Discovering a new airline can often be an unexpected and delightful surprise. TAP Air Portugal, an airline that had always been merely a passing sight at my hometown airport, London Heathrow’s Terminal 2, caught my attention as an opportunity presented itself.
My recent visit to Portugal in April 2023 was with British Airways, but this time, convenience led me to give TAP a chance. Little did I know that this experience would be one I truly enjoyed.
My journey from London to New York City began with check-in at Heathrow. As a Business Class passenger, I was directed to a designated desk that allowed me to skip the longer queue for the numerous TAP flights departing from the airport daily.
I booked the ticket as a Top Executive fare, which offers maximum flexibility, the potential to earn miles, and a range of other benefits.
One of the perks I experienced was selecting my seat for free. My flight from Lisbon to Newark was on an Airbus A321LR, which I knew was not a standard narrowbody aircraft. During check-in, I dropped off my bag and received my tickets for the day, including a pre-selected seat 4E for my journey across the Atlantic.
TAP does not have its lounge at Heathrow Terminal 2. However, passengers can access several Star Alliance partner lounges, including Air Canada Maple Leaf, Lufthansa Business Lounge, Singapore Airlines SilverKris Lounge, and United Club Lounge.
I chose the United Club Lounge because I had been there before when flying with Turkish Airlines, so I was familiar with it. The lounge is situated in the satellite lounge in Terminal 2, which meant I had to walk quite a distance from the main terminal where TAP departs. After grabbing a quick coffee and a light snack, I continued to Lisbon.
After clearing customs in Lisbon, I was invited to board the A321LR to Newark. Lisbon Humberto Delgado Airport is known for boarding through a bus gate, and my experience today was no exception.
As I reached the gate, I observed a practice that I believe more airlines should adopt—providing the option to upgrade to a higher-class cabin for a fee. A pair of young individuals accepted the offer and received their new tickets for the Business Class section, where they would spend the upcoming 7.5-hour flight.
The boarding staff was well-organized and efficiently separated everyone into their respective groups. Later, we all got on the same bus to reach the plane. However, the good thing about a bus gate is that we got to see and inspect the aircraft up close.
The passengers were efficiently boarded through the front and rear doors, allowing for a quick and seamless process. Overall, I would rate TAP’s boarding experience an impressive 8 out of 10. The experience could have been improved if it weren’t for the hassle of the bus gate.
TAP’s A321LR has a Business Class cabin with 16 seats arranged in a staggered formation across five rows. The odd rows are set up in a 2-2 layout, while the even rows are in a more exclusive 1-1.
The even-numbered rows have the famous “throne seats,” which can also be found onboard Aer Lingus’s narrowbody oﬀering for transatlantic routes.
My seat was 4E, a throne seat ideal for individuals traveling alone, as it offers privacy and plenty of storage. The window seats in the odd-numbered rows require passengers to step over their seatmates to access the aisle.
The Food Service
After all passengers had boarded, the crew in the Business Class cabin handed out menus detailing meal options. Since it was just after lunchtime, I decided on a light but delicious beef carpaccio salad as my starter and a delightful vegetarian pasta dish for my main course.
The crew served a light pre-arrival snack about 90 minutes before landing. The snack included traditional Portuguese tarts, cheeses, and hams.
TAP did an excellent job with their meal service on my seven-hour daytime flight. The food was delicious, satisfying, and appropriately portioned.
During the flight, the crew frequently checked on the passengers to see if they needed more drinks. I chose to stick to soft drinks, but there was an excellent range of Portuguese wines for those who wanted to treat themselves.
The Business Class cabin accommodated thirteen passengers, leaving three seats unoccupied. The benefit of a smaller cabin is that service can commence promptly following takeoff, ensuring timely attention to all passengers. We experienced precisely this scenario as we embarked on schedule after a brief taxi to the runway.
The crew-to-passenger ratio was 2 to 13. Since menus were already placed at our seats, I quickly chose my meal options before takeoff. When the cabin crew came around to take drink orders, I could order my meal without delay.
Throughout the entire flight, the crew had a smile on their faces and were proactive in their service. This made me feel at ease as a passenger, knowing I wasn’t inconveniencing them by requesting additional refreshments or snacks. Seeing such attentive and accommodating service was refreshing, as I have experienced the opposite on other airlines.
During the flight, we were provided with excellent noise-canceling headphones. They were some of the best I have ever used while flying. Additionally, I was pleasantly surprised by the in-flight entertainment options available through the IFE system. This allowed me to enjoy a variety of entertainment options without having to use up my own collection of movies and TV shows on my iPad.
The seat provides convenient power sockets, a universal adapter, ample storage, and a spacious workspace. Working from my laptop was comfortable and effortless, and half of the Business Class passengers did the same on this daytime flight to the Big Apple.
During my flight, TAP provided several Wi-Fi packages for passengers, but I didn’t choose to use them. Personally, I believe that all Business Class tickets should include free Wi-Fi, though that’s a discussion for another time.
Before arriving at Newark Airport, I had heard rumors of possible long passport queues. However, luck was on my side, and I didn’t experience any delays. In fact, I made it to the baggage area in just 10 minutes after disembarking from the plane. I patiently waited for my luggage to arrive and was grateful for the smooth travel experience.
I was thoroughly impressed with TAP and their Business Class service on board the A321LR. Their prices were about 1/3 of direct flights between London and New York, making it a more affordable option. Although flying direct is more convenient, TAP’s exceptional service has convinced me to fly with them again. Their route map is impressive, especially their connections to South America. TAP, congratulations on a job well done!