I am delighted to be writing this short series of 4 flight reports with TAP Air Portugal with whom I flew to Madeira Island (as I am writing this, I am still on Madeira, in my room, with a beautiful Sea view). The reports will cover flights WAW-LIS-FNC-LIS-WAW on 3 different types of aircrafts: A20N, A21N and 320. I will also make some remarks on travelling to Portugal during the COVID-19 pandemic and I will try to include some pics from Madeira in one of the reports too (spoiler alert: it's amazing in here).
The return ticket to Madeira from Warsaw was around 250 Euros which I think is quite a good price. We only bought the tickets 2 weeks before departure and picked TAP Discount fare, which is the cheapest one, only including a hand luggage.
Flight number TP1207
Route Warsaw Chopin - Lisbon Portela
Flight date 4th April 2021, 1910-2215 (actual 1912-2251)
Scheduled flight time 4:15 (actual 3:40)
Aircraft model Airbus A320neo
Aircraft registration CS-TVH
Seating configuration CY174
Aircraft age (at the time of flight) 0.8 years
Seat number 12D
Departure gate 28 (jet bridge)
Arrival gate Bus gate in Lisbon
Load factor (approx.) 23%
My journey begins at home, a few kilometres from Warsaw. Lightly packed and after the Easter lunch, I am ready to begin an adventure. Warsaw Chopin Airport is just a 15 mins ride from my home.
I arrived at WAW about 2 hours before departure to meet my friend Asia with whom I was flying with to Madeira. We had separate reservations and so we did not check in online to get seats together at the airport.
Departure board when we arrived at the airport. Quite empty :( Pay attention to the TK1766, as it'll be mentioned later in the report!
There weren't too many people at TAP's check in and there were 4 counters open but there seemed to be a problem with every single customer checking in in front of us and so we ended up waiting about 30 mins… even though we were second in the queue… But at least our check in went smoothly. We asked for seats together and there was no problem with that but the agent could only give us seats at the back (behind the exit row) because the front seats are extra paid. He said there will be only 40 pax on the plane though so we can always ask the cabin crew to change the seats.
By the way, no one checked our luggage weight or size. They only checked our COVID PCR tests.
TAP always uses the same check in desks at WAW. (Yes, this is the number of people in front of us in the queue and yes, we waited 30 mins!)
After that lengthy check in, we proceeded through security which was quick (only 2 lanes open but only 2 flights departing within the next 2 hours). We made a visit to the Baltona Duty free shop and then strolled through the veeeery empty airport (see photos below). Then we sat down to fill in the locator form, because you can only do that after you've checked in.
Meanwhile, our Neo has arrived, incoming passengers quickly disembarked and we were allowed in well before scheduled departure. Boarding was done by groups: premium pax and then back to front, by the jet bridge, at gate 28.
Looks like we will have a lovely departure in the sunset!
I absolutely love TAP's livery, the colours fit together perfectly and it's also modern and well-designed, in my opinion.
As we stepped on board the aircraft, we were welcomed by the crew who also handed out refreshing tissues. They seemed happy and cheerful. But that wasn't the only great thing, the smell of the aircraft was so nice and fresh, literally as if it has only just left the factory! Have a look at the pictures - impeccable condition and cleanliness throughout the cabin.
TAP business class, 6 rows on this flight but only 4 seats were taken. I love these grey framings of the windows, they give that extra zing.
And TAP business on the other side of the row.
And here's a sample Economy Xtra seat row (the "red" zone). These seats feature 34" legroom and are charged extra (or included in more expensive fares).
Behind the exit rows, the aircraft is equipped with Recaro slimline seats in other colour - the "green" zone. They feature 28" legroom and are assigned to pax in lower fares (including us). But as we boarded I asked the crew if we could take a seat in one of the unoccupied exit rows and they said "yes of course", so we could try out the better seats for free!
Okay, here's the time for my digression on the interior design of TAP's aircrafts. I have wanted to try it out since they've done the retrofit a few years ago. Now was the time. And Oh My God, someone did such a good job with the aircraft design! It's superb head-to-toe, including every single little detail.
That's us, still at the gate and ready for departure but waiting for our departure time.
I also managed to check out the lavatory before departure. It was very fresh and new and clean. Refreshing tissues and spray were also provided, as amenities - nice. Now the best thing - TAP doesn't use the SpaceFlex configuration which means you get 2 normally-sized lavatories!!! (If you read my previous reports, you'll be aware that this is the main thing I hate in new A320s from LH, BA, W6 and other airlines).
And here's the refreshing tissue, the same as you get during boarding.
A picturesque departure in the sunset. I don't know if in the first picture you can see flashing lights of the ambulances and the fire engines but if you don't, I can tell you, we saw them. The story behind them is below…
Whilst we were taxiing to the runway edge, my friend Asia told me: "Look there, do you see these flashing lights? It must be a fire or something" and I replied "Yeah, it must be fire engines… doing a training or something". It turned out neither of us were right. The answer for these flashing lights is TK1765 arriving from Istanbul which declared a bomb threat on board and after landing was directed to a very remote stand with the assist of ambulances and fire engines. Passengers were kept in the aircraft and then in an airport building for a long time before being let to leave the airport… But everything turned out ok and safe, and the bomb threat was fake. You can read about the situation here.
But coming back to our flight, the departure from RWY 29 was very quick due to our light load and also very smooth without any turbulence whatsoever. It took however about 25 mins for the seatbelts sign to be switched off, I'm curious why because the conditions were really very smooth. As we were still seated, I took a few photos to show you the features of the seats in the "red" = Economy Xtra zone.
Here's the legroom in Economy Xtra, this is the Exit Row, however legroom is the same throughout the red cabin, so up to row 12 (including row 12). I'm 1.87m, so the legroom is veeeery good.
The seat back includes 2 bigger pockets and a smaller pocket on the right (I don't know what it is for?), a tablet/smartphone holder plus a literature pocket, which is a nice set of features I think.
2 power ports with USB and universal power outlets are located within every 3 seats. There are no outlets in the "green" zone at the back.
And here's the content of the seat pocket: air sickness bag and a safety card. "Up magazine" is not included due to COVID but it can be downloaded for free ahead of flight.
To summarise, the Xtra seats are really nice with lots of useful features, however the comfort of the seat itself could be better. They don't feature too much padding, so the back of the seat is quite hard. The moveable headrests are, of course, a great feature, but are very hard and quite uncomfortable too plus not sturdy enough.
One more look at the cabin and you can also see how someone made a nice use of the tablet holder.
About 50 mins into the flight, the crew started on board sales. TAP used to offer a hot meal and choice of drinks from the bar on that route but post-COVID it has been replaced with Buy on Board only, like on most routes within Europe which I think is a huge shame :( Even a small snack would be nice. At least TAP sends you a text message before departure saying that meals will be charged and payment is only by card which I think is useful to know before departure.
I searched the menu prior to departure and chose a sandwich that I wanted to try… but it wasn't available. In fact no sandwich was available on the flight. They only had a few options left.
Here's the menu card but like I said, many options were unavailable.
I finally opted for a lasagne to share with my friend, a waffle and a black tea. The cabin crew members that were serving us were great, helpful and had a little aviation chat with me too. I think they deserve some praise.
Here's the meal. I think it was decent quality and a good value for money.
After the meal we were offered an extra dessert from the lovely steward, it was a nice touch.
It's quite sad that he said, this was his first flight after 4 months of not flying, plus it was only a there-and-back…
After the meal, I managed to take this nice pic of the empty Neo cabin from backwards.
The rest of the flight was very uneventful, without any major turbulence. We spent it watching "Green Book" on my laptop. It's an interesting and thought-provoking film. I definitely recommend watching if you haven't already.
Unfortunately, TAP does not really provide any entertainment: no overhead monitors and no WiFi. But as I said, power outlets are available and each passenger can also download one newspaper prior to the flight (excluding the "Up magazine", this can be downloaded additionally).
After 3:10 hours of flying, we started our descent into Lisbon, and the crew immediately started preparing the cabin for landing, which means the last 30 mins of the flight we had to be seated. The approach was picturesque with lots of lights in the dark Lisbon. Very smooth too. But unfortunately it was hard to take any good pictures.
We landed well ahead of schedule and parked at a bus gate, but just next to a jet bridge… ehh. Disembarking was quick because there were only 40 people on board. I managed to take 2 more pics of the seat details: headrest and the little TAP logo. And a must-have fuselage photo of our CS-TVH A320neo.
We were taken to the terminal by bus, the ride was quick. But then, the immigration experience was very confusing. We were having a night stop in Lisbon to continue to Funchal next morning, so we were transit passengers only (those are excepted from quarantine in continental Portugal). However, the immigration guard said we had to fill in the "quarantine form" where you give the address for self-isolation anyway. Well, we did so, being quite stressed but no one called or checked us afterwards, so I don't know why they need that form to be filled out.
PS. Madeira has different rules to continental Portugal and you don't need to self-isolate after arrival, you only need a PCR test.
Here's the immigration area, around 20 mins wait for the control.
After the control, we left the airport and took Uber to our hotel, Holiday Inn Lisbon Airport to have some sleep before the flight to Funchal next morning.
Thank you for reading through and see you in the next report, which covers the flight from Lisbon To Funchal on TAP Portugal's A321neo ACF and where I will also post some pictures of the amazing hotel we stayed at in Funchal.
PS. Any comments are appreciated :)
My first flight with TAP Air Portugal and a really nice surprise! A great flight with fresh, clean and quite comfortable cabin; perfect, kind, relaxed and cheerful crew; reasonably good entertainment and tasty, yet chargeable meals. The only distressing feature was a disorganised and uninformed immigration in Lisbon.
I would definitely choose TAP in the future.