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Flight Check: Tap Air Portugal to Lisbon

Voice actor, author, sound engineer Ant Richards is also an avid traveler, and music geek who loves sharing his travel & music experiences.

Foreword

Before I start this review, I just wanted to add some perspective on this trip.

Following a period of two years in which our world seemed to go Topsy-turvy due to the COVID-19 pandemic I, like probably a large proportion of the human race had certain activities curtailed and in some instances limited to the bare bone.

Travel was one of them.

This trip to Lisbon therefore, was my first trip abroad since December 2019.

Although life is slowly, and cautiously getting back to [a new kind of] normality, many things in our daily life have changed. Travelling to an extent, is one of them.

Let's fly away...

LHR Terminal 2

LHR Terminal 2

Booking process

I booked the flight online through TAP’s website (www.flytap.com) about a month prior the trip.

For this trip, I checked not only TAP, but British Airways and Easyjet, but TAP came up with the best fares (by far!) that suited our flight times.

Like most legacy carriers, TAP has also gone down the ancillary route. You add what you require for an additional fee.

Because we were only going for three nights and the flights are on average two to two and a half hours long, we opted for the DISCOUNTED fare. This entitles you to (yes, amazing, I know) a seat (allocated by the airline’s system), a small wheelie bag weighing no more than 8 kilos (17.6lb), and well, whatever you plan to wear on the day. In total, the whole fare came up to GBP300.00 for the two of us. In this day and age, not bad.

Now, here I do have a little rant – this one IS directed at TAP – and this is essentially why I won’t give a 10 mark on the booking process.

While browsing the site for the best day/time/fare combination, the website advertised a total of £286.00, if you are a member of TAP’s FF program; otherwise, the fare is £294.00. I know, just a couple of quid.

I thought to myself, I’ll join the program. I did have a membership with fellow Star Alliance partner Singapore Airlines, but not having flown in over two and-a-half years, and even longer since I did so on a Star Alliance carrier, I assumed that my membership had all but expired. I did some digging, and saw that if flying frequently with this alliance, TAP membership can be quite generous, so I decided to give it a go.

And in the process, save GBP8.00!

Once I finally registered, completed the booking with our names, passport details, selling my soul and swearing allegiance, etc, I was directed to the payment page.

Total to pay: GBP300.86!

After cursing half the universe and dishing out countless expletives (in my head), I decided to go ahead and book. I had spent a long time planning and going through all the different options for this holiday. Besides, there was the risk that the fare could increase further.

Suffice to say, once booking had been completed, I sent an email complaining about this absurd issue. To date, I’ve yet to receive a response.

I know, it is only GBP6.00, but it’s the principle of it.

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Once the grumbling had subsided and my usual chirpy demeanour returned, I downloaded the app on my phone.

4/10

Book your Lisbon escape

Economy class product

TAP's sleek and shiny Airbus A320-NEO

TAP's sleek and shiny Airbus A320-NEO

London to Lisbon

A sumary of this article in video

Check-in

TAP opens its online check-in around 36 hours before the flight.

I did our check-in via the TAP app I had previously downloaded. The navigation was relatively easy and straightforward. The only disappointment was the fact, I didn’t get my always coveted window seat – sorry my dear readers, no lovely sky, cloud or take-off photos…

That said, I was reluctant to pay another GBP11.00 for the privilege. Middle & aisle seat it would be for us.

The boarding passes were stored in the app and easy to retrieve when needed.

7/10

Othe similar stuff from Ant

At the airport - London Heathrow

Most, if not all Star Alliance carriers – including TAP – operate out of Heathrow’s Terminal 2, also known as Queen’s Terminal.

I must admit, there was an element of excitement and anticipation as I stepped into the building. It had been more than 30 months since I set foot in an airport, and I felt like a 10-year-old kid.

After hearing all the horror stories of queues, disruptions, COVID-19 checks that were the norm during the height (and low) of the pandemic, I was in a way, expecting a bit of chaos. Luckily, that was not the case.

As we were travelling with hand baggage only, we went directly through security.

There were lines, as expected; this is Heathrow after all, one of the busiest airports in the world. However, they moved fairly quick, all things considered. I was unfortunately chosen for random check – I had forgot to put my glasses case on the X-ray tray as well as my eye drops which I had in my pocket. Naughty Ant!

My partner was stopped too because although she complied with the liquid restrictions and plastic transparent bags, she did so times two. The UK stubbornly insists that each traveller should only carry one such bag. One! For a woman!

Once cleared – and a shampoo, conditioner, sanitizer (all between 75 & 100ml) bottles lighter – we were finally airside.

Heathrow, as expected has an array of shops, eateries, and any number of retail options where you can happily leave your money. Tarmac viewing facilities there are for the avid plane-spotters too. Guess where I headed to.

Our flight was scheduled to depart at 18.45, but once we set eyes on the flight time board, we noticed it already had a slight delay. This increased further after a while.

Gate number (24) was displayed at 19.10 fortunately, in the same building, so no long walk (via escalators and travelators) to the Satellite hub.

Once we arrived, a respectable crowd had formed. And to add some pizzaz, another TAP flight scheduled for 19.45 was leaving from gate 24A, so unsurprisingly many of us were on the wrong queues for some time.

Boarding was somewhat disorganised; the different boarding zones allocated to each group of passengers gone down the proverbial.

While in the queue, as a Portuguese entry requirement, we had to show proof of COVID-19 vaccine or Negative PCR certificate.

Finally we boarded at around 19.45.

7/10

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Boarding

Boarding was via airbridge. As expected, a small queue developed on the last stretch of the bridge before entering the aircraft.

Once at the door, we were greeted in Portuguese and English by the friendly cabin crew. This was my first opportunity to start brushing up on my Portuguese.

We were sat in row18 (seats D,E), and luckily found space in the upper bins for our bags.

Boarding was completed rather quickly, and at about 20.10 we started pushback. Flight I would say was 90% full.

7/10

Cabin ambience

Over the past few years, TAP has embarked on a mission to modernise its fleet, which now revolves around the Airbus family.

The aircraft on this occasion was a sleek, shiny, modern and smart looking Airbus A320-NEO.

The interior looked fresh, clean, new, inviting.

Seats: the economy section of economy (that makes sense, right?) are the ones with green trimmings on the seats and have a pitch of 28”. But before you start panicking; they are actually comfortable. Ergonomically designed, thin padded, no recline, these seats are more than adequate for an average size person (I am 173cm/5’7 tall) on a 2h30m flight. The Economy Xtra (fee applies or if you hold Gold status on the FF program with TAP & Star Alliance partners) has a 33” seat pitch.

All that said, a great feel in the cabin for short-haul flights.

10/10

Cabin ambience

Economy cabin on TAP's A320-NEO

Economy cabin on TAP's A320-NEO

We got lift-off!

As mentioned earlier, departure was delayed over 90 minutes due to late arrival of the aircraft. We took to the skies at 20.20, with an estimated flight time of 1h20m. Captain apologised for the delay, explaining the reason behind it. Safety announcements and general information were made in Portuguese and English.

6/10

Ant Richards talks about Lisbon

Push-back

Travel: A window of opportunities

Travel: A window of opportunities

Food glorious food!

As pretty much all European legacy carriers, TAP has also gone down the food/snack for purchase avenue.

I’d flown with them on three occasions before the pandemic, and they were still one of the very few that still offered a complimentary snack and open bar (including beer and/or wine) on intra-European flights. And they were of a relatively decent quality I must add.

The menu on offer on this flight seemed quite varied and reasonably priced. On the outbound I opted for a Sagres beer (you know, to get into the Portuguese mood) to wash down a homemade samwich I cheekily sneaked on board (that WAS tasty!).

7/10 (on the quality of the food on the menu)

0/10 (for having to purchase)

I'm hungry, man!

When in Rome, sorry, Lisbon

When in Rome, sorry, Lisbon

Wanderlust poll

Let me entertain you

Being an aircraft tailored for short flights, you won’t find back-seat TV screens on board. In addition, because of COVID-19, I believe hard copy magazines have been phased out too. There is an online downloadable option, which I didn’t bother to download, instead I immersed into my Spotify playlist, when not chatting with my partner.

7/10

Are you being served?

Service was courteous, friendly, and efficient. All staff I saw, besides speaking Portuguese, were very proficient in English. Greeting upon boarding and farewell on disembarkation was warm and friendly too.

10/10

Arrival

We landed at 22.33 just over an hour behind schedule. I presume those on connecting flight may have run into difficulties, especially if they had a tight connection. Then again, I understand TAP do not have that many late long-haul services after 21.00.

We were assigned a remote stand, for which we were bussed to the terminal. As the weather was quite mild and dry, that was not an issue, even that late at night. The bus ride to the terminal took approximately five to seven minutes. Then, another five-minute walk to immigration and passport control.

Despite the UK’s new status as an ex-EU member, us Britons were still allowed to use the EU channels. The big shock for me was having my passport stamped! The last time I travelled within Europe (December 2019) the UK was still a EU member state.

Once stamped (the passport, that is) and dispatched, another five- or so-minute walk took the to the airport Metro (subway) entrance.

8/10

I'll be back...

If you found this review interesting, do click below for the return flight back to London review, as well as my final thoughts on TAP's service.

My flight back home

Falling in love with Lisbon

© 2022 Ant Richards

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