seat on my row remains empty and I have it all to myself to spread out. I am seated by the window on 1F.

The Crew

The crew consists of four young ladies who are all very nicely turned out. Their make-up is subtle and they wear TAP Air Portugal’s bright uniform well!

Once we’re airborne, the service begins with the distribution of pre-packaged, scented towels. But unlike many other carriers, who normally have very flimsy towels made out of paper, this is actually a real cloth towel.

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The Meal

Every passenger is served individually. The whole meal is served on one tray and it is quite a large breakfast. It consists of:

  1. a plate of fresh fruit,
  2. a bowl of yoghurt with Mango coulis, which is served with a side order of Müsli,
  3. a plate with cold cuts, cheese and some salad,
  4. a piece of Portuguese milk chocolate,
  5. a selection of breads from the breadbasket,
  6. butter and jam.
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The meal is tasty and the quality of the food good. I try two different types of bread roll. One is a brioche type dough with coconut on top, while the other is savoury and goes well with the cheese.

Throughout the meal service the crew make repeated runs through the cabin, offering more drinks and bread.

As soon as I’ve finished, one of the cabin crew comes to remove my tray and asks me if there’s anything else I’d like to drink.

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Arrival

And so the flight passes quickly, and before long we’re already descending into Luxembourg. It’s much cooler here today than it was yesterday when I left and certainly cooler than the weather in Lisbon.

Conclusion

I guess it really speaks for how old I am that I was working for Swissair at the time when the Portuguese government was planning to privatise TAP by selling it off to the Swiss. Ironically, Swissair went bankrupt in the meantime, while TAP Air Portugal seems to be going strong. Right now the airline’s future looks bright, with an order book of new Airbuses the renew and rejuvenate the fleet. The service on board TAP is quite good, but it remains to be seen whether the airport at their hub in Lisbon will be able to keep up with the pace at which the airline and traffic to Lisbon in general is growing.

Luxair, Economy Class – Boeing B 737-700: Luxembourg to Lisbon

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Introduction

I’m on my way to Lisbon for a meeting in the afternoon. Fortunately, the fairly large expat community of Portuguese in Luxembourg means that there are numerous flights between Luxembourg’s Findel airport and beautiful Lisbon.

Getting to the Airport

To get to the airport from the Novotel, I first catch a tram from ‘Europa Parlament’ towards ‘Luxexpo’, which is currently the tram’s terminus, until they eventually extend the line to the airport. At Luxexpo I transfer to the bus line 16, which runs from there to the airport, which is its last stop. The journey takes about forty minutes to complete.

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Check-in

Check-in for the flight opens 24 hours before departure. I don’t know if there is a Luxair app but you can definitely check-in online and save the boarding pass to your wallet, if you’re using an iPhone.

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There are self-service machines and check-in counters at the airport. To be honest though, I’m not entirely sure what the procedure is here in Luxembourg with the check-in desks, because some flights appear to have their own designated counters, while others don’t. I don’t think it should make a difference though, seeing as Luxair is the only handling agent at the airport.

Airside

Luxembourg is nice little airport that is quickly reaching capacity, even though they only recently reopened the old B pier.  The really cool thing about the airport though, is that once you’re airside, you have some really good views of the apron and the runway beyond.

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Boarding

Boarding starts slightly behind schedule from gate A 20 in the Schengen part of the terminal. Gate A 20 is a bus gate, which of course has me doing a little happy dance right there in front of the gate because it means me taking pictures of my aircraft from up close.

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The Cabin

I wonder if perhaps this is the first flight this aircraft will be doing today, because the cabin is stifling and very warm. The APU isn’t running and, because we’re on a remote stand, there’s no means of hooking us up to an external cooling system. Other than that though, I think the Luxair cabin on the Boeing B 737 looks quite nice. The seats are in light blue leather, while the headrests are white. The sides of the headrest can be folded up for extra comfort.

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On the downside, seat pitch on Luxair’s B 737s is among the worst I’ve ever experienced. The aircraft are mainly deployed on typical charter routes, where the main objective is quantity and not quality. Which is why today I’ve decided to splurge on a seat on the emergency exit on row 12.

The advanced seat reservation for 12A cost me EUR25 and was made online at the time of booking. I know EUR25 may seem like a lot, but given the prospect of spending two hours and half with my knees stuck under my chin, I think it’s money well invested.

Unfortunately though, despite the fact that I’m on the window seat, I only have a limited view of the outside, because the outer glass is severely scratched.

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Luxair does not have a cabin divider between Economy and Business Class, by the way.

The Crew

The crew on this flight consists of three cabin crew, all of which are fluent in Letzebuergesch, French, English and of course Portuguese. The two younger cabin crew seem friendly enough but a bit reserved. The maître de however, is a really friendly guy and interacts well with the passengers, especially the fairly large number of elderly Portuguese travellers.

The Meal

Once we’re airborne, I immediately nod off… Luckily, I wake up just as the service trolley reaches the row in front of me, making me feel like Ebenezer Scrooge when he wakes up on Christmas morning to find that he hasn’t missed anything because the ghosts of Christmas passed, Christmas present and Christmas yet to come have taught him a lesson all within the scope of one night. Oh, you know what I mean (the tall, blond M. will probably have a field day with this…).

And much to my surprise, the meal isn’t half bad either. There is a complimentary full bar trolley service that even includes a Luxemburgish sparkling wine. To eat there is a choice between a chicken or a cheese sandwich. The sandwiches are a good size and look and taste as though they were freshly made. I choose the cheese sandwich.

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Unlike the pre-packaged rubbish you get on most European airlines that still offer a complimentary meal service, which usually ends up tasting like the plastic and cardboard it was packaged in, this sandwich is in fact very tasty. The bread is multigrain and inside the sandwich there’s not only the cheese but also a bread spread, cucumbers and a bit of salad.

To drink I have a Coke Zero and a coffee.

The service is well paced. The crew are unrushed but still don’t leave us waiting too long before passing through the cabin to remove the trash.

Arrival

After the meal I sit back with the intention of reading in my Kindle. But instead, I end up going off to sleep again. What’s going on here…? By the time I wake up again, we’ve already started our initial descent and the crew are coming through the cabin with these small baskets filled with toffees and other sweets to help alleviate the pressure in the ears as we descend. I don’t quite know why, but I find there something nicely old-fashioned about this.

From what I can tell through the scratched window, the approach into Lisbon is gorgeous and takes us right over the city and then out to sea, before eventually coming around and turning on to the final approach. The landing however, is perhaps not so gorgeous… we actually bounce three times before eventually settling on the runway!

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Here in Lisbon we’ll be using a remote stand, which is hardly surprising given that the terminal building is literally bursting at the seams and has only very few contact stands. As we taxi in, we pass an Airbus A 330NEO in the colours of TAP Air Portugal but still in its French registration. And then eventually, we make a last right turn and come to a stop right next to an Airbus A 321NEO of Azores Airlines.

Conclusion

I’m always in two minds about Luxair. Their home market is highly affluent but also tragically small. As such, I think the airline does a good job in striking the right balance between offering a reliable air service from its hub in Luxembourg to the major business centres in Europe on the one hand, while at the same time also serving the leisure traffic market. Even so, one cannot help but wonder what the point is of small countries like Luxembourg trying to maintain their own airline.

TAP Air Portugal, Business Class – Airbus A 319: Lisbon to Amsterdam

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Date: 29. April 2017
Departure: 09:20
Arrival: 12:50
Flight time: 2 hours 30 minutes
Seat: 1F, window

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Introduction

I’ve just completed another course in Lisbon. I’ve rather enjoyed myself. The Portuguese really make me laugh. No matter what’s going on they’re so full of life. Of course, it also helped that while back home in Switzerland trees were collapsing under the heavy weight of the falling snow, here in Lisbon it’s t-shorts and flip flops weather.

Getting to the Airport

Because the course is near the airport anyway, I’m staying at the TRYP Hotel Lisbon airport this time. The terminal building is only a 5 minutes walk away. So I think you’re probably fastest walking. However, if you’re travelling with a lot of luggage, there is a shuttle bus to bring you to the airport.

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Check-in

Lisbon airport is a strange place. The city is gradually encroaching on the airport. So space is limited. As a result, the design of the facility is dictated by space restrictions rather than practicality or convenience and the terminal building seems a lot like a patchwork of extensions and reconstructions.

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I check in online for this flight. The app works well (You paying attention KLM…?) and I am able to change my original seat on 1D to the window on 1F.

The security checkpoint is hidden away on the opposite side of the hall from the TAP Air Portugal check-in area. There is a fast track for security, which is very efficient. And while at other airports the security staff can be a nasty and unfriendly lot, this being Portugal everyone is very nice and totally laid back. They’re conscientious about their job but they’re also nice about it and take a lot of patience with the elderly passengers in the queue ahead of me.

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The Airport Authority Lounge

Airside there have been quite some changes since my last visit. The transit area has been expanded and modernised. There is now a central atrium with shops and a lot more space to sit. The lounge is accessed via escalators leading up from the atrium.

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TAP Air Portugal no longer have their own lounge and instead they share the same common purpose lounge with all the other carriers in the Schengen area, which is operated by the airport authority ANA.

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The lounge is rather dark and gloomy and the place is crowded when I get there. Toilets and showers are available in the lounge. There is also free wifi and a good selection of newspapers.

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Food and drink options are somewhat limited. In fact, there are only sandwiches available.

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But… the view from the lounge is nice and provides a good vantage point to monitor the proceedings and movements on the apron and the runway.

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Boarding

The flight is departing from gate S26 today, which is one of the few contact stands in the Schengen part of the terminal. Most aircraft are parked on a remote stand. The aircraft come up quite close to the building, which means you can take some pretty descent pictures of them.

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Boarding starts rather unceremoniously with the gate agent calling out for all Business Class and frequent flyer passengers to board first. You know, you could use a microphone…

The Cabin

There are three rows of Business Class. The configuration is the typical European style layout with the middle seat kept empty. The seat looks rather old fashioned, an effect which I think is partly also produced because of the grey seat covers. However, on my flight down from Amsterdam to Lisbon I was on an A 321 which had been refitted with a newer, more modern style of seat.

Other than that, the seat is fairly basic and there are no power plugs at all in the cabin. The seat pitch seems rather tight. But at least I have the whole row to myself so I can stretch my legs.

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The Crew

There are two cabin crew working the Business Class cabin and they truly are excellent. They’re friendly and obviously determined to make passengers feel welcome. Their interaction is easy going and professional.

The Meal

The service begins as soon as the fasten seatbelt sign goes off. The crew pass through the cabin offering prepacked scented towels that have a refreshing lemony smell.

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There is no choice for the meal. The breakfast consists of a plate with cold meats and cheese, a bowl of fresh fruit, yoghurt, butter and jam and breads from the breadbasket. To drink I have a coffee and an orange juice.

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The crew pass through the cabin with the breadbasket a number of times (You paying attention Lufthansa?) and top up coffee and tea straight away. The cold cuts don’t look too appealing though, so I don’t try any.

Generally speaking, I think the quality of the food is good and the amount of food on the tray is quite generous.

Arrival

The flight passes surprisingly quickly. After the meal service one of the crew brings me a Coke Zero and I spend the rest of the flight reading and watching the world go by.

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We land in Amsterdam about ten minutes ahead of schedule. By the time we taxi in from the Polderbaan though, we’re running slightly behind schedule.

Conclusion

I rather enjoyed this flight, even though I think the food selection on the outbound was better because there was a choice of two hotmeals for the main course. Other than that, I thought the crew were really very nice on TAP and the aircraft appeared to be in fairly good condition. The only thing I’d be wary about is that the pitch does seem rather tight, even in Business Class. But apart from that, I think I’d fly them again without hesitation. Pity they’re in the Star Alliance.

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