This series is a short trip to Catalunya and Veneto for work. Since I need to be in Barcelona and then Venice, I opted to book this as 3 one-way tickets to get some diversity in my itinerary. Booking 4 days before departure, there were not many reasonable *A options SFO-BCN; only SFO-LIS-BCN on TP and SFO-IST-BCN on TK. While TK was attractive, the early flight operated on a B789 was already sold out so I decided to pass on the late flight operated on a B77W. I have never flown TP long-haul before, so why not give them a try. Returning VCE-SFO also had limited options *A, VCE-EWR-SFO on UA, VCE-MUC/FRA/ZRH-SFO on mix of LH/LX/UA. Since I wanted to get back to SFO in the early afternoon before rush hour, I picked a VCE-MUC-SFO routing on EN/UA. It will be my first time flying UA long-haul in J in >6 years. I have avoided them like the plague, but figured I'd give them a shot to see if anything has changed for the better. To close out the routing, I needed to get from BCN to VCE, but could only depart after 6pm due to my meeting schedule that day. The only non-stop options are on FR or VY. The only *A routings were through MUC or FRA, which would be >5 hours and arrive around midnight, which was not amenable to my schedule the next day so I elected to fly FR for the first (and only?) time. When all was said and done, I was left with the following routing for this short 3 day trip to Europe.
After getting dropped off at SFO by Mrs. NGO85 about 2h before departure, I went over to the TP counters and was efficiently checked in and handed my boarding passes. Spain had just removed its vaccine requirement, but I was advised by the agent to have it on my phone just in case. Security was a breeze with TSA pre-check at the G gates, and you are deposited airside right next to the entrance to the Polaris Lounge.
As I entered the lounge, my TP A339 was visible taxing towards the gate having arrived from LIS on-time.
With only ~45 minutes until my flight was scheduled to board at 3:15pm, I went straight upstairs to the dining room and put my name down on the waitlist. I was told it was a 15-20 minute wait so I grabbed a water and sat down at some of the seating areas along the windows that had some free seats. The upstairs area of the lounge was quite busy in the afternoon with all of the TATLs preparing to depart. These seats were moderately private with a nice side table and plenty of charging options.
Right after settling in, I was texted that my table was ready so I packed up and headed into the dining room. Entering I was directed to my seat, handed a menu, and offered drinks. The menu for this month:
I opted for the English pea soup and shrimp cake. The waiter told me they were both small dishes and asked if I wanted an entree as well, but I declined figuring dinner would be served on the plane in the not to distant future. The English pea soup was okay, could have used some pork in there for flavor. The shrimp cake, on the other hand, was very good and the shrimp was well cooked.
After finishing my afternoon snack, I packed up and swung by the bathrooms in the lounge. SFO, being progressive, only has single occupancy gender neutral bathrooms so there was a line waiting to use them. They are large with plenty of room to change, stocked with Sunday Riley products, and were quite clean (the janitors were manning the hall trying to sneak in between passengers).
Leaving the lounge, I take a peek at the FIDS, which still shows the flight as on-time.
Getting down to Gate G7, there is a huge swarm of people, but no plane in sight. I walked down to the end of the concourse to find our plane exactly where I last saw it idling with an EI A330, both awaiting gates. The LH flight to FRA departing from our gate before us was delayed by ~2 hours.
Our plane pulled into the gate once the LH B748 taxied out. I spent the next 45 minutes wandering around the terminal to kill some time. At 4:00pm, I stopped by our gate and saw the boarding time was now 4:20pm. Right after I took this photo, the flight crew finally boarded the aircraft.
With at least another 20-30 minutes to kill, I stopped by the UA Club in G, which had a sign out front saying it was not accepting any day passes due to volume constraints. I went in and scanned my boarding pass. The agent stopped me and told me I should use the Polaris Lounge instead, but I told him I just wanted to sit and grab a glass of water so he let me proceed downstairs into the lounge. The UA Club is what you would expect, completely full with nothing to eat/drink of note. I just grabbed a plastic cup, filled it up, and took the only empty seat I could find. Luckily, this seat came with a nice view of a SK A359 between the blinds getting ready to go back to CPH.
I could be wrong, but I did not see a bathroom in the lounge, so I left to use the one in the terminal before going back to the gate. The gate was now even more over-run and long lines had formed completely congesting the area. At check-in, there was a sign that the flight was completely sold-out. TP has gotten a reputation of being a leisure carrier, and from looking around the gate area, it definitely looked to be filled with people heading out or returning from vacation. Our plane waiting outside the gate.
I took a seat in the back corner to wait until boarding was called. My boarding pass today.
TAP Air Portugal, TP 236
Equipment: Airbus A330-900neo [CS-TUJ “D. Maria II”, delivered July 2019]
Departure: 16:15 (ATD: 17:40)
Arrival: 11:15 (ATA: 12:19)
Flight Time: 10:39
After sitting there for about 5 minutes, I could hear some screaming in the background about Boarding Group 2. I have no idea why they didn't use the loud speakers to announce boarding, but by the time I heard that boarding had started, they were well into economy. I joined the queue and slowly inched my way through the line and into the jetbridge.
Entering 2L, the purser and 2 flight attendants were there greeting passengers. They were quite jolly and were joking with passengers as they directed them into the cabins. Someone ahead of me asked if the cabin to the left was first class. The purser said "No, that is business, but we treat every passenger onboard as if they were in first class." I was directed to the left into the J cabin.
When I booked the flight, only 2D/G were available, but at OLCI, I noticed 9A opened up and I quickly changed seats. On seatguru, they claim this seat it red because it has a missing window and is close to the galley, but neither of these are major issues. You can still see out the forward window and the missing window provides extra darkness for sleeping. The galleys were quite quiet mid-flight and I had no disturbances due to their proximity. All J service is done from the forward galley so there is no foot traffic past 9A. My seat for this flight, which as an odd numbered row, is closer to the fuselage.
Pre-placed on the seat were a large pillow and comfortable blanket. Settling in, the legroom is of course not an issue, but the screen feels very close. It's almost positioned on top of your knees, which makes it very difficult to watch when upright. In lounge or flatbed positions, its less of an issue. Not sure if this is a TP-specific issue or a general issue with the Recaro CL6710 seats.
To the right of the screen is a coat hook and below that is a little cubby for storage. I think this might be designed for shoes, but it certainly didn't fit mine.
On top of the faux wood side table is a storage compartment with retractable door that houses the amenity kit, noise cancelling headphones, and 2 bottles of water. Maybe they give 2 bottles of water since there is no PDB offered… The remote for the IFE is also located there, but since the screen is touchscreen and right in your face, I had no need to use it.
Below the side table are the seat controls and an arm rest that can be folded down to get some extra width in bed mode. The power adaptors and headphone jacks are located here as well.
There is also a small storage compartment below the arm rest that is very useful for storage of small items during sleep, but mine was filled with trash.
Overall, I think the cabin looks quite clean and the material selections were nicely done with some good colored accents throughout to break the monotony browns and greys.
The amenity kits come in these destination themed bags which are well designed. Ours was Barcelona on this flight in honor of my final destination. The contents are quite complete and include all the necessities and some unexpected items like the deodorizing satchel for your luggage (there was also a lip balm, but it fell off when I was taking the photo and rolled under the seat in front of me never to be seen again). The colorful argyle socks are definitely unique.
View of the cabin during boarding, as promised it was a 100% load in J.
As I mentioned above, there were no PDBs offered or greetings from the crew pre-departure. The boarding process was done quite quick and 2L was closed. As we pushed back, our neighbor the TK B77W becomes visible.
On our taxi out to the runway, we came across a pair of B789s awaiting gates.
An EK A380 in the "Journey to the Future" livery under rotation.
We stop short to let a UA B772 go barreling down the runway ahead of us.
We align on to 28L.
And away we go…
The fog was rolling into the city, but we caught some clear skies over Sausalito, Tiburon, and the San Rafael-Richmond Bridge before we started our trek east.
After leveling off, the crew came through cabin and delivered menus and welcomed passengers onboard. A very basic affair, with no information on beverages offered.
Luckily, there is the IFE. The screen is good resolution, the touchscreen is responsive, and the map works well. The movie/TV selection was average at best, but since I planned on sleeping so it wasn't a problem for me. On the IFE, they at least have their wine list, which helped take some of the guesswork out of ordering drinks in the absence of a proper menu.
As service started, we were handed hot oshibori and meal orders were taken. Being in the back of the cabin, I got stuck with the mushroom ravioli since all the other entrees were already out.
About ~2.5 hours after boarding, the first drink service arrives. Linens are laid, warm nuts are offered, and I select a glass of water and the red wine from Alentejo.
Another 45 minutes later, the meal is served by tray as we cross into Colorado.
The tray contains the appetizer and main. It is a very sparse tray with no salt or pepper offered, only butter.
The appetizer was quite flavorful and the shrimp were well cooked. The sweet corn flan was congealed in texture, but the sweetness paired well with shrimp.
The mushroom ravioli main was also very flavorful, although portionsize is quite modest (only 4 ravioli). This is the same size as what is offered on intra-European flights.
Warm breads were offered as well.
Trays were cleared and new utensils were handed out. They dimmed the cabin lights for sleep at this point since the Y cabin service had already completed.
The crew finally started to feel the pressure on time and we went from 1 FA per row to 2 FAs per row for the dessert course. We didn't receive the dessert tray until we were approaching Omaha.
The dessert is a trio featuring a chocolate ice cream, fruit cup, and dried fruit. We were handed crackers, but there was no cheese on this tray despite what the menu stated… I of course took a glass of Port to finish of the meal in honor of our carrier.
I find the presentation on the wood tray to be nice and the individual components of the trio were of decent quality.
The dinner service completed with coffee/tea service.
After dinner, I stopped into the lavatory to get ready for bed. The lavatory by the cockpit was very cramped due to the curvature of the plane. The lavatories in front of the Y cabin near 2L/2R were much more spacious and all were well stocked with refreshing towels.
My bed for the night. The seats were quite comfortable for sleeping with a nice fabric. The seat width was fine once both armrests were folded up and the material around the headwell was soft and noise dampening.
The footwells are also a decent size and I had no issue sleeping on my side. At 182cm, there was still some room until I reached the end of the cubby.
I fell asleep was we were crossing Chicago.
After 6 hours of deep sleep, I woke up as we were north of the Azores.
I'll note that both of my empty water bottles were still on my side table, so no FA collected them while I was sleeping. I got up and headed to the galley behind my seat. There was no food or drinks set up, only a bottle of water and cups.
I do like the ceiling lights above 2L though.
I went back to my seat and logged into the WiFi, which is free for texting. Their rates for full flight WiFi are shown below, 50 EUR is pretty consistent with other carriers for TATLs.
About 90 minutes to arrival, the mood lighting turned on
Breakfast service again was slow. I didn't get served until 50 minutes to arrival. A table cloth was laid followed by a single tray of a continental breakfast with packaged oshibori. Warm pastries and coffee/tea were offered at the same time. The food was average for this meal, but at least the yogurt is not served in a plastic container.
My tray was cleared as we were starting our final descent. Soon we could see the coast of Portugal in sight.
It is always a picturesque arrival as you arrive into the mouth of the Tagus River.
Making the turn to align for arrival at LIS over the Ponte 25 de Abril.
Flying past Belém.
Final descent into LIS.
We had a thudding landing into LIS due to the difficult approach into the airport and slammed on the brakes. After taxing off the runway, we go past the TP operations.
We, unfortunately, turned away from the terminal and headed to the remote stands. We pulled into our stand next to this AD A339neo about ~1h late.
We were deplaned through 1L onto buses. A view of the cabin in its 1-2-1 configuration during deplaning.
One last look at the D Maria II as we head onto the bus.
The bus ride back to the terminal was efficient and we were unloaded at immigration, which was completely empty. With biometric entry, I was through immigration and security and into a very crowded LIS within 10 minutes, which is where I will leave off this series.
TP is definitely different from its bigger *A competitors on TATLs. They have this feel of being a leisure airline with a very slow, casual service, very friendly crews, but a not so great record of flight punctuality. That said, their hard product is decent, the catering was generally good, and they have some unique amenities. For being half the price of LH/LX/UA, I wouldn't hesitate to flight them again.
Cabin: The Recaro CL6710 seats are very comfortable for sleeping with wide seats and good foot cubbies, but the IFE is positioned way too close and makes it awkward to watch anything when in an upright position.
Crew: This crew was very friendly and interactive during boarding, meal services, and deplaning. However, they were completely absent any other time during the flight. They were mainly hiding behind the curtains in the galleys and I never saw them passing through the cabin.
Catering: The negatives were that there was no PDB, both meal services were painfully slow, they ran out of 2 of the 3 entrees, and the dinner service was a single tray (appetizer and main served together). The positives are that the dinner service was well seasoned and flavorful.
Entertainment: The selection was not that expansive, but more than sufficient for a redeye flight. The free WiFi for texting is a nice perk, but the other WiFi rates can get pricey quickly.