BEST FOR: Year-round Bay Area-to-Lisbon schedule and great Portuguese winesprice:
PRICE: Roundtrip business class fare started at $8,208
FLIGHT TIME: 11 hours 15 minutes
CHECK-IN The TAP Portugal website was simple to navigate, even on my phone, which is how I checked in for my flight. Within a minute, my electronic boarding pass appeared.
BOARDING This was the inaugural flight, and there was quite the celebration at the gate before boarding with a fado (traditional Portuguese music) performer and servings of Madeira wine as guests enjoyed slices of a welcome cake.
THE SEAT Arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration, the lie-flat seats have convenient storage spaces (just be careful items don’t fall between the seat as they are difficult to retrieve). I was pleased to find a power outlet and USB port below the seat because I was running on empty. An especially large entertainment screen was ideal for enjoying the dozens of first-run movies and music selections on the 11-hour nonstop flight.
THE FLIGHT As I settled in during boarding, flight attendants passed small glasses of water or sparkling wine with nut mix. Perusing the menu, I was reminded of TAP’s intense focus on its wine program showcasing choices from across Portugal including a delicious “vinho verde,” which is unique to flights to the United States. Portuguese dishes are common, and my flight offered a choice between beef with Madeira sauce, salmon in dill cream sauce, or herb roasted chicken. I really enjoyed the separate courses of appetizer and soup delivered after departure. Dessert included an option between ice cream, fresh fruit, and a cheese plate (I chose the latter). Free wireless Internet access was available via a code on my boarding pass for texting and using social media. After dinner, I switched on the moving map and reclined my seat into the fully flat position and snoozed well (with the help of eye shades from the Portuguese-designed amenity kits and a white noise app on my phone). The pillow and blanket were cozy although the lack of air nozzles meant the cabin was kept uncomfortably warm (some passengers prefer it that way, but not me). I slept well for almost seven hours, which was just what I needed.
ARRIVAL Only a light continental breakfast of cheese and cold cuts was served before landing with coffee and tea (no hot meal option). We touched down after a final approach – one of my favorites in Europe, because you fly in low directly over the city center’s red-tiled roofs and tall trees.
VERDICT San Francisco and Lisbon are very similar cities located on bays with famous red bridges crisscrossing either side and cable cars clanging along city streets. That’s why this convenient link between two busy Star Alliance hubs is sure to prove a success especially since the carrier is using its newest aircraft, the A330neo, for the route. Ramsey Qubein