TAP offers cheap business class tickets more often than other airlines, mostly from Paris/Amsterdam/Dublin, but occasionally also other European cities. Travel Dealz employee Ditmar took advantage of one of these deals and tested their Executive Class.
Table of Contents
Since the deal, which only lasted a few hours, was actually a flex fare, I jumped at it immediately. For €1,119 I flew from Frankfurt to Washington DC in March 2022, with a 1-day stopover in Lisbon. Three of these flights were operated with one of the new Airbus A321LR aircraft. A narrow-body transatlantic crossing was a new experience for me too. In this respect, the anticipation of the trip was already very big.
Check-In & Boarding
Since I had travelled by train from Hamburg to Frankfurt, I arrived well before departure – after all, a large time buffer is highly recommended with Deutsche Bahn. The TAP check-in desk wasn’t open yet, though, so I had to linger around. About two hours before departure, the counter opened and everything went normally. I presented my passport, vaccination certificate, Portuguese entry form, and negative test, handed them my suitcase, and was given my boarding passes. The TAP employee didn’t exactly overwhelm me with his friendliness, but I don’t expect that at check-in either. The main thing is that everything works quickly and smoothly.
It was particularly practical that I could check the suitcase straight through to Washington DC. That way, I didn’t have to go to the check-in counter in Lisbon the next day. I don’t want to go into much detail about the flight to Lisbon here. The service was good, the seats better than the usual European business class as they were a bit wider (because my plane used to be operated by Azul, otherwise it would be more of a typical European business class), and this is what the food looked like:
So, back to the long-haul flight. In Lisbon, I visited the TAP lounge before boarding. Although not too small, seating is quite limited – at least in terms of the number of guests. Luckily I got the last available table. The choice of food was very good (several cold and warm dishes, e.g. ravioli, minced meat with mashed potatoes, cakes, etc.). However, since it is the only TAP lounge in Lisbon and it is in the Schengen area, you have to leave the lounge a little early because you don’t know how long you’ll be standing in line at the passport control.
The passport control (because it was done by a machine with no queue in front of it) was done within seconds. After that, of course, there were additional questions about immigration to the US, as always, in front of the gate.
The boarding then proceeded normally, as is usual nowadays, with different boarding groups. However, you should be careful not to mistakenly queue for boarding group A – this is an economy class boarding group. A separate sign with Executive has been placed for business class (and Star Alliance Gold) passengers.
Unfortunately, the boarding groups were absolutely no advantage here, since it was a bus boarding and therefore you had the upside of finding an empty seat on the bus, but you were by no means the first to get on the plane. It’s not a big issue, but I’m really not a fan of bus boarding. If it rains, the trip starts really badly. It’s also not ideal for older people to have to carry their carry-ons up the stairs. Sadly, the A321LR seems to have a very high chance of being bus-boarded in Lisbon – a factor that might be worth considering when booking.
Comfort & Cabin
The seats in the A321LR are installed alternately in a 1-1 and 2-2 formation. Fortunately, I was able to get hold of the “throne seat” on both long-haul flights, which can be reserved free of charge when booking. Whether you’re travelling alone or with a friend, take the throne seat. It’s far better than any seat in a 2-2 row. On the return flight from Lisbon to Frankfurt I tested the 2-seater seat, and quite a bit of comfort is lost.
The throne seat has a large area on both sides and even a compartment with a door. Both are not available at the 2-seater seat and are important to me personally, because I can put my laptop there and charge my devices without having to open the table. The only storage space in the 2-seater rows is a pocket under the screen, which doesn’t have a huge capacity. But before I go any further, here are the pictures of the seat:
The table was nice and big, but not particularly mobile. If you didn’t raise the seat all the way up, it quickly pressed into your stomach – or your chin. Speaking of raising the seat: the seat naturally lowers into a fully flat bed using buttons on the right armrest. With my 1.89 m, I could lie there wonderfully – even comfortably. There was also enough space for my feet (shoe size 48 / 14 in the US) – though it was a bit tight. Incidentally, I found it quite strange that there was a lamp for the footwell that you could switch on and off. It might come in handy if you dropped something in the dark and are looking for it.
Regarding the narrow-body plane: I was a bit sceptical at first, but I found it extremely comfortable to fly in a narrow-body aircraft. I don’t know how (un)comfortable it may have been behind us in economy class, but in business class, you almost felt like you were in a private jet due to the smaller fuselage and the correspondingly smaller number of business class passengers. In any case, it wasn’t that mass transportation feeling that one often has on other flights, e.g. in the huge Lufthansa business class.
Food & Drinks
The menu was already on the armrest of the seat when boarding. You could only select the main course, choosing between 3 dishes:
- Veal terrine and carrot
- Steamed sea bass with peas
- Mushroom pasta and goat cheese
Although I was sitting in the 3rd row, my choice was already out. Apparently, the word “terrine” didn’t just scare me off, and so all the passengers had ordered the noodles. So I forced myself to order the terrine. Ultimately, however, it was something between a terrine and a steak. Luckily it tasted good. The noodles are said to have been very good too. The only thing I can’t say anything about is the bass because no one near me ordered it.
The cream cheese as a starter was delicious, and the selection of bread in the bread box was also quite good – but it wasn’t something you would book this business class for. At least my wish for (significantly) more bread was fulfilled quickly and easily.
The dessert was a little better. Even though the ice cream was very hard, it tasted good. And I always give bonus points for ice cream anyway.
The most disappointing thing, however, was the “snack” before landing. I was served a wild mix of a small quiche, ham, cheese, carrot, mozzarella, cherry tomato, strawberries, grapes, melon, bread and butter. Sounds more than okay, but I didn’t particularly like any of it. Maybe because it was after 1 am European time or because I was still full from the dinner. In any case, it didn’t convince me.
While you had to wait a bit for the main meal, at least the snack was served very shortly before landing, which allowed you to sleep a little longer. I think that’s important because it annoys me enormously when I’m woken up way too early.
There isn’t too much to say about the service. The crew was always very friendly on all flights when in direct contact with me (or other passengers). Wishes, such as more bread or water, were met without exception. However, the crew also constantly (on all flights) chatted with each other or with the pilot (or co-pilot?), which was a bit annoying in the long run. In this respect, the A321LR may also be a disadvantage, since you sit very close to the kitchen and its noise.
The screen had a nice size, the noise-cancelling headphones, while not great, were alright, and the selection of movies, especially series, was good. There were also plenty of (short) travel guide videos to most of the destinations TAP flies to. I watched a few of these and found them to be quite informative and lighthearted.
Among other things, there were many television shows of the US broadcaster NBC (e.g. Shark Tank) and also a particularly wide selection of music albums. Ultimately, however, I would simply recommend that you take a look here to see what is currently available in the onboard program.
While I was very happy with the inflight program, the internet was so incredibly expensive that despite the free messaging service, I was ultimately disappointed. Check out these prices:
€15 for 100MB? €50 for 500MB? Since my name is neither Bezos, Gates, nor Buffett, I didn’t buy it. At least there was free WiFi for messaging apps like WhatsApp, Messenger, etc. However, you had to register every hour and even for this very limited use, the WiFi was very slow and not enjoyable. If you want to work (online) during the flight, you should fly with another airline (e.g. SAS)
On the long-haul flights, you get a nice amenity kit that artistically depicts the skylines of different cities. On my flights, I got the skylines of San Francisco and Rome. The material of the amenity kits is not necessarily the highest quality (a rather rough fabric). However, TAP really deserves a lot of credit for the contents of the kits. The following was included:
- Sleep mask
- Toothbrush + toothpaste
- Ear plugs
- Body Lotion
- Lip balm
- Scent pack
TAP has made a real effort to offer everything imaginable. Many of these things can also be useful after the flight, such as the comb or the bookmark.
- Check-in & Boarding
- Comfort & Cabin
- Food & Drinks
If you fly in a throne seat, which can at least (if still available) be reserved free of charge, you can’t complain about the seat at all. The service is not negative either. Only the bus-boarding is a big disadvantage of the A321 for me. The WiFi prices also make TAP unattractive for people who want to work (online) during the flight. Overall, I would fly with TAP again anytime if they offer one of their many business class deals again – especially if the throne seat is still free. With a 2-seat row, however, there are significantly better alternatives.
Cover Picture: Ditmar Lange