This is the conclusion of a series covering my extended Labor Day weekend trip to Hamburg (and Lisbon). You can check out an overview here.
There aren’t many reports about flying TAP’s new business class on its A330s, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. In all, the hard product was quite good, though the soft product was a bit rough around the edges. For a $400 one-way business class transatlantic fare, though, it was great.
Ubering to Lisbon’s airport was easy, although once there it was quite a long walk to security, where I passed through fast track quickly, followed by another long walk to a mall area where the lounges are. TAP had just opened its new lounge in Lisbon, so I had a choice of using that lounge, or the ANA (airport authority, not the Japanese carrier) lounge next door, which accepts Priority Pass and appeared to also still be the lounge for all other carriers, including Star Alliance carriers. I only checked out the TAP one, which serves both Schengen and non-Schengen passengers.
One thing that strikes you right away is that the airline made a major mistake in designing the TAP lounge: almost everything is white. While that makes it feel light and bright, it also stains, and the upholstery and carpets were already dingy a month after opening. The bathroom was also white and was disgusting. There was a range of seating options, though, and although it was busy, there was seating to be had with plenty of outlets.
On the far end was two large counters with food and beverage offerings. The food options were pretty comprehensive with savory pies, “chicken casserole” (really chicken cacciatore), cheese, small open sandwiches, ravioli, sweet potato soup. There was a smaller third counter with sweets — including pasteis da nata (custard pastries), pudding, cakes and other desserts. There was a wine machine and draft beer on tap, and also baby food. The chicken was the best part and I took too much food.
On the other end of the main room was a full bar, and there was another room off to the side that was designed as a sleep/resting area that unfortunately was being used as a children’s play area by one family.
I didn’t stay very long as I correctly surmised I had a long walk to go. As with my inbound, the distance between the curb and gates is extremely long. Even from the mall area where the lounges are, it was a long walk through another food court to passport control. Then there were more stores, including a strange store that sold nothing but sardines in various novelty cans.
I made it to the gate area about 20 minutes before the scheduled boarding time of 4pm and took a seat. Then fifteen minutes before scheduled boarding, they made everyone leave the gate area and get on a line outside the gate area. It was very confusing and I and many others didn’t know where to stand. Signs weren’t put up until five or so minutes after the lines were formed, at which point I realized there was a separate line for people with disabilities, families and business class. In the end we had to stand for 10 minutes before the lines even moved, all with no announcements. Not very passenger friendly. It turned out just to be a document check, and a very select few people got secondary screenings. All this meant people didn’t even get back into the gate area until the scheduled boarding time, at which point people just stood in the lines right by the boarding door.
We boarded around 4:20, and the plane was quite nice. The A330 had recently been retrofitted with new business class seating, which is in a staggered 1-2-1 forward-facing configuration. The cabin is grey and taupe with silver and fake wood accents. The seat had a range of preset positions, and sufficient bells and whistles, including a magazine pouch under the average-sized personal IFE screen, a locker in the side console, in-seat USB and A/C power. I found the seat much more comfortable than that I’d flown on the way over on Airberlin.
On boarding, the cabin was really warm. There was a blanket and pillow and basic earbuds at the seat. The pillow was a funky lime green design, and the blanket was quilted and sturdy. Pre-departure beverages of juice, water, or sparkling line were offered, along with newspapers. I settled into my window seat, 3A, as the cabin filled up with 2 last-minute upgrades who appeared to be TAP employees. Otherwise, it seemed like a lot of rich Portuguese, Brazilians, and Americans.
There was a cute safety video that showed planes and flight crew in outfits from decades from the 1940s up through the present, and then we pushed back only about 20 minutes after our scheduled departure time, with a total flight time of 7 hours and 10 minutes. The in-flight entertainment kicked on only once we reached cruising altitude, but headsets weren’t distributed until after that, which was unusual too. The system didn’t have a ton of television options, but for full seasons of HBO’s Big Little Lies and Divorce and a few episodes of the banal Big Bang Theory, Modern Family, and 2 Broke Girls. There were a lot of movies available, though, mostly very recent, including Wizard of Lies, Rough Night, Logan, My Cousin Rachel, and The Circle, as well as tons of classics like Annie Hall and Rocky. I wasn’t in the mood for anything heavy, so loaded up Snatched while waiting for the headsets. About 15 minutes in, the flight attendant came down the aisle with a cart with menus, amenity kits, and headphones… and proceeded to skip me. I had to flag him down on the way back and he oddly acted like it was intentional?
It was also weird amenity kits came so far into the flight, but the kits were actually very cool. It was made to look like a big sardine can, with some funky designs by a Portuguese artist. The contents were wrapped in tissue paper and a bow, and included socks, a quilted eyemask, earplugs, dental kit, lip balm, and a pen, as well as a nice lotion by Institut Karite.
The menu was supposedly designed by Rui Paula, a Michelin-starred chef, but nothing actually sounded that good. The “Taste the Stars” gourmet selection was cod, and the other options were beef pie and tortellini. Shortly after I got my menu, my flight attendant came back and took my dinner order, followed by a hot towel.
Before dinner service started, I was given a little roast beef canape, and I tried the Vinho Verde (green wine), which was served along with some almonds. Good wine. Around this time, in-flight wifi kicked on – at the very expensive rate of 14MB for $14.99. No thanks.
Thirty or so minutes later, the actual first course, a fairly hearty, though not delicious, appetizer, was served. Tomato soup was poured out of a thermos, table-side, onto a bowl with cottage cheese in it. Strange tasting. There was also a partridge escabeche, which was just weird. (Snatched was terrible by the way, and finished by the time my entrée came. Next was Logan.)
They apparently ran out of the Vinho Verde so I switched to a white, which was good as well. My main dish, the “Taste the Stars” cod came and the fish itself was okay, and a very large piece. The accompanying chickpea puree was disgusting, though, lacking in any flavor and texturally no contrast to the fish.
For dessert, I was offered fruit, cheese, or ice cream, and/or port wine. I went with the ice cream, which was a cup of speculoos and vanilla and was tasty. After that, a cart was rolled down the island offering coffee and tea, cordials, and a selection from a box of chocolates.
In all, the meal was not impressive, and it took a long time – nearly 2.5 hours into flight before it finished. I spent about 90 minutes dozing on and off but I didn’t want to sleep too much. Besides, the pillow was a bit too thin and the cabin was too warm and loud due to the crew. I gave up as we neared the Canadian coast.
About 90 minutes outside of New York, hot towels were brought out, followed by the second meal. Again, the flight attendant skipped me – this time on the pass of the bread basket. The meal was very small, and less than I’d expect on a flight of this length- just a little bit of cheese and meat and a sliced mandarin orange. I wasn’t even sure what the meat was, but I think turkey and bologna.
Soon enough, we landed on a foggy night in New York, having made up the delayed departure and actually landed 18 minutes early.
Now having flown TAP Air Portugal’s new business class from Lisbon to New York, I can definitely say it’s more than adequate and definitely comparable to flying many other transatlantic carriers’ business class in terms of the hard product. Service and food are lacking, though. For a DC-based traveler, TAP isn’t very convenient anyway. It doesn’t fly to Dulles and there is a lack of Star Alliance partner connections from TAP-served cities. The only United connection to DCA is via Newark, which is not currently served with TAP’s new business class. At JFK (and BOS), TAP relies on Jetblue for connecting traffic. On a revenue ticket, I just booked a separate ticket from NY to DC the next morning.
And thus concludes my Hamburg/Lisbon trip report. In about five days, I’ll be heading to Mexico City for a long weekend, trying out Aeromexico for the first time, and hopefully kicking off a Delta status challenge. Feel free to pass along any tips!