My review of TAP Portugal’s short-haul business class product

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This is my review of TAP Portugal’s short-haul European business class product.

After my stay in Barcelona, I decided not to come straight back to London but rather spend the weekend with my friend in Porto.

There are several options out of Barcelona to Porto and we decided that I should take a look at TAP’s short haul business product.  It would have been a comparison to Vueling’s short-haul product, had I actually got on the Vueling plane we booked ….

Whilst we know that very few HfP readers are looking for business class flight options from Barcelona to Porto, it did seem an opportunity to see what you should get if you took a similar TAP flight from the UK to Lisbon or Porto.

HfP paid for my flight.  As TAP is part of Star Alliance, I earned 2,000 Lufthansa miles from the trip which was a decent return on the £182 ticket price.

TAP’s business class tickets include the usual perks of fast track security and lounge access as well as free drinks and food on board.  The baggage allowance is 2 x 32kg suitcases.

Review TAP Portugal A319 short haul business class

The lounge

Air Portugal and pretty much every other airline that flies out of Barcelona uses the same ‘VIP Sala’. As if 14 airlines aren’t enough (I had plenty of time to count the logos on the sign whilst I waited) the lounge can also be accessed using DragonPass or Priority Pass.

I ended up queuing for about 20 minutes. I think I’ve never even waited this long at a No 1 lounge

Review TAP Portugal A319 short haul business class

Luckily, once I was inside the lounge was not packed as it was very large.  There were several seating areas and one food corner as well as a separate coffee bar.

It was breakfast time and the food on offer was bread rolls, cheeses and meat as well as yogurts and cereals.  The coffee machine was a quadruple Nespresso which meant four people could make their coffee at the same time.

There were floor to ceiling windows facing the departure area with its shops. Considering how many empty seats I saw, I couldn’t understand why lounge check in took so long.

Review TAP Portugal A319 short haul business class

When the screens showed ‘go to gate’ I made my way out as I didn’t know how long the walk was going to be.

Barcelona airport turned out to be a little bit confusing. I followed the signs and ended up walking around the shops just to end pretty much again outside the lounge. I should have turned right instead of left.  I reckon without the confusion I would have been at the gate within 12 minutes.

TAP Air Portugal Business classOn board a TAP A319

The plane was a dated looking Airbus A319, although the seats did look new. On this flight TAP was only operating one row of Business Class.

Review TAP Portugal A319 short haul business class

I was sat in 1F and had both seats next to me empty. One other passenger had booked Business and was sitting in 1A.  This is clearly not a product in high demand.

As with British Airways, the middle seat is blocked.

TAP Air Portugal Business class

My seat was a too slim for my liking, but other than that quite comfortable.

Review TAP Portugal A319 short haul business class

And most importantly there was a lot of legroom at the bulkhead.

On its website, TAP claims to offer a 33 inch business class seat pitch on its entire A319 / A320 / A321 short-haul fleet.   This applies to the first 7-10 rows, depending on aircraft type, so economy passengers in the front of the cabin will also benefit if there is only a small business class section.

This is substantially more attractive than the current British Airways Club Europe pitch of 30 inches.  In the middle and back of the cabin it drops to 30 inches to match BA.

TAP Air Portugal Business class

TAP short-haul business class food

There was no menu to choose from. We were served a fruit salad and an open bread roll sandwich with meat, tomatoes and rocket. It was a bit difficult to eat as the knife wasn’t sharp and the bread roll was too loaded to fold it, but it actually tasted quite good.

The sparkling wine was Alianca Baga Bairrada which retails at £10.50. It was a little bit too foamy but not as bad as the BA Club Europe champagne which I really can’t learn to love.

Review TAP Portugal A319 short haul business class

Conclusion

TAP’s short-haul business product is actually quite decent – basically British Airways Club Europe with a better chance of getting Row 1 and, importantly, three inches more leg room.

If the TAP services from the UK to Lisbon are similar I would happily recommend it, although I’m not sure what food service would be offered on what is a longer route than Barcelona to Porto.  At Heathrow TAP operates to Lisbon from Terminal 2 so you have the added benefit of picking from the four Star Alliance lounges.  At Gatwick, where it flies to Lisbon and Porto, it operates from the South Terminal alongside BA.  TAP also flies from London City, operated by Portugalia, to Lisbon and Porto.

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Comments

  1. Michael says:

    I’ve heard horror stories about TAP that they regularly don’t cater or offer drinks service due to frequent staff shortages.

    • Jamie says:

      Fly tap economy 4-5 times a year and I have never had that issue. Drinks/food in economy are still complimentary too. I like them as an airline – they easily beat Iberia/BA in terms of service.

    • Crafty says:

      “Horror”

      • Michael says:

        Ok maybe slightly over dramatic but friends have had business class flights at £200+ have no service or benefits at all

  2. Michael C says:

    Any reports on LHR-GRU with TAP? Several times seen business class prices almost doable.

  3. Last time we flew Business on TAP short haul (Lisbon to London), the middle seat wasn’t blocked and that was row 1 – very strange experience and not a patch on BA. Never again.

  4. The TAP flights from LCY are great – mostly due to the E190 2×2 layout with ample legroom, service in business was a bit mixed but no different to BA. Also requires a bus to terminal at the Lisbon side (again, no different to my experiences with BA). The lounge in Lisbon was busy, feels a bit cheap but food was great.

  5. I have flown TAP a few times with very different experiences. The Manchester-Lisbon service is on a Embraer 190 so the front seats on the left are wonderful for legroom. Service very hit and miss but generally a good tray of food and attention from staff. On the shuttle Lisbon-Faro and other internal flights only tea and coffee is offered on board. Good lounge at Lisbon with wonderful cocktails made upon request which is a nice touch and always a selection of hot snacks (but no champagne). Off to Brasilia later this year direct from Lisbon so will try long haul on their retro fit.

  6. Chris says:

    You got unlucky queueing at the lounge! The queue is normally no more than 2 or 3 people. Later in the day they serve tapas items alongside sandwiches and cakes, and gets a little busier, albeit plenty of seats in there – including the darkened lying down area which is great.

  7. OT, I’m looking to upgrade a premium economy flight LHR to SIN for 2 people. I’m struggling to find out how much it’ll cost to upgrade with Avios. Dates are off-peak. Any ideas?

  8. Rebecca says:

    I flew back from Lisbon with TAP in business. I had wine in my suitcase so asked them to tag my bag as fragile. When I got my suitcase the wine was all smashed and everything was soaked with red wine.
    The flight was also so delayed I came very close to missing the last Piccadilly line tube from LHR and as my suitcase was dripping with red wine I’d have been quite stuck as no taxi would have taken me. Had to run at great speeds dragging my winey bag!
    Won’t be flying with them again… I’m aware the baggage handlers aren’t connected to the airline but still. Bad experience!

    • the_real_a says:

      Kids armbands inflated and placed around the bottle bought cheaply in the UK or a Eurostore when in a wine producing area will safely allow you to bring back your stash!

      • Tilly says:

        That is a really good tip! Will remember that one .

        • Hubby normally buys whisky and I collect mugs from our travels. After several mugs were broken one year when USA customs opened our bag and didn’t repack it properly I now take bubblewrap and cellophane with me!

        • Optimus Prime says:

          TSA staff are one of a kind. We use their compliant locks and they broke one to open our bag. So why the f*** do we have to buy them? Thank God we didn’t happen to have a bag with an integrated TSA lock or it’d have gone to waste!

    • Lady London says:

      Swiss did the same to my bag when I had olive oil in it. I heavily wrapped and bandaged the bottle and still the whole suitcase inside and out arrived completely soaked in olive oil. Most of the clothes etc., the oil came out in two runs through the laundry. I ended up having to trash the suitcase as I could never get the oil out.

      Armbands is a really good tip however I think the most useful thing I could have done is wrap the bottle in a layer of 2 or 3 plastic bags all sealed. Which is what I do now for any container carrying liquid in a suitcase that I’m checking on any airline.

      • That sounds really messy! Years ago hubby did his one and only foreign business trip to Canada and packed a couple of bottles of maple syrup in this luggage. When he got home they were gone – I assume removed by customs for some reason.

        • Lady London says:

          Not aware of any issue with maple syrup. I’d say they were nicked. Was it flying back from Toronto? My very large suitcase was very carefully picked through and only the very best specialist gear, that had been carefully packed and spread through the suitcase, was taken when it was left behind in Toronto by Air Canada. Someone had take their time. It reached me 2 days later and the theft was made so difficult to follow up with Air Canada at that time I gave up as I was just under so much work pressure.

          I’ve never flown Air Canada again even though there were plenty of opportunities, that was about 5 years ago and I couldn’t even make myself step into their lounge at Heathrow. I’ve been in all the other ones in T2 just not that one.

      • Bagoly says:

        “Polystyrene tubes” on Amazon/eBay shows what one needs, preferably in a matching cardboard box (or use an old champagne tin?), although sellers seem to be now offering only multi-packs for much more money than I paid.
        I agree about multiple plastic bags outside that, sealed with cable ties drawn very tight.

        I used to take six each time when living in Dubai (expensive for decent wine) and flying back to the UK on business once a month.
        I never had any damage.
        Now I always pack two or more of them if going to a wine-producing region.

    • Phil Duncan says:

      BA did that to me on a flight from BKK but the bottle was fish sauce so far worse than a bottle of wine. They also did it to me with a bottle of wine coming from Naples.

      Should I put them on my no fly list?

    • Hmmm…not generally a reason to avoid an airline.

  9. I flew for the first time with TAP to Porto last month. Fine on the way out from LGW. Return flight to LCY on the Sunday was cancelled. They put us on a flight to Lisbon to make a connecting flight to London but that was missed. We then flew to Faro to make a BA connection but that was also missed. Had to spend the night in Faro, then return to Lisbon the next day and thence to London. A long torturous journey back home. The TAP staff couldn’t handle things when things went wrong and the lack of communication and updates was severely disappointing. Still trying to receive a response from them regarding my complaint. Maybe I was terribly unlucky… but I would be reluctant about flying with them again. Once bitten….

    • Lady London says:

      How stressful that must have been. Did you get your EU261 claim in, at least? Not that even 250 euros would make up for that one.

  10. I flew with TAP from LIS to LHR last month – out of necessity, it was an economy flight but with perks of a lounge access and fast track (being a partner of a Star Alliance Gold member). The plane was new and nice and the food and service were very good, even in economy.

    My question is however is slightly OT, as the reason for me and partner to take the TAP flight that the day before we were denied boarding by BA. We were not drunk, no, god forbid!

    The problem was that I wasn’t issued with mobile boarding pass when checking in online (my partner on the same booking was) for an unknown reason. I realised it only on the way to airport. We were 5 mins late for the check-in closing time (LIS has 1hr cut-off time!) and no-one was able to issue me a boarding pass. We spent like 15 mins begging the checkin lady, trying the machine, the website, the app, the customer services, all in vain…

    My partner ran to the gate as he had his boarding pass and he was at the gate on the dot but he was denied boarding (with 5 or 6 other people) because they were ‘late’. So, no lenience, goodwill or compassion, only hard LCC-style ‘nyet’.

    To cut the long story short, I complained to BA and asked for a compensation. They said no. The question is whether I stand a chance to make them bend or should I give up?

    What are the points which I can focus on to make the complaint work?

    Unreasonably withheld mobile boarding pass? No proactive communication from BA about this / check-in times? Asking to provide evidence / conduct internal investigation about the closing time of the boarding? Collective complaint – how to find other passengers? Begging for one-off goodwill/compassionate grounds? Anything else?

    • Simon says:

      You want compensation because your watch was 5 minutes slow? Then admit to wasting 15 minutes which caused your partner to miss the boarding time? How much do you want for that bit ??

      • No, you didn’t get the point and now speaking like BA – I am not contesting that I was late for the check-in. My two major points are that they didn’t issue me a mobile boarding pass in the first place for unknown reason and they denied boarding to my partner who was at the gate at boarding time – and 5-6 other people faced the same which might mean that there was something wrong happening…

    • Catalan says:

      Actualy you answered the question yourself when you admitted to arriving at the check-in desk 5 mins after closing time. I don’t think BA are under any obligation to compensate you.

  11. Phil Duncan says:

    I travel LHR-LIS-PDL several times a year, it’s TAP or FR from LIS-PDL so it’s a no brainer.

    TAP are no better and no worse than any other European airline in business class. The service is OK, the food is above average and the leg room among the best. They can have their off days but then so certainly can BA depending on the crew you get, add the crew, a tighter seat pitch and the current short haul food and TAP are the winners between LHR-LIS. I also much prefer LHR T2 to T5.

  12. Having a house in Andalucia I hVe several times to fly Tap from Malaga to Lisbon but always a dreadful price. Once the figure shown was over 500 euros for a return trip!
    Have also tried to fly from Lisbon but just not competitive with Easyjet even allowing for the extras.

  13. Another tip for TAP flying – the first 10 odd rows on new seats like the one flown by Raffles have electric + USB sockets for charging

    Not sure you noticed that Raffles?

  14. Vuk Simic says:

    TAP should actually be avoided, if possible. They are just about average if all goes well.
    However, when things go wrong, and they often do, then you enter a Twilight zone and you find out that the fact that they came last in Customers Care ratings of all European airlines is completely justified.
    They either don’t answer your emails or calls or tell you barefaced lies and generally don’t care and don’t want to know. They rarely assume responsibility and are entirely unreliable.
    I am shocked that they are still a member of Star Alliance and that airlines such as Lufthansa allow themselves to be in any way associated with an airline such as TAP.

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