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What Is It Like To Fly TAP Portugal Economy Class?

November 20, 2019
TAP Portugal Economy

Flying TAP Portugal economy between NY and Lisbon was a little bit better than expected (Updated 11/20/19).

The choices when flying nonstop between New York and Lisbon are limited. Travelers can choose between United Airlines (departing from Newark Liberty International Airport) or TAP Portugal (departing either from Newark or John F. Kennedy International Airport).

Because JFK was more convenient to get to from our home, we opted for TAP, booking TAP Portugal flight #TP208 from JFK to Lisbon.

A little background

TAP is Portugal’s flag carrier. Both its headquarters and hub are based at Lisbon Humberto Delgado Airport. Like many other airlines, it has experienced a series of economic downturns over the years resulting in changes in ownership. The airline is currently owned 50% by the state, 45% by a private consortium and 5% by “collaborators and employees” of TAP.

I’m always a bit squeamish about flying a “new-to-me” airline so it was reassuring to learn that according to a 2011 JACDEC Airliner Safety Report, TAP is considered the safest airline in Western Europe, and the fourth safest in the world.

But before-you-go customer reviews on Trip Advisor and other airline review sites were worrisome. They described disappointing experiences in terms of food, customer service, the attitude of crew, and adequacy of seats (In fact, some travelers reported they were the worst they had ever flown in). So how did our flight experience turn out?

Living room (as it’s called in the trade)

By the time we booked our flight, not many seats were available to choose from. We reserved two Economy seats, 22 A and B, a window and aisle.

View of the Economy Cabin on TAP Porugal

View of the Economy Cabin on TAP Portugal

Our Airbus A330 plane had three cabins (one business class and two Economy cabins) with a 2-4-2 seating configuration in Economy. We were happy to secure two seats on one side of the plane. Although we probably would have opted for premium economy seats on United, TAP offers no premium economy seats (or first-class service.) Our plane had some 260 steel blue leather seats with gray plastic frames that looked clean and modern.

Last June, TAP added new daily flights between Lisbon and both JFK and Boston Logan International Airports. The JFK flights, which began on July 1, 2016, utilize new A330 aircraft that were recently delivered to the carrier in June.

Compared to other long-haul flights I’ve taken, I found my seat remarkably uncomfortable over the six-hour flight Whether I reclined or sat erect, it was impossible to get comfortable. It’s hard to imagine how someone with longer legs could tolerate it. I began thinking that perhaps the seats were designed for Portuguese bodies rather than American ones.

Oddly, my traveling companion wasn’t as bothered by the seats and thought that the seat padding was thicker than that on United.

One passenger who slept very well under her blanket

One passenger who slept very well under her blanket

In addition, our area of the plane was annoyingly noisy with the cacophony of rattling noises coming from the airplane’s body and the frequent flushes from the toilets that were just two rows behind us.

The lavatories had interesting neon lighting (like the cabin) and a nice toothbrush/toothpaste amenity but they didn’t compensate for the lack of toilet paper midway through the flight.

TAP Portugal toothbrush amenity

TAP Portugal toothbrush amenity

Grub

We were served two meals during the flight.

Dinner was served well after midnight EST time (5 AM Lisbon time) when it would have made more sense to serve a snack at that late hour. Put a dish before me though…and I’ll eat it.

Dinner tray on TAP Portugal Economy class

Dinner tray on TAP Portugal Economy class

While the food was edible, it was typical airline food without anything to distinguish it as better than that. When I asked the flight attendant if it was some type of Portuguese recipe, she told me the Goulash-like concoction was chunks of American beef in a savory sauce with mashed potatoes with green beans. It came with three small dishes: one with lettuce and tomato; one a portion of potato salad; and the third, a light nondescript dessert cake. The meal was served with real silverware, and beer and wine was complimentary.

The flight attendant told us that Portuguese specialties are served on flights departing from Lisbon.

About an hour before our arrival in Lisbon we were served a barely adequate morning snack of a small sandwich (with cold bread, a slice of cheese and a slice of ham), a granola bar, and beverages.

Breakfast - TAP Portugal Economy cabin

Breakfast – TAP Portugal Economy cabin

Entertainment and service

Map display on TAP Portugal

Map display on TAP Portugal

Our seat-back entertainment system had a touch screen with audio and visual on-demand, maps and games. It offered 30 films, 15 television channels (including news in English, Portuguese and French, 12 radio channels, and 60 CDs. No headphones were provided and programs ran in a continuous loop so you couldn’t choose where to begin them.

Seat backs also had a handy USB port at eye level for charging your phone or iPad. A copy of the bilingual (Portuguese/English) UP Magazine, TAP´s in-flight magazine was in the seatback pocket.

Instructions were given in Portuguese and English but the audio system was barely audible. The safety instruction video was Olympic-themed (after the Olympics) and failed to hold my attention. No Wi-Fi was available onboard.

Olympic-themed safety instructional video on TAP Portugal

Olympic-themed safety instructional video on TAP Portugal

There seemed to be an adequate number of flight attendants who did their job, professionally but they weren’t very friendly. Blankets and pillows were provided to passengers at the beginning of the flight.

The bottom line 

Flying on TAP Portugal is quite basic, no-frills flying—something akin to a bus ride in the sky but without a commensurate price reduction. Although this wasn’t one of our most pleasant flights, it did turn out better than expected. The flight departed and landed safely on time. The major drawback for me, however, was the seat design. Depending on your own body architecture, you might remember this flight for several days.

TAP recently has launched an auction-style upgrade system. With Plusgrade, after making a reservation and up to 36 hours before their flights, passengers can bid on upgraded seats. Upgrades are also available using miles. The airline is a member of the Star Alliance, which will please mile/point collectors.

Worth finding out about: TAP Air Portugal is promoting “The TAP Portugal Stopover.” At no additional cost, travelers on long-haul flights to Europe can arrange 25, 28 or 72-hour stopovers to explore some of in Portugal’s most popular cities at no additional cost.

tap

*Tip: At the time we flew TAP Portugal, the airline didn’t participate in the TSA Pre-check program at JFK.


11/20/19 UPDATE: New Routes from North America

  • TAP Portugal announced new, five times a week flights between Boston and Ponta Delgada, the capital of the Azores Islands. The airline also announced six times a week flights between Boston and Lisbon, Portugal. Both these flights will use Airbus A321LR planes.
  • Currently, TAP has U.S. gateways in TAP’s in Newark, Miami, Boston, New York Kennedy, Chicago O’Hare, Washington Dulles and San Francisco. It also announced that it is increasing the frequency of flights at JFK, Chicago, Miami, Washington and Newark.

Source: Travel Weekly


This is one of a series of posts about my experiences on new-to-me airlines. Surely, each flight is different but it’s always helpful to get general impressions of what to expect before you fly. If you fly TAP Portugal and have a very different experience, please feel free to comment below. 


Also on More Time To Travel:

  • Reply
    Susan Manfull
    September 15, 2016 at 5:08 pm

    Hi Irene,

    My husband and I lead tour groups in Provence and, sadly, 4 people associated with our tours had the distinct misfortune of choosing TAP Portugal from Boston to Marseille.

    The first couple (our chef and sous chef) were delayed hours in Boston such that they missed their connection in Lisbon. All told, they were over 24 hours late and had to cancel their plans for their first night in Provence.

    The second couple, arriving about 10 days later, also missed their flight in Lisbon. They were then booked on an Iberia flight, via Madrid, for Marseille. They arrived about 8 hours late–without their luggage. They missed the first few hours of the tour and the opening wine tasting and dinner. We had to arrange for transportation for them from the airport. To make matters worse, their luggage did not arrive for two days(apparently–hard to tell as there was so little communication from a service Iberia hired, TAP absolving themselves of any responsibility). The service intended to “mail” the luggage to our clients, who were a mere hour away from the airport; it would have arrived the day before their return to Boston. (Every other airplane has delivered missing luggage, although missing luggage rarely happens.) Apparently, the village where we were staying (Lourmarin) was 5 kilometers beyond their delivery range. So, we were left with the task of retrieving the luggage for our clients.

    Last I heard, neither couple has not gotten any satisfactory recompense for their respective experience.

    A flight through Lisbon from Boston, especially if there was the opportunity to spend some time in lovely Lisbon, would be nice. But, I won’t be taking this flight–and will advise clients not to–until I hear that the service has radically changed.

    Glad to know, from your article, that the amenities are satisfactory. But, thought you’d want to know about this side of the flight.

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      September 17, 2016 at 5:00 am

      Thanks for sharing these experiences, Susan. I’m so sorry for your tour group.

    • Reply
      Sue Scott
      July 27, 2019 at 2:40 pm

      Beware TAP Portugal Airlines

      “outrageous last minute extra baggage fee”
      Susan Scott (Canada) 25th July 2019

      ✅ Trip Verified | Porto to Zurich with TAP Portugal, connecting to Calgary from Zurich with Edelweiss Air. On June 20/19 my husband & I were charged an outrageous “last minute extra baggage fee” of 250 Euros per person to fly our bikes back to Canada compared to the 110 Euros/bike advertised on TAP’s website. We were shocked to learn when we arrived at the airport that we were supposed to “reserve” the bikes 36 hours in advance. There is nothing on TAP’s website or online check-in information re: travelling with bicycles that communicates this yet there is very specific and detailed information about how to pack your bike. When we checked in online we tried to pay for our luggage/bikes (as we did with Air Canada for the flight over to Portugal) but TAP’s communication only says “contact the Contact Centre or TAP desk to ensure sports equipment is registered correctly indicating weight & dimensions.” This is far too vague and certainly isn’t clear and explicit that this is required to avoid a very punitive last minute extra baggage fee. This reservation requirement is not standard practice among airlines (and we’ve flown at least 12 different airlines over the years with our bikes). The weight & dimensions of bikes must be confirmed by airline staff at check-in anyway (why would the airline simply accept verbal communication?). It is the airlines responsibility to clearly communicate the requirement to reserve bikes in advance and the consequences of not doing so. Our request for a partial refund of the difference has been denied twice. Clearly TAP is not accepting responsibility for inadequate website communication and poor business practice. As such we can only conclude that this an opportunistic cash grab by the airline which takes advantage of unsuspecting travellers / cyclists who have never flown TAP before.

  • Reply
    Laura
    September 15, 2016 at 5:10 pm

    The food looks awful, I would rather pack my own snacks,and the seat sounds so uncomfortable 🙁 However, you arrived safe and sound and on time, which are 2 big plusses!

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      September 17, 2016 at 4:59 am

      Yes, safety first, which is easy to forget when you are scrunched like a pretzel:-)

  • Reply
    Penny Sadler
    September 15, 2016 at 10:04 pm

    Sorry. That sounds like a terrible ride but luckily short. I just flew BA from Dallas to Marseille with a connection at London Heathrow. Since I live in DAllas I usually fly American. BA plane was a 777 so 3 4 3 configuration. No more 2 4 2. Sigh. So every time I wanted to use the ladies I had to climb over not just one but 2 people. Also I had a window seat in the main cabin and the way the seats are set I couldn’t really lean against the window as I normally do. This was my first international flight on a 777 and I’ll be sure to remember that in the future. If I were a tall person the leg room would have been a drag too. That metal whatever it was in from of my left foot was a bummer. Not a great seat at all. The food was typical. American usually serves dinner and breakfast. BA only served breakfast. Well I’m writing a review here. LOL

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      September 17, 2016 at 4:58 am

      It is becoming increasingly onerous to fly….especially in economy cabins. Thanks for sharing your experience! Hope the rest of the trip makes the flight worthwhile.

  • Reply
    Suzanne Stavert
    September 17, 2016 at 8:42 pm

    Great info to know… thank you! Food doesn’t look too good, but if you are hungry, anything looks good.

  • Reply
    Henry Arvidsson
    September 18, 2016 at 6:59 am

    Not having had the Transatlantic experience I have nothing bad to say about TAP. Recently I (am my GF) flew Amsterdam to Lisbon R/T. We are both tall I 6’5”she 6’2” and fit into the Airbus 319 seats OK. The price was better than the Dutch (I live in NL) flag carrier (half French these days) KLM and there was no extra fee for checked luggage as is so often nowadays intra-Europe as most airlines (including flag carriers) have gone low cost these days. Sure the food was nothing I will remember but neither is it ever on other flights, however it was included in the ticket price (including complimentary wine and beer), which is often not the case with the real low cost airlines such as Transavia (a KLM subsidiary) and Easyjet etc. The return leg was somewhat delayed due to a late inbound Airbus 321 aircraft. However we were (upon request) given Emergency exit seats without having to pay extra something other Airlines (including KLM) charge extra for. In conclusion I would not hesitate to fly TAP again if they fly a route I need at a competitive price.

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      September 20, 2016 at 4:15 pm

      Thanks for adding your experience. I’m glad to hear that it was a good one.

  • Reply
    Adam
    September 20, 2016 at 11:34 am

    Have to say, my experience with TAP has been excellent in the past. Flew TP BOS-LIS on Azul’s A332 this past Thursday and it was more than adequate in back of the bus. At T24 their “Economy Plus” section opened up and I was able to select one of those seats for free. AVOD was fast and responsive and flight crew very cordial. Seat reclined almost excessively. Not a single empty seat. Lav’s were very clean throughout the flight. Food was standard but no complaints. Arrived almost an hour early due to the tailwinds. Returned to BOS yesterday and we did have a 1.5hr mechanical delay in LIS but again overall fine experience. Last month flew MAS-LIS on TP and at the gate received an upgrade to biz (operational upgrade but perhaps because I’m *G).

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      February 4, 2018 at 7:42 pm

      Sounds like a good flight overall! Clean lavatories are definitely a plus, especially on a transatlantic flight.

  • Reply
    Victoria
    November 10, 2016 at 12:10 pm

    I am planning to book a flight with TAP and I have never booked a flight with them before. What happens if there really is a delay and you can not reach the other connecting flight. Do you have to buy an other ticket to get where you wanted to go?

  • Reply
    T.R.
    January 2, 2018 at 12:41 pm

    I appreciate that TAP flies nonstop between BOS-LIS. However, if going to any other destination besides Portugal, I’d fly w/ another carrier.

    My wife & I recently completed a RT BOS-LIS trip using United miles. On the BOS-LIS flight we were in the A330-200 V2, which we very much liked the refurbished interior w/ newer, larger entertainment screens, USB port & larger overheads. Unfortunately on the LIS-BOS flight, we flew in the A330-200 V1 which arrived from Rio; the interior was quite dated and uncomfortable, with the window-side overheads quite small for any A330-200 I’ve ever flown in.

    The boarding process @ both BOS and LIS left something to be desired. Boarding @ BOS was quite unorganized, further hampered by surly gate agents. Boarding @ LIS was orderly, but took 1 hour and 15 minutes (!!!) b/c the gate was staffed with only 1 agent for 250+ passengers! Furthermore shortly prior to boarding they made all passengers leave the gate area to queue up with security doing another round of passport checks and interrogation!

    I hope to return to Portugal again and hope when that happens TAP will have improved both its fleet and on-ground customer service at terminal gates. But at least the bar has been set low enough for me to set my expectations low for any future travel on TAP.

  • Reply
    Gwennael Contini
    February 3, 2018 at 6:56 am

    Dear Irene.
    Although I have not flown a transatlantic flight with TAP, I flew a total of 24 flights last year from Azores to Lisbon connecting to Copenhagen which totals a five and a half hour trip each leg of my trip. Although I must agree with the restrictive legroom found in the economy class seats (green ones) I strongly disagree with your opinion regarding the quality of the food served on the plane which I find more than acceptable for airplane food. I also find the TAP cabin crew to be very pleasant and very presentable and always helpfull (btw, they have been voted best looking cabin crew in Europe in a recent poll)

    • Reply
      Gwennael Contini
      February 3, 2018 at 7:09 am

      Previous message submitted prematurely…
      Also for an extra 10 euros, you can upgrade to a business class seat( the red ones) which will provide you with ample legroom, reclining seat, adjustable head rest, USB charger point, standard charger socket points for European and American equipment, a fancy tablet holder so u can watch whatever you like and in your own time.
      No excuse not to travel comfortably with TAP. Don’t be a scrudge and pay the extra for a front seat if you wish yourself a comfortable flight.You can thank the arrival of low cost airlines for the lack of legroom and the need for flag carrier airlines to mirror this business model in order to survive. Long live TAP and it’s beautiful crews, you represent this little country so well.
      Gwennaël Contini.

      • Irene S. Levine
        Reply
        Irene S. Levine
        February 4, 2018 at 7:45 pm

        Thanks so much for sharing the experience of your 24 flights and for the upgrade tip! The price sounds quite reasonable.

        Perhaps, the food on my flight was an aberration. As stated in the caveat at the end of the post, experiences can vary from flight to flight.

        Happy travels and thanks for visiting here, Gwennael!

  • Reply
    Victor Pinheiro
    March 1, 2018 at 9:28 pm

    Years ago, TAP (Take Another Plane), tried to throw me out of their flight (LIS-NY) because I was not properly dressed for their then 1st class – I had shorts and flip-flops…ha ha ha. Never again I flew TAP, wherever I live or go, I always fly someone else.

    • Reply
      Joanna Lumbley
      February 20, 2019 at 10:38 pm

      They won’t miss or need you darling. Get real!

  • Reply
    Robin
    March 11, 2019 at 9:50 am

    Irene – Did you check your bags or carry on? I’m flying TAP early next year and purchased the discount fare (carry on only). The specs of my carryon technically meet their criteria but I worry once it’s packed with clothes that it won’t fit in a “cage” for measuring. Curious if you did a carry-on and what you experience was with them measuring/weighing.

    • Irene S. Levine
      Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      March 11, 2019 at 3:34 pm

      Whether carry-ons are actually weighed/measured by most airlines is quite random. Can you bring a nylon shopping bag with you in case you need to remove something?

      • Reply
        Robin
        March 11, 2019 at 4:20 pm

        Yeah, I’ll definitely be packing lightly. Just curious what people’s experience with TAP discount fares has been. They’re only just rolling out of Washington Dulles this June. I’ll keep an eye on the blogs!

        • Irene S. Levine
          Reply
          Irene S. Levine
          March 11, 2019 at 4:21 pm

          You’ll love Portugal, by the way! And it’s a relative bargain right now.

  • Reply
    Sheryl Kraft
    November 21, 2019 at 1:35 pm

    You’re hardly alone…I’ve heard many other negative stories about TAP. And yours doesn’t sound like it’s worth remembering for anything actually good. Except that it did get you to a great place to visit!

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