My family just about never celebrates Thanksgiving, so this year I decide to take a trip out of the country and visit a friend in Copenhagen. I ended up adding a few days in Stockholm as well an overnight layover in Lisbon on the way back.
The return leg of this journey was booked with cash. TAP often offers excellent one-way fares from Europe in business. Award availability was lacking the day I wanted to travel or else had incredibly inconvenient routing. Since a one-way in economy to Austin was costing over $1,000 - I just booked this cheaper fare to Chicago and redeemed UA miles for ORD-AUS.
Security was a breeze at ARN and I was quickly on my way to the lounges. I did not realize that there was an Amex lounge at ARN until I was going through security. You can find it easily enough by walking towards the international gates - look for the Pontus in the Air sign. It is a joint effort with the famous Swedish chef Pontus Frithiof.
Head up the stairs and a hostess or waitress will show you to the lounge, which is a separate area within the larger restaurant.
The lounge itself is a small square area walled off from the rest of the restaurant. While not a great area to sit and do work, it is a nice place to have a meal.
While you wait for your food and drinks, there is a self-serve counter with snacks and fruits.
Here is the full menu. Note that Centurion cardholders get some additional benefits. The additional benefits are primarily a glass of mimosa and a better breakfast. The waitress took my order very quickly after showing me to my seat.
I grabbed a few desserts to munch on in the meantime.
I ordered the duck confit, though they were out of duck and only had chicken available. Fine by me. To go with it, I had a glass of Rosé. All of this was delivered in roughly 10 minutes - very fast service. The chicken confit turned out to be quite delicious. Overall, the meal was a pleasant surprise.
After eating I left for the SAS Lounge to get some work done. To get to there, head back towards the A gates where they can be found between the pier for Gates 1-10 and Gates 11-24.
You can reach the lounge via the spiral staircase or an elevator. Christmas decorations were already in place. Like in Copenhagen, the lounge was split into business and Gold sections.
The lounge was comfortably large and sparsely occupied when I was there (early afternoon). The decor and seating is very similar to the SAS lounge in Copenhagen, though with fewer individual dining tables and more lounge-type seating.
The daybeds were occupied so I did not take a more direct picture. Bring your own eyemask if you want to take a naps since this area faces the windows.
There were also individual phone or desk rooms where you can make phone calls or video conference without bothering the rest of the lounge.
The food spread was fairly limited - I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.
The beverage selection was also rather limited and there is no coffee bar to make up for it here in Stockholm.
Bathrooms were fairly standard without any additional amenities. I did not check out the showers here (in fact, not sure if there are any).
I could see our plane pulling in from the lounge. It was CS-TJO, a brand new A321neo! It was only delivered about two weeks prior to this flight. TP789 ARN-LIS would be its second commercial flight ever! I had never been on such a new plane before!
Gate 14A was roughly a 5-minute walk from the SAS lounge. This was a rather small gate area for a plane that holds ~200 passengers.
There was a delay in boarding, which the gate agent explained was a result of the plane being so new and the crew having to take extra time to adjust to it. You could tell from his voice he was very proud of the new aircraft.
When boarding did begin 5 minutes behind schedule, there was a hiccup halfway down the jet bridge. Apparently, we weren't actually able to board yet. So we stood there for a few minutes before being let on.
Another shot of the plane from the jet bridge:
TAP has standard intra-European J seats. That said, you could definitely see and smell the newness of this cabin. What a contrast with the KLM cabin from a few days earlier!
There were only two rows of J this this flight. The load was only 5/8. Unfortunately, I was the only one with a seatmate. He turned out to be a very pleasant gentlemen and was welcoming of my first time in Portugal.
The seats were standard with the usual functions: outlets, air nozzles, tray table, etc . . . .
Quite a bit of legroom in the bulkhead:
Doors closed at 3:20 and we pushed back 7 minutes later. The captain welcomed us on board and informed us the flight time would be 4 hours 5 minutes. Eventually we took off at 3:42pm CET.
A view of Stockholm from above - already missing it.
Service began at around 3:55pm CET with a menu and a moist towelette in a plastic bag.
The menu was decent for a 4-hour flight. In fact, it is not much more limited than TAP's long-haul menu. My order was taken last - the purser worked from the back row and explained they were out of the pasta when they got to me. That's fine with me. I probably would have ordered the veal anyways.
The meal began shortly with a bag of nuts. I asked for sparkling wine to go along with it. Drinks were poured at the seat.
At this time, the captain also gave her welcome announcement. She described the exact route we were going to take to Lisbon, listing off every country and where in that country we were going to be flying over. I am not sure if I have just not paid very good attention to these announcements before, but I don't recall hearing this before. I enjoyed the description though. She also apologized for the delay, explaining there was equipment missing and that we should expect a 6:50pm arrival - about 20 minutes late.
The meal was served shortly afterwards. All three courses were served all at once on a tray. The purser always had a big smile on when delivering each item or drink. She was also very happy when I thanked her in Portuguese (obrigado is the only word I know).
The shrimp cocktail and the chocolate and mango parfait were pretty decent.
The veal, predictably, was overcooked.
I noticed I was starting to fall asleep already so I ordered a cup of coffee.
After the meal service, I checked out the lavatory. It was the normal size and had a drawer with packs of moist towelettes.
One weird thing about this flight was that the fasten seatbelt sign was kept on for the vast majority of the flight, despite there being no turbulence for most of the flight. Has TAP adopted Chinese airlines' procedures for the seatbelt sign?
The captain announced our descent at 6:25pm Western European Time (WET), which is an hour behind CET. Until this flight, I was not aware that Portugal was on the same time as Great Britain. We touched down at 6:47pm.
A quick peek at the cockpit on my way out . . .
We arrived at a gate at 6:53pm, 23 minutes behind schedule. However, after walking through the jetbridge, I realized the stairs were just leading me to buses . . . . At least I got a picture out of it (albeit not a very good one).
Lounge: The SAS Gold Lounge in Stockholm is a comfortable place to wait for your flight though the food and beverage selection could be expanded. For those of you with Amex Plats, I would highly recommend the Amex "Lounge" in Stockholm. The food is quite good and I believe the menu is rotated regularly.
Cabin & Seat: I loved being on such a new plane, but aside from that it was a very normal intra-European business class experience.
Service: TAP seems to have a reputation in some reviews for having cold service. I found that not to be the case. The crew was always smiling and welcoming. The purser even had several conversations with my seatmate in Portuguese.
Meal & Catering: The meal was decent for an intra-European flight. This one was on the longer side at over 4 hours, so I expected as much. It's unfortunate the veal was overcooked, but given the galleys on narrowbody planes, I'm not exactly expecting a great steak. I'll admit my overall lack of experience on intra-European flights - maybe other carriers do a much better job. I vaguely remember a Turkish flight six years ago with phenomenal catering for short-haul.
Bottom Line: TAP was pretty good for a 4-hour flight. Their prices are fantastic for cash fares. I would definitely take them again if the schedule is convenient and price is right.